Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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WILLIAM THOMAS MINOR died at Stamford in this state on the 13th day of October, 1889. He was the second son of Simeon Hinman Minor and Catherine Lockwood Minor, and was born at Stamford on the 3d day of October, 1815. His father was one of the best known lawyers of Fairfield County and was for several years Attorney for the state for that county, a member of the General Assembly from the town of Stamford, and Judge of the Court of Probate for that district. His distinguished son, the subject of this sketch, was prepared for college in Stamford, entered Yale College at the age of fourteen years, and graduated in the class of 1834. After graduation he opened a school in his native town, reading law with his father at the same time; was admitted to the bar of Fairfield County in 1841, and immediately upon his admission opened an office in Stamford and commenced practice. At the time Mr. Minor came to the bar of Fairfield County, it was noted for the eminence of its members. Roger Minot Sherman had just been elevated to the bench of the Supreme Court of Errors, but such able men as Charles Hawley, Thomas B. Butler, Reuben Booth, James C. Loomis and Joshua B. Ferris largely absorbed the business of the profession in the county.
At the outset of his professional life, that is, in the year 1847, Mr. Minor was appointed by the General Assembly Judge of the Court of Probate for the district of Stamford, which then consisted of the towns of Stamford, Darien and Greenwich, and held that office by appointment, and afterwards by election, for the years 1848, '49, '52, '53 and '54. He was also elected a representative to the lower house of the General Assembly from the town of Stamford for the years 1841, '42, '43 and '44 and again in 1846, '47 and '52. In 1854 he was elected to represent the twelfth senatorial district in the state Senate and was at that session of the legislature appointed a judge of the County Court for Fairfield County.
In 1855, and while Judge of the County Court, he was elected Governor of Connecticut, and was re-elected the succeeding year. During all this time Governor Minor was arduously engaged in the practice of his profession, which continued to increase upon him, so that at the close of his last gubernatorial term of office he found a large practice upon his hands, occupying all his time and compelling him to constant and unremitting labor. He continued in the practice of his profession, taking a lively interest in politics and being one of the leaders of his party, when the civil war of 1861 called forth the participation of the nation.
Governor Minor at this trying juncture went with his party and gave his full and undivided influence to the support of the national cause; and by his able counsels, by the weight of his influence, and by his unremitting exertions in raising troops and sending them into the field, contributed largely to the success of the cause of the government.
In 1864 Governor Minor was appointed delegate of his party from Connecticut to the Republican National Convention, which assembled at Baltimore in June of that year, and voted with his delegation for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson as nominees respectively for President and Vice-President of the United States, and in July of the same year was appointed by Mr. Lincoln, Consul-General to Havana, in the island of Cuba. At this time he retired from the practice of his profession and entered upon the then difficult and trying duties of his office, which he fulfilled with great credit and success.
Havana was then the resort of a large number of persons from the rebellious states, who were engaged in "blockade-running" and in other undertakings injurious to the commerce of the United States. Constant care and vigilance was required to find out and thwart their plans. His success in inducing the Captain-General of Cuba to detain and finally deliver up to the government of the United States the formidable rebel ram, "Stonewall Jackson," showed rare powers of diplomacy, together with great tact, decision and determination.
Sometime after the death of Mr. Lincoln and during the term of his successor in office, Governor Minor resigned his office of Counsel-General, and returned to his native town and to the practice of his profession. But he was not long suffered to remain in private life. His fellow-townsmen, again, in the year 1868, elected him to the lower house of the General Assembly , and at the same session he was elected a Judge of the Superior Court. He soon afterwards in August 1868, entered upon the duties of his office, which he continued to fulfill with ability and fidelity until the year 1873, when he resigned his judgeship. In the meantime, in March, 1873, he accepted the nomination of his party as a candidate for Congress from the fourth congressional district of Connecticut, his competitor being the celebrated Democratic politician, Wm. H. Barnum. In this election he was defeated. In 1879 Governor Minor was appointed, together with the Hons. Origen S. Seymour, Jr., and LaFayette S. Foster, a commissioner of Connecticut to act with the Hons. Allen C. Beach, Augustus Schoonmaker and Horatio Seymour, Jr., commissioners on the part of the state of New York, in running the boundary line between the two states. This difficult question, which had been the subject of controversy, was at length settled by the commission to the satisfaction of both states.
After this service Judge Minor retired to private life, devoting himself to his own private affairs, although he never ceased to take a deep interest in all matters relating to the politics of the state and nation.
Judge Minor's life was so much devoted to political affairs that it left only a comparatively small part of it to be given to the duties of his profession, in the practice of which he was distinguished for his good sense, great sagacity, uncompromising integrity and high-minded gentlemanly deportment. He was a clear and forcible speaker, both at the bar and in the legislature, but was too guarded and cautious for a political speaker, and seldom appeared on the platform to make a political speech.
In his private relations, he was faithful in his friendships, a kind neighbor and a most excellent husband and father. He was a conscientious member of, and a regular attendant at, the Protestant Episcopal Church and died in its faith and communion.
Governor Minor married, April 16th, 1849, Mary C., daughter of Mr. John W. Leeds, of Stamford, who survives him. He also leaves two children, Emily C. Minor and Charles W. Minor. The latter is now a member of the bar and practicing lawyer in the city of New York.