Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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DWIGHT WHITEFIELD PARDEE, Ex-Judge of the Supreme Court of this state, died at Hartford, where he resided, on the sixth day of October, 1893, in the seventy-second year of his age.
He was born in Bristol in this state in 1822, and was the son of Jared W. Pardee, a prominent physician in that part of the state. At the age of fourteen he entered Trinity College at Hartford, graduating in 1840. After graduation he pursued a course of legal study, in part with Hon. Isaac Toucey, afterwards Attorney-General of the United States, and in part at the Yale Law School, and on being admitted to the bar settled in the city of Hartford, being for a while in partnership with Mr. Toucey. In 1863 he was elected a judge of the Superior Court, and in 1873 of the Supreme Court. In the latter court he served two terms of eight years each, retiring at the end of his second term in the sixty-eighth year of his age. While at the bar he was elected for two successive years to the state senate from the Hartford District. In 1878 Trinity College conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws.
Judge Pardee had in a high degree the judicial faculty. He was never embarrassed by the complicated facts that overweight so many of the cases that go to our higher courts. He was able to precipitate, as by the touch of an alchemist, the questions of law which they held in solution. With a quickness of apprehension, often thought incompatible with a proper judicial deliberativeness, he had a remarkable soundness of practical judgment and a great sense of justice. Though never led astray by any fondness for speculation, he had a rare faculty of dealing with novel questions and exploring new regions of legal inquiry. He had less book-learning than some less able judges, but had a clear comprehension of legal principles and a thorough mastery of the law as a science. His opinions are written in language of great condensation and vigor, often epigrammatic and quaint in its incisiveness and point, always clear, always freighted with meaning, and without being in the slightest degree ambitious or inclined to be ornate, yet of a high literary quality. No verbiage ever burdened anything which he wrote or uttered; no weak word or thought ever came from his lips or his pen.
He was a very modest man and of a retiring disposition. He rarely appeared upon a public platform or took an active part in public meetings. This was true of his early years at the bar as well as of his later on the bench. He was quiet in his demeanor, not at all self-assertive or demonstrative, positive in his views but never aggressive in declaring them, a shrewd and intelligent observer of public men and public affairs, but keeping his comments, sometimes caustic, always keen and racy, for private conversation. He had a fine sense of humor and was often a witty contributor to the entertainment of a dinner party or a circle of friends, but it was generally by way of reply to the remarks of others and upon the suggestion of the moment. He was never a talker in the ordinary sense of the word.
Judge Pardee was a man of the highest moral tone. No one ever imputed to him an unworthy motive. He was a man of absolute and most scrupulous integrity and had the unlimited confidence of the public as such. He was a liberal giver to worthy charities; his gifts, often large, being made where practicable in a way to avoid public observation. No man could be more free from ostentation or pretense; none of plainer or simpler habits.
He was tall and slender, and in the later years of his life his abundant hair and beard, whitened by age, gave him a striking appearance upon the bench and in the street. His dark eye was one of remarkable richness and depth.
He was a devoted member of the Episcopal Church, and a faithful and devout attendant upon its religious services. At the time of his death he was senior warden of St. John's Parish in Hartford. He took great interest in Trinity College and was for many years one of its trustees, and made it the ultimate legatee of a large part of his estate.
Judge Pardee was married in 1847 to Miss Henrietta Porter, daughter of Solomon Porter, for many years one of the prominent citizens of Hartford. She died in 1863. Their only child had died a short time before. He never married again. His family consisted for the rest of his life of his two unmarried sisters, with later a sister who was a widow. The three sisters survive him and in his death have sustained an overwhelming affliction.
The death of Judge Pardee gave to the whole community a sense of loss, but to the writer of this imperfect sketch of him it brought a great personal bereavement and sorrow. We had been pleasantly acquainted from our early manhood as brethren at the Hartford bar, with a high esteem for him on my part, but during the sixteen years that he was a member of the Supreme Court, I being then its reporter, there grew up between us a very fond friendship. To no one, outside of my own family, did I look for companionship in my declining years so much as to him. It is with a sense almost of desolation that I think of his returnless absence. And it is among my pleasantest thoughts that we shall soon meet in a renewed and abiding companionship. J. H. [John Hooker]