Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Philip Pond, son of Jonathan W. and Charlotte L. (White) Pond was born in New Haven on August 8, 1866. He came from a very old New England family of English lineage. His father was a direct descendant of Samuel Pond, and his mother was a direct descendant of Elder John White, one of the first settlers of New England. He had one brother, Walter Pond, a New Haven lawyer who died in 1923.
Mr. Pond received his early education in New Haven public schools, including high school, and entered Yale University as a member of the class of 1888, obtaining his B. A. degree in that year. He then entered the Yale Law School and received his LL. B. degree in 1890. For twenty years Mr. Pond was the secretary of his Yale College class.
On June 1, 1893, at Bolton, Connecticut, he married Harriet Hunt Sumner, a cousin of former Lieutenant Governor George C. Sumner and a representative of one of the oldest Connecticut families. After a brief but happy married life, Mrs. Pond passed away on July 14, 1894. On September 15, 1897, at New York City, Mr. Pond married Miss Elizabeth Bishop Giles, a native of New Jersey, also a representative of an old New England family, established at an early period in the colonization of the new world.
Mr. Pond was admitted to the bar of Connecticut in 1890 and during his long and active career as a lawyer served as assistant clerk of the Court of Common Pleas for New Haven county from April 1, 1901 to 1904, and as a deputy coroner under Eli Mix, coroner of New Haven county, from 1905 to 1908. For fifty-six years he was an active member of the New Haven County Bar Association, and he was its president from August 1, 1924, to October, 1927.
He entered upon the practice of his profession with the highest ethical concepts, from which, in his long career at the bar, he never deviated. He had a full appreciation of the obligations imposed upon one who enters that profession and recognized that equal and substantial justice between man and man is its ultimate object. He was a close and discriminating student, a man of sound judgment, and with an almost prophetic foresight of how a court of last resort would hold in almost any given case.
Physically he gave the impression of frailty, but he was, on the contrary, a man of great vitality and a prodigious worker not only in his profession, but in many civic, fraternal and community organizations. His restrained, keen, suave, considerate manner to all persons with whom he came in contact, together with his clear, calm, logical reasoning and his effective presentation of cases before either court or jury, soon caused him be recognized as one of the leading advocates in New Haven county.
The prominence or obscurity of his client, the amount involved, or the importance of the matter involved seemed to make little difference to him in preparation of his cases. He prepared them all with the same meticulous care. Not withstanding the terrific burden imposed upon him by his numerous private clients, he was never too busy to help a younger lawyer. He appeared to take a fatherly interest and to enjoy helping many of the younger and some of the older lawyers solve difficult problems which they felt could be better solved by a man of his standing and experience.
His interest in the acquisition of money, regardless of the type of case he was handling, was never so keen as to tempt him to charge anything more for his services than the actual, or what seemed to him the actual, value of the services rendered. Indeed, many of his clients and most of the bar were astonished at the meager charges he made for rendering important services. His motto seemed to be "Service above Self," and he was one of the lawyers who believed that a large practice at small fees was more to be desired than a selected practice at large fees.
In the trial of a case he handled all witnesses with politeness and extreme consideration and never attempted to browbeat or intimidate them. There was nothing blatant about him, and in the courtroom or outside he seldom raised his voice above the ordinary conversational tone. He felt that the best way of ascertaining the truth from a witness was to handle the witness courteously, kindly, and upon the assumption that if the witness was making any misstatement he was making it not deliberately but unwittingly. Nevertheless he was adept in the art of cross-examination, and there were few lawyers who were more adept at arriving at the truth of a situation than he.
Supplementing his legal acumen, he had a broad human knowledge, and it can be truthfully said that the entire bench and bar of this state regarded him as one of the greatest trial lawyers and counselors in Connecticut. The admiration and affection in which he was held by the members of his profession, the community and the state were well shown at a dinner given in his honor at the Yale Law School on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his admission to the bar. At that dinner speakers included Chief Justice Maltbie, Governor Baldwin, local lawyers, and classmates.
Mr. Pond, in addition to being a great lawyer, was the type of man who rarely, if ever, offered any criticism of another other than constructive criticism. He was kindly and genial to all with whom he came in contact. He could be best described as a true New England gentleman, honored wherever he was known.
He was the senior member of the firm of Pond, Morgan, and Morse, consisting of Phillip Pond, Daniel D. Morgan and Joseph B. Morse, a partnership formed in 1931, and he continued to be a revered member of that firm until his death.
"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world "This was a man!'"
In religion, Phillip Pond was an Episcopalian and a member of St. Thomas Church and Trinity Church of New Haven. For many years he was a director of Grace Hospital. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the International Law Association, the Connecticut State Bar Association and the New Haven County Bar Association. He was also a member of the Old Fellows, the Quinnipiac Club, the Graduate Club, Mory's, the New Haven Lawn Club, the New Haven Country Club, and Phi Delta Phi, legal fraternity.
He died on December 21, 1946, and left only his wife surviving. Seldom has any lawyer been so universally loved and respected, not only by the bench and bar of the state but by laymen in all walks of life. No finer tribute could be paid to a man than the tribute paid to Phillip Pond by Senator Raymond E. Baldwin, who began his legal career as a legal associate of Mr. Pond, when he said; "A young lawyer could have no finer example at the bar than Phillip Pond always offered."
A fitting epitaph for his tombstone, were it permitted to substitute the name "Phil" for the name "Jim," could best be expressed in the language of that homely dialect poem by James Whitcomb Riley, written about a shopmate. It would read like this: "When God made Phil, I'll bet you He didn't do anything else that day but jes' set around and feel good."