Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Edward J. Quinlan was born in Branford on February 18, 1884, the son of Jeremiah and Frances Nugent Quinlan. At an early age he moved with his family to Meriden, where he attended the old grammar school on Church Street. He completed his secondary education at the Meriden High School in 1902. Thereafter, he matriculated at Tufts College but transferred to and was graduated from Yale College with the class of 1907. He then enrolled in the Yale Law School and received his law degree in 1909. While at the latter institution, he was elected to the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1909 and began the practice of law in Greenwich. In 1912 he moved to Norwalk, where he became associated with a distinguished firm, eventually known as Light, Dunbar and Quinlan.
He remained in active practice until 1932, when, following his nomination by Governor Wilbur L. Cross and his appointment by the General Assembly, he began his judicial career as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1936 he was advanced to the Superior Court bench, and, on September 22, 1953, he was elevated to the Supreme Court of Errors. His service on the latter tribunal ended on February 18, 1954, when he retired because of the constitutional limitation as to age. He still remained busy for several years as a state referee. It is worthy of note that he is one of the few who have served the state of Connecticut on all three of the enumerated benches.
Judge Quinlan's activities and interests were many and varied. He served as a director and corporator of several banks. He was a trustee of the Thomas More House, the Catholic center at Yale. He was affiliated with the Knights of Columbus and was a member of the Monsignor Thomas J. Finn Council, of the Bishop Fenwick Assembly, of the Holy Name Society, and of the county, state and American bar associations. For a time he served as president of the Norwalk-Wilton chapter of the American Red Cross.
He is survived by his wife, the former Jane Fahy, of New Haven; two sons, Edward J. Quinlan, Jr., an attorney, of Winsted, and Robert F. Quinlan, of Westport; two daughters, Mrs. Harry J. McKeon, of Wallingford, and Mrs. James A. McElroy, of Winnetka, Illinois; a sister, Miss Rita Quinlan, of East Haven; a brother, Frank T. Quinlan, of East Haven; and eighteen grandchildren.
The historical facts, recited above, fail, in large measure, to spell out the type of man Judge Quinlan was. They may suggest but they do not reveal the strength and the depth of his character. He was not spectacular in either word or deed. He had never sought the limelight. Indeed, he shrank from it, for he was a quiet, humble, and reserved man. In spite of this, he was colorful, although the hues were soft and subdued. He loved his work, whether it involved the practice of law in his early days or the performance of judicial duties in the later ones. Conscientious in all matters and sensitive to inequities and legal mediocrity, he aimed to make law and justice synonymous. All of his judicial career was dedicated to that end.
Judge Quinlan's private life requires but one comment: He was a Catholic gentleman in the most exacting sense. The high moral tone and the deep religious traits which marked him were impressive. His virtues were many and imposing, his faults, few and insignificant.
Toward the close of his long life, Judge and Mrs. Quinlan moved from their home in Norwalk to St. Joseph's Manor in Trumbull. His work as a state referee was by now tapering off and the occasional referred matters were heard by him at the Manor. There, on January 24, 1965, at the very end of his eighty-first year, he died. Thus passed on one who, rich in talent and noble in character, adorned the bar and bench he served.