Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Edwin Maxwell Ryan was born in Hartford on September 26, 1896, the son of John Thomas Ryan and Linda Maxwell Ryan, and died in Hartford on March 1, 1946. Surviving are his parents and three sisters, Mildred R. Bancroft, Laura R. Sexton and Eleanor R. Wilkins.
He was graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1914, and entered Yale College that fall where be became a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity and the Reserve Officers Training Corps. On January 5, 1918, he left Yale College and entered military service as a private in the Field Artillery of the United States Army. He attended Officers' Training School at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, and served overseas from April 16, 1918, to February 1, 1919. He was in action at the front with Replacement Battalion, 147th Field Artillery, at La Courtine Haute Marne and with the Fifty-fifth Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps, Thirty-first Brigade, in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. While in France he attended the Artillery and Heavy Artillery School at Saumur, France, and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Field Artillery on July 12, 1918. He was discharged from the army on February 12, 1919, and was graduated from Yale College at the 1919 commencement with the class of 1918, receiving the degree of bachelor of arts.
In 1924 he received the degree of bachelor of laws from Fordham University and was admitted to the bar of the state of New York. In 1925 he was admitted to the Connecticut bar and became associated in the practice of law with the firm of Spellacy, Berman and Wholean. Later, he was a partner in that firm and its successors. From 1939 to the time of his death he practiced law independently. In 1933 he was appointed judge of the City Court of Hartford and served from June 1, 1933, to July 1, 1943. From 1940 till his death he was the chairman of Local Draft Board 1-B.
Judge Ryan had many talents, which were recognized as his life progressed and as his service to the community widened. He was always an ardent advocate, devoted to the cause of his client, but his service on the City Court bench demonstrated the fine judicial quality of his mind. The City Court during his tenure and before the enactment of the Municipal Courts Act had unlimited jurisdiction of all actions in law and equity arising within the limits of the city of Hartford. As a consequence, this court entertained cases of great importance and its traditions were a part of Connecticut history. Judge Ryan's service on that bench added luster to that tradition and to his own reputation as a lawyer. His opinions in the cases of Anderson v. Yaworski [120 Conn. 390], dealing with the risk of loss under a bond for deed, and Atlas Realty Corporation v. House [123 Conn. 94], dealing with a mortgage bonus as usury, will give the reader an indication of his scholarship and ability. Although he had been known as a strenuous advocate, he left aside the zeal of the special pleader when he ascended the bench. It was a delight to try a case before him because he knew the law, followed the case intelligently and, most important of all, was a gentleman. He was always impatient of sham and trickery, but on the bench he never allowed his impatience to affect the orderly judicial processes.
After his retirement from the bench, Judge Ryan devoted his energies to private practice. It was a varied. interesting and lucrative practice. He always had time for public service, as evidenced by his service as chairman of Local Draft Board 1-B, which took much of his time night and day. He viewed the passing political scene with real interest and understanding and his comments on it were always interesting and often amusing. He was not ostentatious but he had a genuine devotion to his religion. In the last years of his life his happiest hours were spent on the land he had bought in Farmington, where, in the time he could spare from his practice, he did hard physical labor in the woods.
Those of us who saw him during his last illness will always remember his courage and good humor at that time. At the age of fifty he faced death as bravely as the young soldier faced it in France in 1918.