Rollin Usher Tyler of Tylerville in the town of Haddam, Connecticut, was born in Tylerville on September 8, 1864, the son of Alpheus Williams Tyler, a farmer in Haddam, and his wife, Melissa Usher, a Mount Holyoke College graduate. He died on January 11, 1948.
Judge Tyler attended the public schools, Brainerd Academy in Haddam, Middletown High School for two years, and Wilbraham Academy at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, from which he was graduated in 1882. He then went to Yale, from which he was graduated with the B. A. degree in 1886. He received a first colloquy appointment in his junior and senior years.
Judge Tyler then entered the teaching profession, teaching college preparatory studies and specializing in Latin, Greek and mathematics, at Nichols Academy, Dudley, Massachusetts, for three years, 1886-1889, and for one year at Steven's School, Hoboken, New Jersey, 1889-1890. On examination in 1888 he received a first grade certificate as a teacher in the Boston public schools. In 1890 he entered business and held a position for one year with the Remington Typewriter Company in New York. He then studied at the Yale Law School for two years, received the LL. B. degree, and was admitted to the Connecticut bar at New Haven in 1893. While he was in the Law School he was editor of the Yale Law Review (1892-1893). He studied at the Harvard Law School from 1893 to 1894 and then entered the office of Washington F. Willcox in Deep River and engaged in the active practice of law in Middlesex County. Washington F. Willcox died March 8, 1909, and Tyler took over the office and practice and continued to practice in Deep River until his death.
In 1901 Judge Tyler was elected to the legislature from Haddam and as representative he introduced the bill that resulted in the constitutional convention of 1902. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had represented Haddam in the legislature also.
He was Democratic nominee for the state senate in 1898, 1908 and 1916; for lieutenant-governor in 1908; for governor in 1920; for United States senator in 1926; and for presidential elector in 1924, 1928 and 1932. He was the Connecticut delegate to the Democratic national convention at Denver in 1908, and at St. Louis in 1916. For several years, he was a member of the Connecticut Democratic state central committee.
He once said that he believed that he had been nominated for more offices, and been defeated, than any man in the history of the state of Connecticut.
He was probate judge of the Haddam district for twenty-two years, from 1911 until he reached the age limit in 1934. He served on the local selective services board (exemptions) through the First World War, 1917-1918.
In 1918, he declined the unanimous appointment by the judges of the Superior Court to be state's attorney for Middlesex County, and in 1925 he declined an appointment by Governor Trumbull, a Republican governor, to the Superior Court bench. He said he would not be able to attend to the unfinished business of his clients if he went on the bench, and felt "in honor" bound to consider them first. He was a member of the state commission which had charge of the construction and operation of the state drawbridge across the Connecticut River at East Haddam. In 1922, the Democratic state convention nominated him for attorney-general, but he declined the nomination.
By appointment of the governors, he served as a member of the board of pardons, 1923-1941; board of healing arts, 1925-1939; and emergency relief commission, 1933-1937. He also served on the board of voting machine commissioners and board of municipal finance and unemployment relief.
Judge Tyler was a member of the Middlesex County and Connecticut State Historical Societies; the New England Historic Genealogical Society, of Boston; the Middlesex County, Connecticut State, and American Bar Associations; the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution; and the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut. He served as president of the Deep River Savings Bank for forty years and was senior trustee and chairman of the board at the time of his death. He also was a director of the Deep River National Bank for thirty years, a director of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation and a trustee of Wilbraham Academy. In 1936-37, he was president of the Harvest Club of Connecticut.
Judge Tyler was fond of history and has a special gift for remembering important dates and events, so it was natural that he should be interested in local history and genealogy. He traced his family's direct descent, with names and dates, from John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. In 1912, he was copublisher with C. B. Tyler of Plainfield, New Jersey, of the Tyler genealogy, "Descendants of Job Tyler of Andover, Massachusetts, 1619-1700" in two volumes. He was an authority on the early settlers and location of old houses in Haddam and he frequently gave historical addresses and wrote historical articles for the papers.
All his life Judge Tyler was closely connected with the First Congregational Church of Haddam. He held concurrent offices which gave him a total of nearly a century and a half of service to his church. He was a member sixty-three years and had been a deacon for thirty years; he was treasurer and member of the prudential committee twenty-nine years, clerk eighteen years and Sunday school superintendent twenty years. Several years ago Haddam residents and members of the Congregational Church paid tribute to his many years of service at a reception at which he received an illuminated memorial book containing a sketch of his life and a record of his public services.
Judge Tyler married, as his first wife, Fannie Kidder Davenport on September 12, 1919. She died in 1934. He then married Elizabeth Bolton Hall on December 31, 1935. She survives him. Judge Tyler had no children.
Judge Tyler, in later years was better known as a legal counselor and advisor than as a trier of cases, but he never hesitated to defend a person whom he felt to be unjustly accused.
He was a lawyer of the old school, thoroughly grounded in the law and a man of the most outstanding integrity. The bar was to him always a profession and never a business. No worthy client was ever turned away for the lack of funds. He had a keen sense of humor and never wearied of hearing and telling amusing stories. He was the champion of anyone in distress without respect to race, color or creed, and there are many who owe their success in life to the helping hand extended to them by him.
Handsome, manly, cultivated, widely read, eloquent and witty, with the vitality of a healthy mind in a healthy body, Rollin Usher Tyler was at the same time a distinguished lawyer and a noble gentleman.