George Dutton Watrous died at his home in New Haven November 14, 1940, in his eighty-third year after a brief illness. He was born in New Haven September 18, 1858, the son of George Henry Watrous and Harriet Joy (Dutton) Watrous. His father was a distinguished member of the Connecticut bar and president of The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company from 1879 to 1887. His maternal grandfather was Henry Dutton who was governor of Connecticut 1854-55, an associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1861 to 1869 and Kent Professor of Law in Yale University from 1847 to 1869.
He prepared for college at Hopkins Grammar School which he entered at the age of eleven and continued for six years, having to repeat the fourth class year because of illness. He entered Yale College in 1875 when he was barely seventeen years of age. He took his B.A. degree in 1879, taught his own private school for a year at Litchfield, Connecticut, and in 1880 entered Yale Law School where he remained for a year. He then spent a year at Columbia Law School, then a year abroad, after which he returned to the Yale Law School and took his LL.B. degree and was admitted to the bar of Connecticut in 1883.
He began to practice law in New Haven in the offices in the Leffingwell building which his father and grandfather had occupied before him for nearly thirty years. He joined with his practice through the next year the work of the M.L. course in the Yale Law School, receiving his master's degree in June 1884. On May 1, 1885 he formed a partnership with William Kneeland Townsend, and later with Edward Grant Buckland, which continued under the firm name of Townsend & Watrous until Judge Townsend was appointed to the federal bench in 1892, and thereafter until July 1, 1898, as Watrous & Buckland. He had received the degree of D.C.L. in 1890. Upon Mr. Buckland's withdrawal in 1898 to enter the service of The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company, he formed a partnership with Harry Goodyear Day under the firm name of Watrous & Day which continued until 1921 when the firm name became Watrous, Day, Hewitt, Steele & Sheldon. In 1924 upon the retirement of Mr. Thomas M. Steele to become president of The First National Bank of New Haven (Mr. Day having died in 1922), the name was changed to Watrous, Hewitt, Sheldon & Gumbart. Later, upon the death of Mr. Sheldon, May 1, 1933, the name was changed to Watrous, Hewitt, Gumbart & Corbin, and following the death of Mr. Hewitt the present name of Watrous, Gumbart & Corbin was adopted.
Almost from the beginning of his practice he was associated with the Yale Law School. He was instructor in contracts and torts from 1889 to 1892, assistant professor from 1892 to 1895 and full professor from 1895 until his retirement from the faculty in 1920. Upon his father's death he was chosen to take his place in several of the local corporations as a director and to act as counsel for them. In public life he served as councilman of the city of New Haven in 1885 and as alderman in 1887 and 1888; chosen member of a commission to prepare a city charter for New Haven, 1893-1894; and of the state commission for uniform municipal charters, 1905. He served for many years as general counsel of The Connecticut Company and counsel for the National Savings Bank and director and counsel for the City Bank, the New Haven Water Company, the New Haven Gas Light Company, and the trolley companies preceding The Connecticut Company. In politics he was a Republican and in religion an attendant of the Congregational church of his father.
He was married at Hamden, Connecticut, June 7, 1888, to Bertha Agnes Downer, a daughter of Samuel Robinson Downer, who with five children, all born in New Haven, survive him. The children are three sons and two daughters, Charlotte Root, George Dutton, Katherine Eliot, Charles Ansel and Frederick Williams. Another son, Wheeler de Forest, died August 10, 1937.
To those who knew him best George Watrous' preeminent characteristics were an innate and unfailing courtesy in all of his personal and professional relations, and an intense conscientiousness in the performance of any task which he undertook, a conscientiousness which proceeded from a high ethical level and gained without effort for him the confidence of all those who knew him. Positions of professional and political preferment were repeatedly offered to him but he preferred to remain what he always was, an outstanding example of the best in the legal profession.