Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 81, page(s) 725-726


WASHINGTON FREDERICK WILLCOX was born in Killingworth, Connecticut, August 22d, 1834, and died March 8th, 1909, at Chester, where he had resided for about forty years. He was the oldest son, in a family of nine children, of Hervey and Lydia Wright Willcox. His early training was obtained at the district school and upon his father's farm. Having determined in his boyhood to be a lawyer, he gained his more advanced schooling by his own efforts, by teaching school and manual labor.

After attending private schools in his own and adjoining towns, he finished his preparation for college at the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, and in 1858 entered Yale College as a member of the class of 1862. He left college during freshman year, on account of trouble with his eyes which prevented all reading for about a year. He then took the course in Yale Law School, and after graduation and admission to the bar in 1861, practiced his profession at Deep River continuously, his ability early winning for him a large clientage.

Mr. Willcox was prominent in public life for many years. He represented Killingworth in the legislature in 1862 and 1863; was a State senator in 1875 and 1876, being chairman of the judiciary committee each term, and the only Democratic senator from that district during the last fifty years; State's Attorney for Middlesex County from 1875 to 1883; member of Congress from the second district from 1889 to 1893; and chairman of the board of railroad commissioners from 1897 to 1905. In 1907 he was named by the legislature as a member of the public service commission, which reported at the following session in favor of a public utilities commission. For years he was a director and vice-president of both the National and Savings banks in Deep River, and was president of the former at the time of his death. He served the town of Chester as a member of its school board, and in other public capacities; and was a member of the Chester Congregational Church. He was one of the organizers, and in 1902 a vice-president, of the American Bar Association.

He married, January 1st, 1868, Salome C. Denison of Chester who, with two daughters and two sons, survives him. The younger son, Donald D. Willcox, is a member of the Middlesex County bar.

Mr. Willcox was one of the kindest of men, and a most agreeable companion. He performed many quiet and unobtrusive acts of charity and sympathy. He was a careful adviser, and had the judicial temperament to an eminent degree. He regarded the merits of a case rather than its legal technicalities. He hated all sham, pretense and show. His work as a trial lawyer was characterized by careful preparation, self-reliance, persistence and courage. He was a skilful examiner of witnesses, a master of the rules of evidence, and a forceful speaker. He had faith in men, and he was not easily imposed upon. He was upright himself, and believed in the good intentions and possibilities of others.

In the words of the resolutions adopted by the bar on his decease, he possessed a strong character, a rugged integrity and a genius for hard work; and by his death the State has lost an able lawyer, an honorable public servant and a distinguished citizen, who for many years gave the best that was in him to the service of his fellow men.