Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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The Honorable Howard Wells Alcorn, of Suffield, who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1970 to 1971, died on Monday, August 10, 1992, at the age of ninety-one.
Chief Justice Alcorn was born in Suffield on May 14, 1901, the eldest son of Hugh M. and Cora Wells Alcorn. He graduated from Suffield School (now Suffield Academy) in 1918 and earned his bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College in 1923. He attended law school at both Harvard University and Yale University and was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 1926.
Chief Justice Alcorn represented Suffield in the state House of Representatives from 1927 to 1931, serving as Speaker of the House in 1931. He became a state senator in 1933, where he served as Minority Leader. He helped to establish the state's first local zoning commission and served as chair of the Suffield zoning commission from 1928 to 1943. He was actively involved in Republican politics and served on several local boards and commissions.
Chief Justice Alcorn's judicial career began as a judge of the Suffield Town Court from 1929 to 1943. In 1942, he served as executive secretary to Governor Raymond E. Baldwin. The following year, Governor Baldwin nominated him to be a judge of the Connecticut Superior Court. He served as a judge of that court for eighteen years, including two years as chief judge, until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1961. He was nominated by Governor John N. Dempsey to be Chief Justice and assumed that office in 1970.
After his mandatory retirement on May 14, 1971, he continued to hear cases as a state trial referee until 1984. In the 1970s, Chief Justice Alcorn was chosen to serve as the grand juror to head the New Britain corruption probe which resulted in the convictions of several high-ranking city officials. In 1974, he presided over a case which paved the way for the eventual passage of Connecticut's Freedom of Information laws.
Chief Justice Alcorn was known as a learned jurist and a quiet gentleman of the greatest integrity who was not easily deterred by outside opinions. His legal scholarship was once termed "deep and penetrating" and his writings "reflect painstaking care in preparation, lucidity in expression and a sound analysis in dealing with the problem at hand." He was described by Chief Justice John P. Cotter as having "a great respect for the law and the position of being a judge. He is a diligent worker and one of the most outstanding judges we've ever had."
Chief Justice Alcorn was married to Bertha E. Pinney, of Suffield. They were the parents of three daughters.