Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 130, page(s) 730-733


Whatever a man does to earn his livelihood must of necessity have an influence on his life, if for no other reason than that he spends a long time at it. In addition, the hours thus spent represent, in the case of a successful man, the expenditure of a greater amount of vital energy than any other equal period of his life.

It is not then an incident to be passed over lightly in referring to the life of James Earnest Cooper, late of New Britain, Connecticut, that he spent his first twenty-three years after completing his university education actively engaged in the general practice of law, and then, retiring from general practice, became general counsel and vice president of a large industrial corporation, positions which he held at the time of his decease.

Judge Cooper was brought up in an ideal New England home atmosphere. He had an excellent education. He had a very happy and helpful married life. He followed a profession that was a constant development of his mind and judgment. As a lawyer he was not so much interested in trial work as in the adjustments of individuals and corporations to the complex social and economic problems of everyday life. He started out like other young lawyers and worked his way up and in doing so handled all sorts of legal matters, some of which involved very important questions of law. Thus he had a very wide experience, including that of being corporation counsel for the city of New Britain for twelve years.

He was still in general practice when the federal income tax laws went in effect. He made a study of these laws and he thereafter confined his practice almost exclusively to corporation work, being especially interested at that time in the application of these laws. He was attorney for most of the large corporations of New Britain during those early days of tax problems.

Probably no one could obtain a more highly respected and useful position in the community in the years in which Judge Cooper lived than of being recognized as a person of absolute integrity and of sound judgment, for then as well as at present many unsound ideas were current. Judge Cooper was universally recognized as a man of absolute integrity and of well-reasoned opinions and thus was a great asset to his community and to his state.

Only a few years before Judge Cooper died he built a very beautiful home, and before he and his family moved into it, he dedicated it with a poem which he wrote. This poem, written in December, 1935, gives a picture of himself. The poem is as follows:


Glass, wood, concrete and brick and stone

Gathered to build us, here, a home.

A shelter from the winter's chill

From rain and snow, from wind and ill.

God bless this home.

And bless, oh Lord, all those who dwell

Within these walls. May their lives tell

Of kindness and peace. May there be naught

Of biting word or bitter thought

Within this house.

And give us Lord, with level eye,

Courage to face our destiny.

In health or sickness, woe or weal

Give us, oh Lord, the faith to feel

Thy hand upon this house.

Judge Cooper died on the 7th day of April, 1943, at Orlando, Florida, where he had gone for his health. He was born in Lockport, N. Y., on March 13, 1873, but his family moved to New Britain when he was about five years old and thereafter New Britain became his permanent home. His father, the Reverend Dr. James Wesley Cooper, was called to New Britain in 1878 to become pastor of the South Congregational Church of New Britain, a position he held for twenty-five years. Dr. Cooper was widely known and held many prominent positions in religious and educational circles. Judge Cooper's mother was Ellen Hilliard Cooper.

Judge Cooper was graduated from the New Britain High School and from Yale College. At college he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and of the Wolf's Head Club. After finishing at Yale he attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1898. In that year he established a partnership in New Britain with the late Judge John H. Kirkham for the practice of law. A number of years later Judge S. Russell Mink, of Bristol, Connecticut, became associated with the firm. A few years later he retired to become judge of probate in Bristol. In 1919 the firm of Kirkham, Cooper, Hungerford & Camp was formed. The partnership then consisted of Judge Kirkham, Judge Cooper, Judge William C. Hungerford and Attorney Mortimer H. Camp.

In 1921 Judge Cooper retired from the partnership to become general counsel and vice president of the Stanley Works, a large manufacturing concern located in New Britain. He held these positions until his death and he was also a director of the Stanley Works, the New Britain Trust Company, the Trumbull Electric Manufacturing Company, the Stanley Securities Company and the New Britain General Hospital, and a trustee of the Jerome Home. He was formerly president of the Burritt Mutual Savings Bank. For a number of years he was director of the Fafnir Bearing Company.

Judge Cooper was a Republican in politics. He was a deputy judge of the Police Court of New Britain from July 1, 1902, to July 1, 1904, and judge of the court from July 1, 1904, to July 1, 1909. He was corporation counsel of the city of New Britain from July 1, 1909, until January 19, 1921, when he resigned and was succeeded by his law partner, Judge Kirkham. He was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1903.

He was one of the first members of the board of adjustment of New Britain when the zoning ordinances were established for New Britain, and he was its first chairman. He was at one time a member of the examining board of the Connecticut bar. He was a member of the South Congregational Church of New Britain. During World War I, he was chairman of one of the draft boards of New Britain. He served also as a member of the committee for the erection of the World War Memorial Shaft at Walnut Hill Park in New Britain.

Judge Cooper married Elizabeth Wayne, the daughter of an Episcopal rector, on September 2, 1900. He left, besides his wife, a son, James Wayne Cooper, a prominent lawyer and member of the firm of Watrous, Gumbart & Corbin, of New Haven, and several grandchildren. He also left a brother, Elisha H. Cooper, of New Britain, chairman of the board of directors of Fafnir Bearing Company, and three nephews.