Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 135, page(s) 725-727

OBITUARY SKETCH OF LEONARD MAYHEW DAGGETT

As a great grandson of Chief Justice David Daggett (1764-1851), Leonard Mayhew Daggett had a assured position in the legal hegemony of Connecticut. He was born in New Haven on November 23, 1863, the son of Dr. David L. Daggett, a son of Leonard A. Daggett, one of three surviving children of the nineteen born to the stanch federalist who with James Hillhouse and Timothy Dwight the Elder were indomitable foes of Jeffersonian republicanism in Connecticut.

Mr. Daggett prepared for college at the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, where he taught for a year after graduation from college. He was graduated from Yale in the class of 1884 and served the class as its secretary from shortly after graduation until his death.2 He received the LL.B. degree from the Yale Law School in 1887, summa cum laude. He had clerked in the office of Watrous and Townsend during his law school days and spent a year after his admission to the bar in 1887 with them. In 1888 he started practice alone and continued until he became associated with Henry C. White, a very distinguished lawyer who died in 1913. John Q. Tilson was taken into partnership and the firm practiced under the name of White, Daggett and Tilson until Col. Tilson retired in 1908 to enter Congress. James Kingsley Blake, until his death in 1910, was a partner. After Mr. Blake's death, Thomas Hooker, Jr., became a member of the firm, which was known as White, Daggett and Hooker. This firm united in 1913 with the firm of Bristol, Stoddard, Beach and Fisher of New Haven under the new name of Bristol and White. This firm continued until it was dissolved in 1934. During its existence it included the following partners: Henry Stoddard, John W. Bristol, Leonard M. Daggett, Samuel H. Fisher, Thomas Hooker, Jr., Frederick H. Wiggin, Henry E. Rockwell, David L. Daggett, a nephew of Leonard M. Daggett who has been associated with him since 1913, J. Dwight Dana and Edmond M. Bartholow. Another nephew, Stanley Daggett, became associated with the firm in 1921. In 1934, Leonard M. Daggett, Thomas Hooker, Jr., and his two nephews, David L. Daggett, and Stanley Daggett, formed the firm of Daggett and Hooker. Thomas Hooker, Jr., died in 1936. I. Gordon Colby, Jr., later became a partner of this firm, and still later, Richard Hooker, Jr., was admitted to partnership. All of them now constitute the present firm of Daggett, Colby and Hooker.

Mr. Daggett held many distinguished positions. In 1890 he was a member of the common council of New Haven and from 1900 to 1906 its corporation counsel. In 1910 he was offered a judgeship in the Superior Court but declined the appointment. From 1894 to 1896 he was a judge advocate on Governor Coffin's staff. In 1915 he was appointed one of the trustees to hold the stock of the Connecticut Company when that company was directed to be divorced from the New Haven Railroad, and he remained on its board of directors until 1939. He was a director of the National New Haven Bank until its merger with the County Bank and from 1915 was a director of the Second National Bank until his resignation in 1947. He was also a corporator, trustee and vice president of the New Haven Savings Bank. During the first world war he was a chairman of his district draft board and during the second world war a government appeal agent. For many years he was a member of the proprietors committee, that ancient, self-perpetuating body in whom is vested title to all lands of ancient New Haven that have not been disposed of, consisting today principally of the New Haven green. He was long a director of the New Haven Colony Historical Society and a member and organizer of the Graduate, Lawn and New Haven Country Clubs. From 1894-1910 he was instructor on wills in the Yale Law School, and he wrote a historical account of the courts and judges of Connecticut for the "Green Bag"; he took an active part in the charter revision in New Haven and in the activities of the American Law Institute, whose annual meetings he frequently attended.

Mr. Daggett married Miss Eleanor Evelyn Cutler (Smith '92) on February 17, 1906. Mrs. Daggett died on June 8, 1947.

One cannot but believe that some of the sterling characteristics of the old chief justice, either consciously or unconsciously, had an important influence in forming Mr. Daggett's professional life. The meticulous care with which the best of the older practitioners prepared their cases he avowedly adhered to and relied on more than on any fortuitous circumstances or happy inspiration that might arise during a trial. In this way he inspired confidence in client and court alike and could present his case with an integrity that carried conviction. And like them too, where a principle was involved, no pains were too great to take, however insignificant might be the amount involved. He dedicated himself fully and completely to his client's interests, which in one case alone required three trials in the Superior Court, three appeals to the Supreme Court of Errors and one to the United States Supreme Court, but resulted in a victory.

His practice covered a wide range of subjects, but questions connected with the interpretation of wills and the settlement of estates gradually became his chief interest - and in a later day the complicated questions of taxation connected with them. His sixteen years as instructor on wills in Law School, together with his mutual fondness for delving into complicated and intricate facts, made this a particularly congenial field of activity and made him a valued associate to anyone involved in this form of litigation. His ability to look completely through men and measures and unearth the motives behind the acts and his refusal to be easily sidetracked by appearances, however plausible, were unusual and won success where defeat had been predicted.

It would have been surprising if, with the chief justice as an inspiring ancestor, he had not treated reverently the traditions and long-tried practices of law. He lived through a generation that saw great changes in its concepts. He saw the creeping in of a pragmatism unknown to a former generation. He saw an extension of governmental control and bureaucracy that would have been anathema to his great grandfather. He saw the bar change from a small, close-knit fellowship of dedicated practitioners to a large, loosely integrated body, whose activities were less engaged in the enrichment of its learning than in meeting the practical problems created by the increased tempo of the times, and while he felt that it was losing something of its glory and prestige, he accepted the inevitable with the wisdom of a philosopher.

He would also not have been the product of a long line of New England forebears if he had not inherited something of their reserve and reticence. He did not wear his "heart upon his sleeve," but that it was a kindly, generous and affectionate one those who associated with him quickly learned. A courtesy and a breeding that a rich, cultural background made innate established him, in the opinion of the members of the New Haven bar of the writer's generation, as an elder statesman whose integrity and fearless independence of judgment could be relied upon, whose honesty was unimpeachable and whose counsel could be accepted with confidence. He was almost the last of a dignified line of lawyers who felt the responsibility of their profession to the commonwealth and to their fellow men.

2 Mr. Daggett died March 3, 1949.

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