Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Edward James Daly was born in Hartford on March 29, 1892, the son of the late James R. and Catherine Deegan Daly. He attended the old South School and was graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1910. He was an active, vigorous boy, maintained a paper route and did other work which, with his schooling, fully occupied his time. He enjoyed sports, particularly baseball, in which he displayed remarkable ability in fielding fly balls, often turning what looked like a home run into a sudden out. He loved sports throughout his life, but while he was in college he had to withdraw from active participation because of defective eyesight. He was graduated from Cornell University in 1914 with the degree of LL.B., having completed his academic and law studies in four years. He remained a loyal Cornell alumnus until his death and often returned to the campus to greet the friends of his college days.
Judge Daly was admitted to the Connecticut bar in January, 1915, and became associated with John F. Forward, at that time one of the leaders of the Hartford bar. This association became Forward and Daly, a partnership, in 1922. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Judge Daly enlisted in the aviation section of the signal corps of the United States Army, the beginning of what subsequently became the United States Air Force. After training, he was assigned as squadron adjutant and commissioned a lieutenant. He flew in the flimsy, undependable aircraft of those days. In 1919 he resumed the practice of law and soon became a successful practitioner. He showed a marked ability for clearing away the legal chaff of a problem and getting down to the real grain of the matter, a characteristic which continued throughout his legal career. He was forthright and vigorous, a formidable opponent. His practice was general, and he was active and worked hard. He was a good, sound, all-around lawyer and he took his profession seriously. When the late Edward L. Smith was the United States attorney, Judge Daly was appointed an assistant United States attorney. He continued in this office for a short time but then resigned to attend to his growing practice. During his early years at the bar, he served as treasurer and chairman of the finance committee of the Hartford Democratic town committee. He did not, however, seek elective office, and when he was nominated in 1934 for the post of attorney general of the state, he was not even present at the Democratic state convention. This venture at the polls was an outstanding success, for he polled more votes than any of his colleagues on the ticket and became the first Democrat ever to hold the office of attorney general. He surrounded himself with able assistants and handled successfully legal problems incident to the acquisition of lands for the Merritt Parkway, Connecticut's first superhighway, and the negotiations for, and the completion of, the flood control compact with Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, a task for which there were no precedents at that time. Shortly before his term as attorney general came to an end, Governor Wilbur L. Cross named him to be a judge of the Superior Court, effective as of September 22, 1937.
As a lawyer, so as a judge, he studied his cases, analyzed them carefully and worked tirelessly to see that a just result was achieved. His ideals were high, his courage great, and his moral convictions deep and strong. He was impatient with chicanery and deceit in any form. If he thought that the whole truth was not forthcoming, that facts were being withheld or corners were being cut, he spoke out bluntly and forcefully. He dispensed no favors; right was right, and he hewed to the line. Nevertheless, he was very sympathetic and understanding. If a wrongdoer was truly penitent and tried to amend the wrong, he found in Judge Daly a warm heart and a helping hand.
In October, 1947, by designation of President Harry S. Truman, Judge Daly was appointed a judge in War Crime Trials Tribunal III in Nuremberg, Germany. Obtaining a leave of absence without pay from his duties in the state courts, he went to Germany and sat with two other American judges in the trial of Alfred Krupp and other defendants. The trial consumed nearly a year. Some understanding of the enormity of the task can be gained from the fact that the court's decision, handed down on August 5, 1948, convicting Krupp and ten others and acquitting one of the defendants, took fourteen hours to read into the record. In September, 1953, Governor John Lodge appointed Judge Daly to be a justice of the Supreme Court of Errors. He assumed his duties on February 18, 1954, succeeding Justice Edward J. Quinlan. Governor Abraham Ribicoff named Judge Daly to be chief justice to succeed Chief Justice Kenneth Wynne on May 6, 1958.
Association on the bench with Judge Daly was a happy experience. He was firm in his convictions but he could accommodate his views to those of others. His mind was open to persuasion and to better solutions. If he decided his point of view was mistaken, he was quick to admit it. He was logical and positive in argument but always respectful of those who differed with him. His associates have often heard him say, "Each of us is entitled to his own opinion." A decision having been reached, he was never resentful if it differed from the one which he sought, nor did he ever again allude to the matter.
Judge Daly was always an agreeable companion. He was thoughtful and considerate. He had an ever-ready sense of humor. He liked to relate humorous anecdotes of his experience at the bar and on the bench, and he greatly enjoyed the stories of others. He was well informed in matters of current interest and discussed them in an interesting and constructive way. Although he had been active in politics and had held high elective office, he never displayed the least bit of partisanship in his work or in his discussion of any public problem. He had many friends at the bar and on the bench. Some of these friendships spanned half a lifetime. Nevertheless, in court, and in the discussion of a case in conference, the names of the parties or of counsel meant nothing to him. To his mind, each case presented a legal problem and was treated strictly as such, irrespective of personalities or any other consideration. He had a very real appreciation of the dignity and importance of his office as a judge, and he strove diligently and fearlessly to make it an instrument for justice in the finest sense of that great word. In the final months of his life, no complaint passed his lips, although he must have been aware of the gravity of his condition and have suffered great pain and discomfort. He wanted to assume his full share of the burden of deciding the large number of cases he had heard argued to the court in the May and June terms. He loved his work, and he carried on almost to the very end of his life. His associates will think of him always with esteem and affection and revere his memory in the days to come.
Judge Daly was devoted to his family. It was quite apparent to his associates that to be in the company of his wife and children gave him the greatest delight, and he often spoke of their times together with genuine enjoyment. Surviving are his wife, Viola Shea Daly; a son, Edward J. Daly, Jr., a member of the Hartford County bar; two daughters, Mother M. Anthony, a nun in the religious order of the Sacred Heart of Mary, and Betty Ann (Mrs. Theodore) Horton; three grandchildren; and three sisters. Judge Daly was a devout Roman Catholic. He loved his church, served as a choirboy in his youth, and attended masses regularly throughout his life. One of his last tasks was to work diligently for the rebuilding of St. Joseph's Cathedral, his parish church, after it was destroyed by fire.
Judge Daly died on July 20, 1959. Following the funeral mass in Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Hartford, Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien, departing from the usual custom, delivered from the chancel a tribute to the memory of the chief justice. He spoke of him as one "universally recognized as a most distinguished public servant. He was objective, honest and vigorous in public office. . . . he worked to the very last. . . . impartial and incorruptible . . . a splendid example of the representative American Catholic: faithful, devout, generous - an intelligent and responsible citizen who evenhandedly rendered to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's." The archbishop's words eloquently express the universal judgment of Chief Justice Daly's contemporaries.[footer.htm]