Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 115, page(s) 735-736


Marcus Hensey Holcomb was born at New Hartford November 28th, 1844, of earliest Connecticut ancestry, one of his forbears being a member of the General Court when the Fundamental Orders were adopted. He was the son of Carlos and Ada (Bushnell) Holcomb. He attended Wilbraham Academy, but was balked of a college education by poor health. He taught school for a number of years, meanwhile studying law in the office of the Hon. Jared B. Foster. Admitted to the bar in 1871 and settling in Southington, he was thereafter a member of the bar of Hartford County until his death, March 5th, 1932, in his eighty-eighth year. Throughout all the active years of his life, though rarely if ever seeking public office, he was continually sought for it. Elected judge of probate for the district of Southington in 1873, he held that office for thirty years. He served for a number of years as judge of the Town Court of Southington. In 1893 he was elected to the State Senate. From 1893 to 1908 he was treasurer of Hartford County. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1902. In 1905 he served as speaker of the House of Representatives. Elected Attorney-General in 1907, he held that office until 1910 when, yielding to persuasion against his own desires, he became a judge of the Superior Court. This office he held until compelled to retire by reason of age limit on November 28th, 1914. Learning that there was a strong sentiment in favor of nomination as republican candidate for Governor that year, he gave to a leading member of the convention a letter in which he stated his unwillingness to accept the nomination, to be used if circumstances made it necessary, but the situation so developed that the letter was never laid before the convention and he was nominated and elected. For six years, during the storm and stress of the World War, he was Governor of the State and so administered that office as to win commendation, not only from its citizens but from the nation at large, for his patriotism, wisdom, foresight and forcefulness. Something of the confidence in which he was held by the people of the State may be seen in the provisions of an Act of the General Assembly passed at the time the United States entered the war: "The Governor is directed to render to the government of the United States, in the present crisis, any assistance within the power of the State; and he is authorized, either to that end or for the purpose of providing for the public safety, to organize and employ any and all resources within the State, whether of men, properties or instrumentalities, and to exercise any and all power convenient or necessary in his judgment."

No less active in private life than in public, he was for thirty years president of the Southington Savings Bank and a director in the Southington Bank and Trust Company, the National Fire Insurance Company, and the Peck, Stow & Wilcox Company, the Aetna Nut Company, and the Southington Hardware Company. He was affiliated with First Baptist Church of Southington, acting for many years as chairman of its board of trustees and superintendent of its Sunday School. He had many fraternal relations, being a Thirty-Second Degree Mason and a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Elks, the Red Men, and the Foresters. On October 16th, 1872, he married Sarah O. Bennett of Hartford. They had one child who died early in life. Mrs. Holcomb died December 3d, 1910.

Throughout his life Governor Holcomb was first and foremost a lawyer; he was a keen, able, courageous practitioner; a student and lover of the law, he brought into every public office he held the high regard he had for it and his faith in it and its orderly processes; and in nothing did he take so much pride as in the feeling that by wise appointments of judges when he was Governor he had built up and strengthened our courts. At the time of his death, every Justice of the Supreme Court of Errors then upon that bench had been originally appointed Judge of the Superior Court by him. To his own service upon the bench he brought not only a thorough knowledge of the law, but patience, understanding, sound sense and an unusual balance of judgment. As a man he was honest, fearless, human, and simple in his ways of life. It was characteristic of him that he would never take credit for any act, the credit for which he felt properly to belong to another. He was friendly to all whom he found honest and sincere, with a dry humor which would frequently flash out when least expected; and he was in turn held in great affection by the people of the State, being generally known in his later years as "Uncle Marcus." No man loved his State more or knew it and its people better. He was a true son of Connecticut, not by birth alone but in loyalty, and in spirit and understanding. He was a wise man, a truly great man and a very gentle man.