Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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JAMES ALBERT HOVEY was born in the town of Hampton in this state on the 29th of April, 1815. He died at Norwich, June 27th, 1892. His parents, Jonathan Hovey and Patience Stedman Hovey, were both natives of Hampton. Having acquired such an education as could be obtained in the common and private schools of his native town, on arriving at his majority he entered the office of the late Chauncey F. Cleveland of Hampton as a student at law, and in December, 1839, was admitted to the bar of Windham County. Soon after his admission he opened an office in Windham for the practice of his profession, but in 1841, having formed a partnership with Gov. Cleveland, he removed to Norwich, where he continued to reside until his death.
His mind was clear and discriminating, and he possessed an excellent memory. Lacking a collegiate education and many of the advantages with which others enter the profession, he relied upon industry and integrity as the means to attain success. He cared little for social pleasures and devoted but little attention to them. He gave little time to general literature, but devoted himself assiduously to his profession. Always loyal to his clients and devoted to their interests he soon acquired and deserved the reputation of an honest counselor and able and learned lawyer, and gained an influential clientage. The preparation of his cases was most thorough and laborious. In their trial he was apt to be technical. As an advocate he was wanting in ad captandum talent, but expressed himself, whether addressing court or jury, with great precision and clearness. His sense of professional honor was of the highest and was apparent in all his dealings with court, client and professional associates.
In 1850 he was appointed judge of the County Court for New London County, which position he held by annual re-appointment until 1854. During this period he continued his practice in the higher courts. From 1876 to 1885 he served as one of the judges of the Superior Court, having been appointed to that office by the General Assembly at the May session, 1876. He was re-appointed for a second term, but, having reached the age of seventy years, was retired by constitutional limitation on the 29th of April, 1885. To the judicial office he brought the same industry and the same conscientiousness in the discharge of duty which characterized his professional life. It was his habit when on the circuit to prepare elaborate opinions in the cases decided by him and read them from the bench. Some of these were of such interest to the profession that they were, by request, published in the Connecticut Reports. Judge Hovey was a strong partisan, but he sought no office and had no taste for office except the judicial one. The various other offices to which he was chosen attest the esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens. He held the office of alderman of the city of Norwich for three successive terms. In 1870 he was chosen mayor of the city. He acted for several years as general assignee in bankruptcy under the law of 1841, by appointment of the United States District Court. In 1859 he was elected representative in the General Assembly from the town of Norwich, and again, after his retirement from the bench in 1886, he was elected to the same office. In 1885 Governor Harrison appointed Judge Hovey a member of the committee to revise the public statutes of the state. He served as chairman of the committee, whose report, submitted to the General Assembly in 1887, was adopted as the revision of 1888. This was the last work of his life, though he possessed his mental faculties in full vigor until the time of his death.
Judge Hovey was married in December, 1844, to Lavinia J. Barber, of Simsbury, Connecticut. A son, Albert Cleveland Hovey, was born to them, but died in 1873. Mrs. Hovey's death occurred in 1883.
Judge Hovey was an attendant of Christ's Episcopal Church in Norwich, during his residence there, and was a communicant of the church for the last fifteen years of his life.