Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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DAVID BENJAMIN LOCKWOOD, who died at Bridgeport on the 19th day of January, 1897, was born in Weston, Conn., January 7th, 1827, and prepared for college at the Staples Academy in Easton. From there he went to Middletown, and entered Wesleyan University, from which he graduated in 1849, with the degree of B.A., to which the university in later years added the degree of M.A. After his graduation he studied law for a short time with the Hon. Thomas B. Osborne of Fairfield, and subsequently removed to Bridgeport. Here he entered the office of Judge Sidney B. Beardsley, where he completed his course of study and was admitted to the bar in 1851. He commenced practice in Bridgeport, but after a few years removed to New York City and engaged in his profession there until 1861, when he again took up his residence in Bridgeport, which continued to be his home until his decease. In 1862 he enlisted as a private in the 2d Connecticut Light Battery and served until the close of the war, participating in many engagements, among them Gettysburg, Blakeley and the sieges of Forts Morgan and Gaines, returning with the rank of first sergeant. He resumed the practice of law in Bridgeport in 1867, and from 1869 to 1871 served as the first judge of the City Court, and during the remainder of his life was generally called "Judge" Lockwood by virtue of the title thus obtained. In 1875 and 1883 he was chosen representative to the General Assembly, and held the office of city attorney in the years 1880 and 1885.
My first acquaintance with Mr. Lockwood began in 1867, when I was looking for a lawyer who would allow me to register my name with him and pursue the study of law under his instructions. He met my advances with that kind cordiality of manner which ever characterized his conduct toward those younger than himself, and especially those who desired his aid, and I was at once enrolled as a student in his office, becoming his partner upon my admission to the bar in January, 1871. The partnership thus formed was only terminated by his lamented death.
Judge Lockwood was a gentleman of rare legal attainments. He not only knew, almost instinctively, what the law should be in any given case, but he had the rare faculty of knowing where to find the authorities to sustain his position. No one knows this fact better than members of this bar who have so often called upon him to furnish them the information that would give them a starting point from which they could find authorities, or unravel the apparently tangled threads of legal decisions. His time in this direction was always at the command of members of the profession, and he would lay aside the most pressing work in his hands to help his brother attorney find the sought-for-authority, or to give him information upon points of practice not to be found in the books, but which, from his long experience, were as familiar to Mr. Lockwood as the tools of his trade to the most skilled mechanic. He was especially kind and considerate to the younger members of the bar, being always willing to counsel and advise them without charge, and to take them into cases with him, where they could gain experience and attract attention that would be of value to them in their profession. In all my years of association with him he never so much as intimated that he was entitled to any special consideration from those whom he had assisted and counseled. His help to his fellowmen was not confined to his profession alone; and many in the humble walks of life mourn his loss as sincerely as he will be mourned by any of his associates.
For years he was one of the foremost figures at the bar of this county, and his services were eagerly sought for by clients. While he was strong and learned in the civil branch of the profession, yet he had a liking and a talent for the criminal side of the law, which, with his ingenuity in the management of cases, his powers of oratory and cross-examination, and knowledge of the law relating to criminal causes, made him much sought after to take up the defense; and he appeared as a prominent figure in almost every criminal cause of consequence tried in Fairfield county from 1868 to within a short time before his decease. In the trial of causes, while zealous in the interests of his client, and quick, and sometimes sharp, in his repartee, his words never left a sting, and he never harbored a resentment against those who opposed him, no matter how severe or cutting the retort might be. His utter inability to entertain or cherish a spirit of resentment over matters arising in his practice, was one of the charming features of his personality, and might well be emulated by those of his associates who survive him. So marked were his personal, friendly and genial characteristics, that in the latter years of his life he came to be called by the younger members of the profession, though with respect and veneration, "Uncle Ben."
His knowledge of books was not confined alone to the law. He was a student in other paths of literature and in the arts and sciences, and to him a new book was an inviting, unexplored pathway, which he loved to pursue to the end; and his sole personal extravagance, if extravagance it can be termed, was the accumulation of books, of which he had a large and valuable collection. He was the originator of the Act establishing the Fairfield County Law Library Association, under which the law library has grown to such proportions, and was the first to move in the matter of obtaining an appropriation from the county commissioners towards its support. He was equally active in the establishment of the Bridgeport Public Library, and served as a member of its board of directors from its organization to his decease.
As a soldier in the late war. his comrades vouch for his courageous and manly bearing and patriotic and unselfish service. As a citizen he filled every position to which he was called, with unswerving fidelity, courtesy, and ability. As a husband and father he was kind, affectionate and loyal, and as a friend he was staunch, true and kind hearted.