Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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To call the roll of the leaders of the bar of New London County throughout its history would bring forth illustrious names. Tradition enshrines them with such luster that as the succeeding generations of the profession pass by they are ignored by their contemporaries as unworthy to suffer comparison with their forebears. New London County, perhaps, is no different in this respect from any other county in our richly historical state.
And yet there emerges at each bar in every generation of lawyers an outstanding legal mind. There was born to Thomas and Mary Lewis McGuire on January 26, 1881, Frank L. McGuire, a son endowed with attributes of mind and character, who, afforded the professional opportunity, rose to the rank of a leader.
He was unadorned with the formal education so commonly acquired at the present time; its lack was no doubt in part the spur which inspired his efforts. Avoiding the avenue to a clientele by the pursuit of social life, he jealously availed himself of the time from such absorptions in devotion to his family and with hours of general reading in literature, history and government. So precisely and so widely had he expended his energies in the direction of study and reading that at his death not only did many suppose he was college bred but also were unaware that he was compelled more recently to spare his eyes for the essentials of the office.
It is small wonder then that he became a perfectionist. In the courtroom he was prepared; in the office constructive, ingenious and thorough. To those of an indolent and careless disposition his perfection might be called technicality. The traits of his penetrating legal mind, arduously yet delicately developed, would with others go for peccadilloes. One who is outstripped and outshone hardly can be expected to make a true appraisal of his dilemma; humiliation clouds his perspective. However, when personal or knotty legal problems presented themselves he was eagerly sought by his brethren at the bar.
In fact, Mr. McGuire attended local public schools and after graduation from the Bulkeley School of New London attended New York University Law School, where he obtained his LL. B. degree in 1901 at the age of twenty, being admitted to the Connecticut bar upon the attainment of his majority. From the very outset he gave evidence of the caution, accuracy and scholarship which matured with the years. In the period preceding his admission to the bar he assisted Judge Walter C. Noyes of the United States Circuit Court in the preparation of Noyes' "Intercorporate Relations," and Judge Noyes in the preface to that work has this to say of Mr. McGuire's assistance:
"And whatever measure of accuracy it may possess is due, in no inconsiderable degree, to the diligence of Mr. Frank L. McGuire, of the New London (Conn.) bar, who has verified the references and prepared the Table of Cases."
At once and without cessation Mr. McGuire entered upon the career of a busy and successful practitioner. For two years he was associated with George D. Stanton in the firm of Stanton and McGuire and then formed a partnership with the late Major Hadlai A. Hull as Hull and McGuire. Upon the admission of Major Hull's son, Charles Hadlai Hull, the firm name became Hull, McGuire and Hull, which continued until Mr. McGuire's death, at which time, however, his sons Francis F. and Morgan K. were his sole partners.
He was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the Federal District Court and the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, winning distinction before those tribunals. Especially noteworthy among these efforts was the case of Weaver v. Palmer Bros. Co., 270 U.S. 402, wherein the court declared a Pennsylvania statute unconstitutional under the fourteenth amendment. The Connecticut Reports give abundant attestation of the vigor of his legal thinking and persistency.
He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Connecticut State Bar Association and the New London County Bar Association, serving the latter as chairman of the grievance and library committees.
In his early career Mr. McGuire served as city clerk between 1903 and 1907, and under the adoption of the council manager form of government in New London became director of law. Although his active practice claimed the main part of his time, he was frequently sought for his wise counsel and advice in affairs of the Democratic party and, in the fall of 1932, was mentioned as a possible candidate to the United States Senate, but declined consideration. Likewise, in the last fifteen years he was repeatedly regarded as possessing to a high degree the qualities for a Superior Court appointment, although privately he entertained no such desire because of his deep loyalty to his established clientele, his devotion to the work which it entailed and the freedom, independence and generous mode of living which private practice permitted.
It was about the state, among businessmen and in the business circles of New London, that Mr. McGuire's genuine worth was appreciated. It was not an uncommon thing to have business executives and accountants speak in commendatory terms of his acumen. In line with this appreciation was his choice as director of the National Bank of Commerce of New London and of The Atwood Machine Company and as trustee of the Eugene Atwood Fund. He also was a trustee and member of the board of managers of the Lawrence Memorial Hospital and a former trustee and secretary-treasurer of the Williams Memorial Institute. From 1931 to 1937 he acted as a trustee of the Norwich State Hospital and became chairman of the board in 1937, resigning in 1940.
Mr. McGuire was a member of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church and of the Knights of Columbus. He was at one time president of the diocesan bureau of social service in New London and, from the outset, a trustee of the diocesan bureau of the diocese of Hartford.
One can well understand that a man of a deep inner spiritual nature without the slightest ostentation, well informed in the judicial and political history of his country and state, should have reserved a distinctive place in his heart and in his time for the cultivation, inspiration and enjoyment of the family life which he had so richly endowed. Men like Mr. McGuire understand all too well the importance of the family unit in the scheme of our national life. After his family was raised, he was happiest in the circle of his children and grandchildren. His vacations were spent in the company of his wife, usually at Hanover, New Hampshire, where, indeed, they had reservations for the mouth following his death.
The writer met him in an adversary capacity while in the practice of the law, came to admire and respect him over the long years, and as a friend was admitted at the hospital before and after his operation. He died from the effects of the operation on September 19, 1947.
Mr. McGuire married Winifred A. Foran on April 24, 1907; Mrs. McGuire survived but two months.
He leaves three sons, Attorneys Francis F. McGuire and Morgan K. McGuire of New London and David L. McGuire, two daughters, Mrs. Richard C. Burke and Miss Lorna F. McGuire, and nine grandchildren, in addition to his brother, Attorney Henry L. McGuire of New London.
Active in his beloved profession until the end, by any known standard he fulfilled the requirements of a fine citizen and a Christian gentleman.