Biography of Pardon C. Williams


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PARDON C. WILLIAMS, present justice of the Supreme Court, State of New York, was a native of Ellisburgh, N. Y., born July 12, 1842, and was the fifth child born to William and Jerusha (Plummer) Williams, of that town. His grandfather, William Williams, came from Windham county, Vermont, and was one of the pioneers of Ellisburgh. He settled on a tract of land between Ellisburgh and Mannsville and cleared and developed a good farm. Of his children the daughters married and settled in that vicinity, but his sons, except William, removed to Ohio. William, jr., son of the pioneer, was a substantial farmer and acquired a competency. About 1847 or 1848 he removed to Pierrepont Manor, and afterward lived in that locality many years, owning and occupying several farms. He was a man highly respected in the southern part of the county, and indeed wherever known, yet lie did not engage actively in public affairs nor did he seek to gain any political prominence. He died aged eighty-two years, and within a year afterward his widow also died, at the age of seventy-two years.

The early life of Pardon C. Williams was spent on his father's farm, and after his fourteenth year his time was divided between farm work, and attending and teaching school. Later on he attended Union Academy at Belleville, Jefferson county, the Clinton Liberal Institute at Clinton, Oneida county, and St. Lawrence University, at Canton, remaining at the latter institution about two years. In the spring of 1862 he came to Watertown and began a course of law study in the office of Hammond & Bigelow, then a well known law firm of the county seat, and at the general term of the Supreme Court held in October, 1863, he was admitted to practice. Soon afterward the law partnership of Hammond & Williams was formed, Mr. Bigelow having dropped professional work to take editorial supervision of the Watertown Times. A little later Gen. Bradley Winslow came into the firm, the style of which then became Hammond, Winslow & Williams, and was so continued until 1867, when Mr. Williams retired and began practice alone.

In the fall of 1868 he became a candidate for the district attorney ship of the county, was nominated by the convention in September, and elected at the polls in November following. At the expiration of his first term Mr. Williams was re elected, serving in that office six years, and during the time established a reputation as a successful prosecuting criminal lawyer, although in taste and inclination he much preferred the general practice in the civil courts.

In his conduct of the office Mr. Williams tried his cases unassisted, which was something of an innovation at that time, but it gave him confidence in himself, and an excellent standing in the profession and with the people. In March, 1874, he formed a partnership with John C. McCartin, at whose request he did not again seek a nomination but left the office to engage in general practice. The firm of MeCartin & Williams was thereafter known in legal circles in northern New York for a period of ten years; and it is no idle compliment to say that it was regarded among the strongest in thç region. However, in March, 1884, the firm was dissolved, Mr. Williams having, in the fall of 1883, been nominated and elected justice of the Supreme Court for the Fifth judicial district of the State. In this office Judge Williams served a full term of fourteen years, and was then nominated both by the Republican and Democratic Judicial Conventions, and re elected without opposition. In the fall of 1895 he was designated by Governor Morton as one of the associate justices of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department of the State, and served in that capacity until January 1, 1898.

Judge Williams is just beginning his second term on the bench of the Supreme Court. He is yet, comparatively, a young man, and we cannot write of him as of a member of the old bar of the county; yet in the thousand and one details which make up the character of a successful lawyer and judge he fortunately possesses those most essential to popularity and high standing. As a lawyer he displayed remarkable industry in collecting details and facts, and equal sagacity in properly presenting them to the jury. As a magistrate upon the bench he has been known for rapidity in the disposition of trial cases, yet perfectly fair to both sides. He understands the law and delights in imparting knowledge to the younger members of the profession, with whom he is especially forbearing and considerate. In politics Judge Williams has ever been a firm and unyielding Republican, yet not aggressive or abusive in expressing his views to members of the opposite party. His domestic and social life have been equally pleasant.

His wife was Sarah E. Hewitt, adopted daughter of Clark Hewitt, of Watertown, with whom he was married September 9, 1868. Six children were born of this marriage, of whom three are living. They are Edith, a graduate of Vassar; Robert Plummer, clerk for his father, and Marguerite Williams. Judge Williams's family are communicants in Trinity church. He was brought up under Universalist influences but is not a church member.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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