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WILLIAM AUGUSTUS BABCOCK
ILLIAM AUGUSTUS BABCOCK, of Cleveland, judge of the court of common pleas from 1902 until his death in 1913, was born in Shalersville, Portage County, Ohio, January 9, 1851, son of Edward Burroughs and Amelia Belinda (Crane) Babcock. He was a descend-
ant in the eighth generation of James Babcock, a native of Essex, England, who settled in Rhode Island early in the seventeenth century. The grandparents of Judge Babcock were pioneer set- tlers in northern Ohio, and his father was the first white child born in Huron County.
After receiving a district school education in Portage County he entered Hiram College, where he was graduated, in 1873, while James A. Garfield was president of that institution. He then came to Cleveland, took the course of the Cleveland Law College, and in 1875, was graduated with the degree of bachelor of laws. Embarking upon the practice of his profession, he soon attained success and reputation and ultimately rose to a recognized position as one of the most brilliant men of the Cleveland bar.
In May, 1901, during the administration of Mayor Tom L. Johnson, Mr. Babcock was appointed to the office of assistant director of law of the city of Cleveland. In the fall of the same year he was elected to the bench of the common pleas of Cuyahoga County, a position which he assumed at the beginning of the year following. Twice successively he was re-elected, and if he had survived to complete his final term he would have continued in office until the year 1919.
On the bench he was known especially as a people's judge, his sympathies being strongly with the masses and inclining to the side of individual rights on the broad principles of justice. But his judicial fairness was never questioned, and his decisions were generally regarded as no less sound in principle than they were unusual for learning and ability. When the ice trust case was decided against the trust by Judge Kinkade in Toledo, a retrial was procured in another jurisdiction, and the matter came before Judge Babcock. He fully coincided with the Toledo court, and his decision was received with general approbation. Possessing great kindness of heart, he shrank from needless severity, yet always firmly maintained the dignity of the law and the court and permitted none to trifle with his generosity. Personally he enjoyed remarkable popularity, and by none was he regarded with stronger esteem and affection than the laboring classes of the city.
Of his character, abilities, and judicial services the following was said in a series of resolutions adopted at a meeting of the bar of Cleveland on the fourteenth of October, 1913:
"In the death of Judge William A. Babcock there passed away from among us a lawyer and scholar of great natural parts and splendid attainments. He was learned in many sciences, and particularly erudite in the science of the law. His philosophical mind and wide reading made him a peculiarly efficient judge-one not given to the pernicious habit of first seeking a precedent
before applying the principles involved in the question before him for decision—not a blind follower of precedent, but one who first made himself acquainted with all the facts in the controversy under consideration, applied the principles of law to the facts, made his finding, and then, perhaps, would seek a well-reasoned precedent in support of his finding".
Judge Babcock was a student of modern sciences and literature, as well as of the theories and writings of ancient philosophers and authors. It was this quality in him which made of him a judge of rare understanding and great knowledge of human nature and frailties. He therefore knew his own limitations and shortcomings, and lent an ever patient ear to the arguments and pleas of the professional gentlemen who submitted causes before his tribunal. His learning and disposition made him incapable of intellectual dishonesty. He was pre-eminently a just and upright judge. His mastery of the English language, coupled with a singularly clear and logical mind, made classics of his decisions and instructions to juries. His death is, in many respects, an irreparable loss to the bench and bar of the State.
He was noted for very marked oratorical talents, which, added to his extensive reading, retentive memory, and varied accomplishments of scholarship, made him a most fascinating speaker before cultured audiences. In 1889, at a meeting in the Cleveland Music Hall commemorative of the first century of constitutional government, he delivered an address in which most of the progressive issues that have since engaged the attention of the people were outlined. Among his lectures given on various occasions and issued in printed form were " The Life of Christ from the Lawyer's Standpoint, " " The Life of Wagner, " and "The Lives of Goethe and Schiller. " He owned one of the best private libraries in Cleveland, and was a discriminating collector of paintings and other objects of art, many of which were acquired on his travels abroad. His life was largely helpful in personal ways to others, especially boys, several of whom he assisted financially in their struggles for an education.
Judge Babcock died after a brief illness on the twenty-third of June, 1913.
He married, April 26, 1892, Arefa C. Bryson, daughter of the celebrated William A. Bryson, M.D., of Burlington, Iowa. A bust of Judge Babcock, by Mme. Luelle Varney Serrao, has been placed in the Cleveland courthouse by his widow.
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