HALE, HON. JAMES T.
HALE, JAMES T., was born in Bradford County, Pa., on the 14th of October, 1810. He lived with his parents on a farm (still owned and occupied by his brother, Maj. Elias W. Hale, several miles east of Towanda), working on the farm and at intervals attending the schools of the neighborhood, until he was about fifteen years of age, when his father died, and he being the oldest son the support of the family was chiefly thrown upon him. Some time after the death of his father he became the clerk in the prothonotary's office at Towanda.
He then entered upon the study of the law, under the direction of his uncle, Elias W. Hale, Esq., of Lewistown, Mifflin Co., and on the 28th of February, 1832, was admitted to the bar at Lewistown. In 1835 he moved to Bellefonte, where, on the 6th of May, 1835, he married Miss Jane W. Huston, daughter of the Hon. Charles Huston, associate justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. He continued his practice in the courts of Mifflin County, and also attended the courts in the counties of Clearfield and Clinton. He was engaged in the trial of all the principal causes tried in these several courts for many years, until the 10th of April, 1851, when a vacancy occurred in what is now the Twenty-fifth Judicial District, whereof he was appointed president judge by Governor Johnston. He presided in the several courts of the district until the 1st of December, 1851, when his commission expired, and he was succeeded by the Hon. Alexander Jordan. He occupied the bench but a short time, but during that brief period discharged the arduous duties of president judge with such promptness, dispatch, ability, and impartiality, that he achieved such popularity and renown as a clear-headed and excellent judge as is rarely attained by men who occupy the bench for longer terms.
After retiring from the bench he resumed his profession, in which he continued until about 1856, when he had become so largely engaged in other enterprises that he was, to a great extent, obliged to abandon the active duties of the profession. Having become interested as part owner in a large body of timber and coal lands in the counties of Cambria, Centre, and Clearfield, known as the Philips estate, whose value, development, and availability depended chiefly upon railroad communication, he embarked his means, industry, energy, and financial skill in the building of the Tyrone and Clearfield Railroad. In 1856 he was elected president of the company, and continued in that position until 1860.
During that period, notwithstanding the financial crisis of 1857, through his indomitable energy, enterprise, industry, and financial ability, and the application of his own means, the road was, through much difficulty and many embarrassments, graded, and so far advanced towards completion that it was in a year or two afterwards finished and equipped and put in running order; and that important branch and feeder of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad opened up and made available the rich timber and mineral wealth of parts of Cambria, Centre, and Clearfield Counties.
In politics Judge Hale was an ardent Whig and high tariff man. When the Whig party passed out of existence he united with the Republican party, and in 1858 was elected to the Thirty-sixth Congress from the Eighteenth District, composed of the counties of Mifflin, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter, and Tioga. He was re-elected in 1860, from the same district, to the Thirty-seventh Congress. In 1862 he ran as an independent candidate, and was again elected over his competitor, the Hon. William H. Armstrong, the regular Republican nominee. At the close of the session, on the 4th of March, 1865, he took his family to Philadelphia, where, after attending to some private business, he left them, and returned to Bellefonte, and at once engaged in professional work, tried several causes at a special court held by his Honor Judge Pearson, and, though not being well, he argued a cause with great force and ability on Friday, the 31st of March. The day following he was quite sick, and continued growing worse until the following Thursday evening, the 6th of April, 1865, when he died.
Judge Hale was an upright man, kind friend, and generous neighbor. From his first entry into Centre County, he was a consistent and persevering friend of the temperance cause, and the first to advocate publicly the passage of laws to prevent the manufacture and sale of liquor as a beverage.
Judge Hale possessed a bright intellect, a remarkably tenacious memory (never forgot a legal principle or a reported case he had read), and an intuitive knowledge of the law, was quick in his perceptive powers, always ready, and, as it has been said of him, "Was a lawyer without a book or an office." In the trial of causes he was cool and calm, amiable and scarcely ever ruffled in temper, or disconcerted by any turn the case might take. If a witness betrayed him and testified contrary to his expectations, he was so exceedingly adroit in evading its effect, that from the placidness of his expression and smiling face one would have supposed it was just what he wanted. His equanimity of temper and self-control always gave him vantage ground over his competitors and rivals at the bar and influence with jurors, before whom he argued causes with great power and effect. He was a man of rare common sense, which enabled him to take in the facts of the case as by intuition, and, avoiding technicalities, would go directly to the merits, and by his commanding presence, pleasing address, persuasive manner, simple but forcible diction, and withal sound argument, was sure to carry the court and jury with him.
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