Mahlon Pitney

Mahlon Pitney
Morris Co. Up


Source: History Morris County New Jersey, Volume II, Lewis Publishing Co., 1914

Mahlon PITNEY, a lawyer and jurist of signal ability, who has served usefully in the State Senate and national Congress, and in the highest courts of the state, and is now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the united States, is the second son of the distinguished Vice Chancellor, Henry C. PITNEY, and was born in Morristown, New Jersey, February 5, 1858.

He was prepared for college in classical schools in his town, and in 1875 entered Princeton university, where he was graduated in 1879 upon the completion of the four years’ course, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He received the Master’s degree in 1882. He had meantime engaged in the study of law in the office of his father, who was then a practicing lawyer in Morristown. He was admitted to the bar in June, 1882, and at once entered upon practice in Dover, Morris county, New Jersey. In 1885 he was licensed as a counsellor. In 1889 he returned to Morristown, where he has since resided. He early gained a large clientele and an enviable reputation, and continued actively engaged in his profession until his elevation to the bench. He was connected with much important litigation and gave evidence of superior powers before both the court and jury. On February 5, 1901, he was nominated by Governor VOORHEES as Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, to succeed Justice GUMMERE, and the nomination was at once confirmed by the senate. On November 16, 1901, Justice PITNEY qualified and took his seat for a term of seven years. Before the expiration of this term he was nominated by Governor FORT as Chancellor, January 22, 1908, to succeed Chancellor MAGIE, and at once confirmed by the senate, for a term of seven years, to expire January 21, 1915. He was appointed by President TAFT to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the united States, March 13, 1912, and took the oath of office and entered upon its duties a few days later. His record upon the bench has been most creditable, and he is noted for candor and freedom from bias, and for his thorough study of the cases that come before him for decision. In the Supreme Court, in the Court of Chancery, and in the Court of Errors and Appeals of New Jersey, and the United States Supreme Court, he has delivered opinions in many cases of the utmost importance.

Mr. Justice PITNEY, before his elevation to the bench, served with prominence in the legislative bodies of both state and union. In 1894 he was elected to Congress as a Republican by a plurality of 1,407 over Johnston Cornish, in the old Fourth District, which was normally Democratic by a large majority. In 1896 he was re-elected by the increased plurality of 2,977, his county of Morris giving him a plurality of 3,627, despite the fact that his Democratic opponent, Augustus W. CUTLER, was also a resident of that county. Mr. PITNEY took an active part in the work of the House of Representatives, and rendered important service upon the Committee on Appropriations in opposing extravagant and useless appropriations. In 1898 he was elected to the State Senate from Morris county, in 1900 was the leader of his party on the floor of that body, and in 1901 served as president.

Until his appointment tot he bench he was recognized Republican leader in his section of the State. In 1895 he was temporary chairman of the State Convention which nominated John W. GRIGGS for governor. In the campaign of 1896 he made a vigorous canvass, and took an uncompromising stand in favor of sound money. He is a forcible, earnest and convincing speaker, and not less accomplished as a writer, his pen productions having the literary finish of the scholar as well as the eloquence of the orator. He has received the degree of LL.D. from Princeton University and from Rutgers College.

Mr. PITNEY married, November 14, 1891, Florence Theodora SHELTON. They are members of the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown, and sustain high social relations. Their children are Guy Shelton, Mahlon Jr., and Beatrice Louise.

Transcribed by John Cresseveur


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