Statesman, jurist, and brilliant lawyer, LeBaron Bradford Colt achieved in his lifetime a career of the greatest honor and success. He was twice elected to the United States Senate from Rhode Island by the suffrage of the people. He gave his brilliant talents unselfishly for the public good, and through the constructive influences of a life of service contributed much to the progress of his State and Nation.
Senator Colt was born at Dedham, Massachusetts, on June 25, 1846, a son of Christopher and Theodora Goujand (DeWolf) Colt, and member both paternally and maternally of distinguished old New England families. He prepared for college at Williston Seminary, and in 1864 entered Yale. From this institution he was graduated in 1868, and having now determined upon a legal career, he took up the study of law at Columbia University in New York City. Here he received the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1870. Following the old New England tradition for sons of gentlemen who choose to enter the professions, Senator Colt first spent a year in European travel. Upon his return to America he then began the practice of law at Chicago, where his activities were to center until 1875. In that year he came to Rhode Island, took up his residence in Bristol and the active practice of his profession at Providence. Within a period of a few years he rose to a position of preeminence at the Rhode Island bar.
From 1876 to 1881 Senator Colt was associated in partnership with the Hon. Francis Colwell, later city solicitor of Providence. In 1879 he was elected from Bristol to the Rhode Island Legislature, and in March, 1881, before the expiration of his term, he was appointed United States District Judge for Rhode Island by President Garfield.
This appointment met with wide popular approval. It was considered a fitting recognition of Senator Colt’s distinguished position among the members of his profession in Rhode Island, and he assumed his new office with the confidence of the entire State. This confidence was more than justified by his brilliant judicial career which continued for a period of thirty-two years. On July 6, 1884, Senator Colt was appointed by President Arthur United States Circuit Judge for the First Judicial Circuit, comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. This office he held until his election to the United States Senate in 1913. Senator Colt possessed a thorough mastery of all phases of legal theory and practice. His acute and penetrating mind easily clarified the difficulties of the most complex cases, and his decisions, rendered with such thorough impartiality, were models of cogent reasoning and gentlemanly restraint.
In 1912 Mr. Colt was elected to the United States Senate, and in 1913 he took his seat. At the age of sixty-six, in the full ripeness of his mature powers, he entered into the discharge of his duties with undiminished energy. He was immediately appointed to the Committee on the Judiciary, and served as a member of that body until his death. He was also a member of the Civil Service Committee, and, after his reelection in 1919, a member of the Committee on Immigration, of which he was chairman for many years. Thus he was called upon to study and consider the very vexing immigration problems, and his sympathy for and interest in the unfortunate condition of many immigrants to America were responsible for some of the best features of our present law. He was one of the very few Senators who protested and voted against the discourteous treatment of Japan in the passage of the exclusion act. Senator Colt seldom felt called upon to take the floor of the Senate, but when he did his colleagues listened with the deference due his fineness and power of intellect, his deep sincerity and honorable character. The wisdom of his words was enhanced by the eloquence of his speech which could not fail to leave with his auditors a deep and lasting impression.
On December 17, 1873, LeBaron Bradford Colt married Mary Louise Ledyard, daughter of Guy Carlton and Elizabeth (Morris) Ledyard, of Chicago. Of this marriage six children were born: 1. Theodora L., who married Edwin A. Barrows of Providence. 2. LeBaron C., born February 26,1877, died May 26, 1916. 3. Guy Pomeroy, born December 4, 1878, died November 17, 1885. 4. Mary Louise, born July 25,1880, married Harold J. Gross (q. v.) of Providence. 5. Elizabeth L., born October 29, 1887, married Andrew Weeks Anthony, of Boston. 6. Beatrice, born on June 1, 1891, died November 18, 1914.
Senator Colt died on August 18, 1924. Word of his passing brought deep sorrow throughout the country, and many of those whose privilege it was to know him paid eloquent tribute to his memory. The words of several Senatorial colleagues are quoted:
Said Senator Gerry:
We do well to pay high tribute to the memory of this Statesman. Deep gratification there must be to his family and friends that he deservedly achieved such a high place and made such a remarkable record in the public service to which his life and attainments had been so unsparingly devoted from young manhood. It can but be a solace to them always. His memory will enkindle in others a patriotic devotion to country, and his service will ever be cherished by our citizens, who always find satisfaction in the fidelity shown by public servants.
Senator Walsh said of him:
He measured up to the full height of the ideal United States Senator, and left a record that redounds to the honor of the State that commissioned him as such.
Senator Sterling said:
I know that I am now sharing with all my colleagues and those who at any time served with Senator Colt here, the fond recollection of his unfailing courtesy, his fine attainments, his exalted character, and the truth of principles for which he stood. The example and inspiration which these afford is left to his colleagues and to his fellow-citizens, a priceless heritage.
In the words of Senator Metcalf:
LeBaron Bradford Colt faithfully served his State and Nation. His rise was by dint of merit. As scholar, lawyer. State legislator, Federal judge, and Senator, his record bespeaks the character and ability of the man. The recital of his virtues gives inspiration to others to “carry on” in a life of unselfish, loyal service. One by one great men who have guided our nation pass into the great beyond, and we are prone to say that the stars by which we have been guided have sunk beneath the horizon. Let us say rather that they have become fixed stars, whose deathless light shall never fail us in the days to come.