Biography of Ira Lloyd Letts

Federal judge for the district of Rhode Island and a lawyer whose previous career well qualified him for this office, Ira Lloyd Letts has been a familiar figure in Rhode Island life for the past ten years. He was born at Cortland, New York, on May 29, 1889, a son of George J. and Emma (Slater) Letts. His father was a farmer for many years at Cortland, and later at Moravia, New York; he is now living retired from active pursuits in the latter town. Emma (Slater) Letts, his wife, is a member of an old Connecticut family.

Ira Lloyd Letts removed with his parents to Moravia when very young, and in the schools of that city received his preliminary education. Following graduation from high school, he entered the State Normal School at Cortland, from which he was graduated with the class of 1909. Thereafter he enrolled at Brown University in Providence, completing the course leading to the Bachelor of Philosophy degree in 1913. One year later he took the degree of Master of Arts and, having determined upon a legal career, entered the Caw School of Columbia University, from which he was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1916. Mr. Letts’ academic career was one of considerable brilliance. He was elected a member of the Theta Nu Epsilon, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Delta Sigma Rho fraternities, and in 1912 was chairman of the Delta Kappa Epsilon National Convention. Mr. Letts was president of the senior class at Brown University in 1913, president of the debating club, chairman of the athletic association, and president of the Sphinx Club at Brown. At Columbia University he was one of the editors of the “Columbia Law Review.” Judge Letts has also served as treasurer of the Brown University Club of New York City, and was a member of the executive board of that club. He achieved many scholastic honors, including the Hicks prize which he won for three consecutive years at Brown, the Hicks Interclass prize awarded him for his junior year record, and the Carpenter prize which he won in that year also.

Returning to Providence in 1917, Mr. Letts was admitted to the bar of the State, and immediately began the practice of his profession, establishing law offices in the Industrial Trust Building. In a period of ten years he rose to prominence at the local bar. A Republican in politics he was chairman of the Republican State Convention in 1922. Early in 1925 he was appointed by President Coolidge Assistant Attorney-General of the United States, serving until January, 1927, and during this time he served as Acting Attorney-General for a period. On July 1, 1927, he was appointed Federal judge for the district of Rhode Island. His record on the bench since that time has more than justified the confidence reposed in him by his appointment. Judge Letts is a member of the University Club, Rhode Island Country Club, Agawam Hunt Club, Jacob Hill Hunt Club, Turks Head Club, and the East Side Tennis Club. He worships with his family in the faith of the Congregational Church.

On December 29, 1917, at Providence, Ira Lloyd Letts married Madeleine H. Greene, born at Central Falls, daughter of Edward A. and Annie H. Greene. Mr. and Mrs. Letts are the parents of the following children: Barbara Slater, Eleanor, and Houghton.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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