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BY A. W. COZART,
Judge William Truslow Newman was born in East Tennessee, near the city of Knoxville, June 23, 1843, the son of Henry B. and Martha Ann (Truslow) Newman. There he spent his childhood, and when the Civil War began, notwithstanding the fact that he was only seventeen years old, he enlisted in the Second Tennessee Cavalry, the Lookout Rangers, as a private. A year later he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He was wounded and captured and held a prisoner at Johnson's Island until he was exchanged. He returned to the front and was wounded again near Jonesboro, Georgia, in the last year of the war. As a result of the wound he lost his right arm and he lay for some time on the field.
After the war he made his residence in Atlanta and began the study of law there under Judge John L. Hopkins, also a native of Tennessee, who was one of the South's greatest lawyers and most distinguished jurists. He was admitted to the practice of law in 1866 and for many years he was a partner of Judge W. D. Ellis, one of the able judges of the Superior Courts of the Atlanta Circuit.
In 1871 Judge Newman was elected city attorney of the City of Atlanta. He served in this office from 1871 to 1883, when he returned to the practice of law.
The year in which he was elected city attorney he married Miss Fanny Alexander, of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Judge Newman was appointed Judge of the Northern District of Georgia by President Grover Cleveland on August 13, 1886. This was Cleveland's first judgeship appointment. The United States Senate was in recess at that time, so that Judge Newman took the oath of office twice, once on August 21, 1886, when the appointment was first made and he was sworn in to serve during the recess, and again on January 28, 1887, after the Senate was again in session and confirmed the appointment. He served as judge of this Court to the time of his death, which occurred February 14, 1920, in the City of Atlanta in his home, 54 Forrest Avenue. The exact time of his death was 7:10 o'clock Saturday morning, and the cause of his death was a sudden affection of the heart. His body was laid to rest in West View Cemetery, in Atlanta, on February 15, 1920.
He is survived by his wife; by three children, Mrs. John Patterson, of Richmond, Virginia; Henry A. Newman, and Miss Frances Newman, of Atlanta, and by one grandson, Lewis Rucker, of Atlanta. One daughter, Mrs. Walter Howard, preceded him a short time to the grave.
At the time of his death he was in his seventy-seventh year, and had served continuously for nearly thirty-four years—the longest period that the office of United States District Judge has been filled by any present occupant.
When Judge Newman was wounded near Jonesboro, it is said, that one of his comrades carried him off the battlefield, and in later years he used to visit the Judge at the Federal Building, and never was such a visit made but Judge Newman invited him to a seat on the platform and had him remain there until court adjourned.
One of the most notable occasions in recognition of the very high esteem in which Judge Newman was held was the dinner given him by the Bar Association of Atlanta, and by many distinguished members of the profession throughout the Northern District of the State of Georgia, and by warm personal friends among the laity on his seventieth anniversary, when a most magnificent silver service was presented to him and Mrs. Newman. The tributes paid to him on this occasion were as varied as they were sincere, as sincere as they were beautiful, and as beautiful as they were well deserved.
Judge Newman was a member of the Presbyterian Church—the Church of Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, and Woodrow Wilson. He was one of the oldest and most prominent members of the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.
Except for a month's vacation in the summer, his court was in session practically throughout the entire year, and when he was not on the bench he was transacting business at chambers. For more than thirty years he did not fail to hold a single term of his court on account of illness. He performed his exacting and responsible duties with steady nerves and unperturbed spirit. There were two classes of things which he did not worry about: those he could help and those he could not help. He believed, aye, he knew that he would be better fit for his tasks if he did not cross bridges before he got to them. Indeed, he looked upon his work as a philosopher should look upon it -philosophically. If poise were a mental and physical and spiritual substance,' we would say that a large per centum of his mind, body and soul was composed of poise. His great heart may have worn out but it did not rust out or worry out.
If the thousands of criminals who were sentenced by Judge Newman were asked what his pre-eminent attribute was, they, with remarkable unanimity, would answer, “Mercy”.
His poise was excelled only by his mercy.
Judge Newman had the judicial temperament and his demeanor and appearance were such as one would find in the ideal judge. Members of the bar and others who attended upon the sessions of his court were not awed or disconcerted by the tone of his voice, but all were restrained by his very presence. He was courteous to kindness and patient to long-suffering. His good sense, good heart and robust constitution made petulance utterly unknown to his nature. His visage was often lighted up by a smile, but never darkened by a frown. His sense of
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right was so innate that correct judgments with him were not a second nature but rather were his first nature.
His great endowment was that sum of mental utilities which we term common sense, not genius; judgment, not cunning; reason, not fancy; not brilliancy, but wisdom. The right was his polar star.
He was a man of few words; his charges were short; he said little in announcing his rulings; he was never prolix or redundant; he preferred to hear rather than to be heard; he did not “play to the grand-stand” by act or by speech. When his court was ready to be opened he entered the court-room and, in a distinct yet gentle voice, he said: “Be seated, gentlemen.” These words might be taken as a true index to the manner and character of his remarks while he presided. Especially were these words indicative of the calm, courteous and pointed way in which he exercised judicial authority.
He was gentle without effeminacy; tender without weakness; firm without harshness; dignified without austerity, and deliberate without tediousness.
His style was not as epigrammatic, witty and poetical as that of Bleckley, nor as ornate as that of Speer, but he had the force and perspicuity of Joseph Henry Lumpkin. He did not have the genius of Bleckley nor the scholastic learning and eloquence of Speer, but he had the sympathy of a benefactor and the poise and common sense of a sage. His sympathy was as broad and high and deep as the needs of humanity, and his common sense enabled him to grapple with and solve correctly most of the great problems and questions which came before him during his long and useful life.
He was remarkably erect. His carriage was graceful and dignified. His gait was deliberate and he moved like a battleship entering port. He was tall—six feet and two inches—the same height as that of Washington and one inch taller than Jackson and Clay. His eyes were gray, as gray as those of Jefferson and Franklin. His hair was