Sterry R. Waterman

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Sterry Robinson Waterman (June 12, 1901 - February 6, 1984) was a lawyer and federal judge from Vermont.


Sterry Waterman was born in Taunton, Massachusetts on June 12, 1901.[1] He graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1922.[2] He attended Harvard Law School and then moved to Washington, D.C. to accept a position with the federal Commissioner of Immigration while continuing his studies at George Washington University Law School.[3][4] He passed the bar exam in 1926 needing to complete one course before graduating,[5] ended his studies, and began to practice, first in Washington, D.C and later in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.[6]

Active in Republican politics, he was State's Attorney for Caledonia County from 1933 to 1937 and Assistant Secretary of the Vermont State Senate from 1933 to 1940. He served as general counsel of the Vermont Unemployment Compensation Commission for four years, a delegate to the 1936 Republican National Convention, a member of the commission to investigate the Vermont Court System from 1935 to 1937, and a member of the Vermont Uniform State Laws Commission from 1938 to 1958.[7][8][9]

In the 1930s and 1940s Waterman was a founder and leader of the Vermont Young Republicans, and was recognized as a leader of the progressive wing of Vermont's Republican party, which included George Aiken and Ernest Gibson, Jr. Waterman managed Aiken's successful 1936 campaign for Governor. In 1946 Waterman was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate, losing the Republican primary to Ralph E. Flanders, who went on to win the general election.

In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Waterman to serve as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, succeeding to the "Vermont seat" on the court previously occupied by Judge Harrie B. Chase who had taken senior status. Vermont's Senators, Aiken and Flanders, had initially been willing to recommend Gibson, but Gibson preferred to remain on the District Court so that he would not have to leave Vermont. They then recommended Waterman, who was opposed by conservative Republicans, which caused Eisenhower to request that they submit another recommendation. Aiken and Flanders persisted until Waterman was confirmed by the United States Senate, and he served for 15 years before assuming senior status in 1970.

In 1977 Waterman received his J.D. degree from Vermont Law School, which was conferred after the trustees, faculty and administration agreed that his writings while serving as a judge satisfied the requirements for the course he had not completed before passing the bar exam.[10][11]

Waterman was a longtime trustee of both St. Johnsbury Academy and Vermont Law School, and served as president of the board at each institution.

Death and burial[edit]

He died in St. Johnsbury on February 6, 1984 and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. Johnsbury.

Awards and honors[edit]

Waterman received several honorary degrees, including: Dartmouth College (LL.D., 1963); Harvard Law School (LL.D., 1969); George Washington University Law School (LL.D., 1969); University of Vermont (LL.D., 1972); and New York University School of Law (LL.D., 1979). His personal and official papers are archived at the University of Vermont. Vermont Law School maintains a scholarship and lecture series in Waterman's name, and the school's Waterman Hall is named for him.


  1. ^ Maze, Nancy Chadbourne (1984). The Paul Chadbourn Family of Waterborough, Maine, 1748-1990. Chadbourne Family Association. p. 159. 
  2. ^ Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. 1981. p. 270. 
  3. ^ "Sterry Waterman Nominated as Federal Judge". Bennington Banner. May 13, 1955. p. 1. 
  4. ^ Second Circuit Historical and Commemorative Events Committee (2012). Special Supplement: Colleagues For Justice: One Hundred Years of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. New York, NY: St. John's Law Review. p. 957. 
  5. ^ The Federal Reporter, Volume 751. Eagan, Minnesota: West Publishing. 1985. p. 104. 
  6. ^ Waterman, Edgar Francis (1942). The Waterman Family, Volume 2. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Historical Society. p. 541. 
  7. ^ Hein, W. S. (1944). Handbook of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and Proceedings of the Annual Conference, Volume 54. Washington, DC: National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. pp. 11, 22. 
  8. ^ Vermont Legislative Directory. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. 1977. p. 184. 
  9. ^ Hart, George Luzerne (1936). Official Report of the Proceedings of the Twenty-first Republican National Convention. New York, NY: Tenny Press. pp. 27, 75. 
  10. ^ The Federal Reporter, Volume 751. Eagan, Minnesota: West Publishing. 1985. p. 104. 
  11. ^ "Vermont Law School Begins its 5th Year". Bennington Banner. September 12, 1977. p. 3. Retrieved 25 April 2015. The president of the board of trustees, Sterry R. Waterman, senior judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was also awarded the juris doctor degree. Although he had studied at three law schools prior to his long legal career and has several honorary degrees, he had not previously received the law degree. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Harrie B. Chase
Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Succeeded by
James Lowell Oakes