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George Bethune Adams

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George Bethune Adams
George Bethune Adams.jpg
George Bethune Adams
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
August 30, 1901 – October 9, 1911
Appointed by William McKinley
Preceded by Addison Brown
Succeeded by Julius Marshuetz Mayer
Personal details
Born (1845-04-03)April 3, 1845
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died October 9, 1911(1911-10-09) (aged 66)
Hague, New York
Spouse(s) Helen Jean Adams (Balfour)
Alma mater Read law
Profession Attorney & United States District Judge

George Bethune Adams (April 3, 1845 – October 9, 1911) was a United States lawyer and United States District Judge specializing in admiralty law. He served in private practice, litigated before the Supreme Court of the United States, and served as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Early life and career[edit]

Adams was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though under the minimum age, he enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment in the United States Army in 1861, and served for three months before returning to school.[1] He reenlisted in 1863 when Robert E. Lee's forces invaded Pennsylvania, and afterwards entered the Quartermaster's Department of the Army, where he served until 1871.[1][2] He then worked as a merchant for several years. He read law and became a lawyer in Philadelphia in 1878.[1] He was thereafter in private practice in New York City from 1883 to 1901, specializing in admiralty law at the firm of Beebe & Wilcox; after the death of Judge Beebe in 1884, he became a name partner and the firm was renamed Wilcox, Adams & Green.[1][2] There, he litigated before the Supreme Court of the United States in admiralty cases such as The Kate.[3] Adams was Secretary of the Union League Club of New York in 1894 and 1895.[4][5][6]

Appointment and judgeship[edit]

When Judge Addison Brown resigned his seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the members of the Admiralty Bar adopted a resolution in July 1901 asking the president to appoint Adams.[2] He received a recess appointment to that seat from President William McKinley on August 30, 1901, and, following McKinley's assassination on September 14, was formally nominated to the seat by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 5. The Senate confirmed Adams on December 17, 1901, and he received his commission the same day.

When appointed, Adams was the only judge in the district.[1] The workload resulting from new federal bankruptcy laws caused his health to break down two years later; though three other judges were appointed to the district, Adams's health never fully recovered, but he served until his death, focusing on the maritime cases that were his specialty.[1]

Family and death[edit]

In 1904, Adams married the former Helen Jean Balfour.[7] Adams died in Hague, New York on October 9, 1911, after two years' illness.[1][4] His will was fifteen words long: "I give and bequeath all my estate to my wife and appoint her my executrix."[8] There were no children.[9]

Mrs. Adams served the cause of the New York Women's League for Animals for decades after her husband's death—despite being bitten by animals 71 times over the course of her service.[9][10][11][12] She died in 1950 at the age of 101.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Green, Herbert (1912). Year Book. Association of the Bar of the City of New York. pp. 203–205. 
  2. ^ a b c "To Be A Federal Judge; George B. Adams of This City Appointed to Succeed Judge Addison Brown." (PDF). New York Times. August 31, 1901. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  3. ^ 164 U.S. 512 (1896).
  4. ^ a b "Judge George B. Adams Dead" (PDF). New York Times. October 11, 1911. p. 11. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  5. ^ "Union League Wants Cash; Credit To Be Given To Some Of The Members Limited. Indignation Caused by the Action of the Executive Committee—From $10 to $50 Fixed as the Extent to Which About Forty Members Can Be Served Without Paying Money Down-Many Protests Made by the Members Affected and Their Friends.". New York Times. March 16, 1894. p. 16. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  6. ^ "Union League Club's Election; Gen. Horace Porter Again Made President—Inquiry into Alleged Fraudulent Republican Enrollment Approved". New York Times. January 10, 1896. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  7. ^ "Judge Adams Married; Helen Jean Balfour Is Bride of Federal Court Officer" (PDF). New York Times. July 13, 1904. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  8. ^ "Judge Writes 15-Word Will". Christian Science Monitor. November 1, 1911. p. 9. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  9. ^ a b c "Mrs. G. Adams, 101, Friend to Animals; Aide and Resident Director at Speyer Hospital, 1890–1940, Dies—Bitten 71 Times". New York Times. May 11, 1950. p. 29. 
  10. ^ "Life Made Easier For City Animals". New York Times. May 23, 1937. 
  11. ^ "Speyer Hospital Aide Gets Award At 88; Mrs. George B. Adams Honored for 20 Years of Service in Behalf of Animals". New York Times. February 11, 1938. p. 3. 
  12. ^ Kahn, E.J., Jr. (December 16, 1939). "The Talk of the Town, "Mrs. Adams"". The New Yorker. p. 21. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Addison Brown
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
August 30, 1901 – October 9, 1911
Succeeded by
Julius Marshuetz Mayer