Willard Hall

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Willard Hall
WillardHall.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's Second At-large district
In office
March 4, 1817 – January 22, 1821
Preceded by Thomas Cooper
Succeeded by Caesar A. Rodney
United States District Court
Delaware
In office
December 9, 1823 – December 6, 1871
Preceded by John Fisher
Succeeded by Edward G. Bradford
Personal details
Born (1780-12-24)December 24, 1780
Westford, Massachusetts
Died May 10, 1875(1875-05-10) (aged 94)
Wilmington, Delaware
Political party Republican
Residence Wilmington, Delaware
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession lawyer
Religion Presbyterian

Willard Hall (December 24, 1780 – May 10, 1875), was an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as U.S. Representative from Delaware and as a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. He was active in establishing public education in the state of Delaware, served as the first president of the Delaware Historical Society, was president of the state Bible society, and was instrumental in the formation of the Wilmington Savings Fund Society as a community bank, serving as its president for more than 40 years.

Early life and family[edit]

Hall was born in Westford, Massachusetts, son of the Rev. Willard Hall and Mehitable Pool. He attended the public schools and Westford Academy, then entered Harvard University in 1795, graduating in 1799. In 1800, he began to study law under Judge Dana at Groton, Massachusetts, and was admitted to the bar in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire in 1803.

In the same year, an attraction to Delaware by James A. Bayard and a belief that New England already enjoyed an overabundance of lawyers, caused Hall to relocate. He was admitted to the Delaware Bar, commencing practice in Dover, Delaware in May 1803. In 1806, he married Junia Killen, the daughter of Chancellor William Killen and they had a daughter, Lucinda. Junia died in 1826 and Hall married Harriet Hillyard.[1]

Hall also served as a ruling elder and Sunday School teacher in the Presbyterian Church.[2]

Professional and political career[edit]

Hall's first public service was as Secretary of State of Delaware from 1811 to 1814, serving again from 1821 until 1823. He was elected as a Jeffersonian Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 15th and 16th Congresses, serving until January 22, 1821. He resigned after becoming an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the 17th Congress in 1820. He also served a year in the 47th Delaware Senate in 1822.

On May 6, 1823 Hall received a recess appointment from President James Monroe to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Delaware vacated by John Fisher. Hall was formally nominated on December 5, 1823, and four days later was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission. He served on the court until December 6, 1871, over 48 years, when he retired, making him one of the longest-served United States federal judges.

Hall was a delegate from Dover, Delaware to the State constitutional convention in 1821 and moved to Wilmington, Delaware in 1825 where he served as compiler of the Revised Code of Delaware in 1829. Later he served as president of the Wilmington School Board from 1852 until 1870. Hall was also the first president of the Delaware Historical Society.[3]

In September 1831, Hall was among twenty-five founding members elected to serve on the board of the newly formed Wilmington Savings Fund Society, a community bank designed to provide persons with only modest savings a safe place to deposit their funds. On October 1, 1831, Hall was elected president of the bank, a position he held until 1872, when he retired at the age of 92.[4][5]

Public education[edit]

Hall is generally considered to have been the founder of public education in Delaware. In 1822, while Secretary of State, he created a plan for the improvement of public schools that received the vocal support of Governor Collins and several governors who followed. In 1829 the bulk of the ideas were enacted into law. They provided for the formation of school districts, for holding and regulating meetings of the school voters, and giving the voters full control of the schools in their respective district. The voters were to hold a meeting every year, elect a clerk and two commissioners and set a budget and administer it. But there were many problems in enacting the plans and the original law was frequently modified. Hall continued as the key advocate for public education and served as superintendent of the schools in New Castle County until 1855.

Death and legacy[edit]

He died at Wilmington and is buried there in the Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetery, of which he had been a founder.

Almanac[edit]

Elections were held the first Tuesday of October and members of the General Assembly took office the first Tuesday of January. State Senators had a three-year term. U.S. Representatives took office March 4 and have a two-year term.


Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Secretary of State Executive Dover 1811 1814 appointed
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington March 4, 1817 January 22, 1821
Secretary of State Executive Dover 1821 1823 appointed
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1822 January 5, 1823
U.S. District Judge Judiciary Dover December 9, 1823 December 6, 1871 appointed
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1822 47th State Senate Republican Joseph Haslet
Charles Thomas
Kent at-large
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1817–1819 15th U.S. House Republican James Monroe 2nd at-large
1819–1821 16th U.S. House Republican James Monroe 2nd at-large
Election results
Year Office Subject Party votes % Opponent Party votes %
1814 U.S. Representative Willard Hall Republican 2,547 20% Thomas Cooper Federalist 3,960 30%
1816 U.S. Representative Willard Hall Republican 3,534 24% Caleb Rodney Federalist 3,433 23%
1818 U.S. Representative Willard Hall Republican 3,007 25% Thomas Clayton Federalist 2,902 23%
1820 U.S. Representative Willard Hall Republican 3,525 24% Louis McLane Federalist 3,918 27%

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hall 1883, p. 524.
  2. ^ Hall 1883, p. 525.
  3. ^ Hall 1883, p. 526.
  4. ^ "WSFS Founder's Day Ceremony" October 1, 2013
  5. ^ Hall 1883, p. 525.

References[edit]

  • Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company. 
  • Hall, David Brainerd (1883). The Halls of New England: Genealogical and Biographical. Albany, New York: J. Munsell's Sons. 
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). A History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press. 
  • Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co. 
  • Wilson, Emerson. (1969). Forgotten Heroes of Delaware. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Deltos Publishing Company. 

External links[edit]

Places with more information[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas Cooper
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1817 – January 22, 1821
Succeeded by
Caesar A. Rodney
Legal offices
Preceded by
Gunning Bedford, Jr.
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware
1823–1871
Succeeded by
Edward Green Bradford