Willis Dalzell Patton


HON. WILLIS DALZELL PATTON was for many years one of the conspicuously prominent citizens of Armstrong county. At the time of his death he was President Judge of the Thirty-third Judicial district of Pennsylvania and president of the Armstrong County Trust Company of Kittanning, which positions are indicators of a versatile ability of the man in whom great legal talent and business capacity were united in an uncommon degree. He was the son of Matthew D. Patton and Margaret (Mechling) Patton, and was born at Pittsburgh, Pa., Jan. 13, 1853.

Upon the death of his father, in 1859, his mother removed with her family to Kittanning, where they made their home with his maternal grandfather, the late Philip Mechling, Esq., a prominent merchant at that time. After graduating from the schools at Kittanning, in his seventeenth year, Willis D. Patton entered the office of the Free Press, the leading Republican newspaper of Armstrong county as an apprentice. At the expiration of his first year of apprenticeship his health failed, and he abandoned the idea of becoming a newspaper man. His next employment was in the office of Alexander J. Montgomery, sheriff of Armstrong county, as a deputy, where he served until the end of the term, when he entered the office of the late Edward S. Golden, Esq., first as a clerk and then as a student of law.

After his admission to the bar, in 1876, his preceptor and he formed a law partnership under the firm name of Golden and Patton, which firm enjoyed a prosperous career. The association was dissolved in 1879.

On July 8, 1884, Mr. Patton was married, at Washington, Pa., to Eleanor M. Haft, a daughter of John Haft and Frances (McGill) Haft, of Pittsburgh, Pa. To Mr. and Mrs. Patton were born four children, only one of whom, Miss Margaret McGill Patton, survives.

In 1899 Mr. Patton was nominated by the Republicans of Armstrong county as a candidate for the office of judge and was elected, defeating Hon. Calvin Rayburn, who had just finished serving a ten-year term. Again in 1909 Judge Patton was elected, for a second term. Shortly after his second election his health failed, but he continued to attend to the duties of his office and of his large business interests until about the middle of January, 1913, when he went to a sanitarium for the purpose of recuperation. In this he was unsuccessful, and on the 29th day of January, 1913, he died, when just past his sixtieth year. His remains were brought to Kittanning and interred in the family lot in the beautiful cemetery overlooking the town.

Judge Patton possessed in a marked degree the ideals of our race. He was patriotic, courageous and just, and high regard for the rights of others. His patriotism was not bounded by State lines. He loved his whole country and was ardently attached to her institutions and her laws. He loved his country, his native State, and his native county, but above all, he loved to gather round his own hearthstone with his books, surrounded by his family, in that quiet domesticity which so hallows the American home.

Although a man of delicate physique, he possessed natural courage in a high degree; and in that moral courage which springs from principle or a sense of duty, and which always acts in a uniform manner and according to the dictates of right reason, he had no superior. He never yielded to popular clamor, as weak men are prone to do and exercise arbitrary power under the forms of justice. He maintained a scrupulous regard for the rights of others in all his dealings and preserved them on all occasions sacred and inviolate. Although a strong party man, the occasion for revenge which the domination of a faction always presents was never taken advantage of by him, but after the contest was decided friend and foe were treated with the same just consideration.

All of these noble qualities were mantled by a natural modesty, and reserve that few but his most intimate friends ever drew aside.

One who is able to judge of his legal and financial abilities and who was for many years associated with him in business paid the following tribute to his memory, in an address delivered before the Bar Association of Armstrong County:

"I have seen somewhat in my life and have mingled with my fellow men, but in all my experience I have never met a truer or kindlier man than he.

"As a jurist, Judge Patton had more than a local reputation. He was sought by most every judicial district in the State and probably held court in more counties in the State than any other judge in it.

" There was some reason for this: his public life was stamped with rectitude, fidelity and courage, and when once he saw the right his duty became plain and he never faltered. His great capacity for work, coupled with accuracy and speed, seemed to be his greatest recreation and pleasure, and he did it without show or ostentation.

"If there was anything in this world that he disliked it was to see someone doing something for effect or display. He was at all times natural. His strict integrity, his gentleness of heart, his simplicity of manner, made him admired and esteemed everywhere. No man ever lived in the county that was more respected than he. In Judge Paten�s death, his loss is more than local. It is felt throughout the entire state and it can be truly said that a good citizen as well as a faithful public servant has passed out of this life."

Source: Pages 301-324 Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers, & Co. 1914
Transcribed September 1998 by Donna Sheaffer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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