On Oct. 4, a portrait of Justice George M. Powers came home to the Lamoille County Courthouse in Hyde Park.
Powers served nearly 32 years on the Vermont Supreme Court, the longest tenure of any justice. He was born in Hyde Park in 1861 and lived most of his life in Morristown until his death in 1938. His father was an associate justice on the Vermont Supreme Court from 1875-1890.
According to “The Law of the Hills, A Judicial History of Vermont,” by Paul M. Gillies, Powers served in many capacities before rising to the state’s highest court. He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1883, served as assistant clerk of the House, secretary of the Senate, and state’s attorney for Lamoille County from 1888 to 1890.
Powers married Gertrude Frances Woodbury in 1893, and they had four children, Horace Henry, Mildred Dorothy, Elizabeth Lillian and Roberta Frances Powers. In 1902, he became reporter of decisions for the Vermont Supreme Court before serving from 1904-1906 as an associate justice of the same court.
After a five-year stint as a superior judge, Powers was elected to the Vermont Supreme Court in 1909, continuing to serve until his death in 1938, including nearly 11 of those years as chief justice. Powers had several opportunities to move higher but chose to remain in Vermont to serve his state and his hometown.
Powers believed that it is every citizen’s duty to make positive contributions to their community. Powers served as school superintendent and town moderator before becoming a judge, while also participating on many boards and commissions.
As a local lawyer and judge, Powers would have been well-acquainted with the Lamoille County Courthouse. While a portrait of his father H. Henry Powers has hung in the courthouse for many years, the same could not be said for George Powers.
Lamoille County Assistant Judge Joel Page was quite familiar with Powers and his family, as Page’s grandmother, Mildred Woodbury Page was the sister of George Powers’ wife Gertrude. Also, Page’s aunt Phyllis Page Weinrich wrote a chapter of Powers’ biography, and Page had gone to school in Burlington with several Powers’ descendants.
When Powers’ great-granddaughter, Connie Cain Ramsey, a Chittenden County assistant judge, informed Page that she had a portrait of Powers that she’d like to donate to the Lamoille County Courthouse, Page and Lamoille County Assistant Judge Madeline Motta were happy to accept. The portrait was hung in the main courtroom, next to the bench where Powers may have presided.
Present for the ceremony were Motta and Page, as well as Ramsey, and her son J. Taggart Ramsey, Powers’ great-great-grandson.
For more information about George M. Powers and historical Morristown, read his biography “George M. Powers, A Biography,” by his daughter, Roberta Powers.