Joseph Hansell Merrill

Joseph Hansell Merrill (1862-1925)

In 1913, Joseph Hansell Merrill served as one of the founding Trustees of South Georgia State Normal College, at Valdosta, GA. In 1922, the school became Georgia State Woman’s , Valdosta State College in 1950, and Valdosta State University in 1993.  Joseph Hansell Merrill was a law partner of Charles Paine Hansell, son of Judge Augustin H. Hansell who spent 50 years on the bench of the of Southern Circuit of Georgia.

Portrait of Joseph Hansell Merrill

Joseph Hansell Merrill, attorney at Thomasville, GA, was a founding Trustee of South Georgia State Normal College (now Valdosta State University).

 

National Cyclopedia of American Biography
pg 14

MERRILL, Joseph Hansell, lawyer, was born at Thomasville, Ga., October 12, 1862, son of Joseph Styles and Anne (Hall) Merrill. His earliest paternal American ancestor was Nathaniel Merrill, who came from England in 1633 and settled at Ipswich, Mass. His wife was Joanna Kinney, and from them the line of descent is traced through their son Abel and his wife Priscilla Chase; their son Abel and his wife Abigail M. Stevens; their son Abel and his first wife Ruth Kellog; their son Stevens and his wife Mary Noyes; their son Joseph and his wife Sarah Capp, to their son Lemuel Merrill and his wife Eliza Barker, who were the grandparents of Joseph Hansell Merrill. Joseph Styles Merrill, father of our subject and a graduate of Oglethorpe University, was farmer, merchant, and ordinary of Thomas county, Ga. Joseph Hansell Merrill received his preliminary education at Fletcher Institute, Thomasville, where he won a scholarship to the State University. He was graduated at the University of Georgia with distinction in 1880. He studied law at Thomasville under Arthur Patten; was admitted to the bar of Georgia in 1884, and in that year began the practice of his profession at Thomasville as a partner of his preceptor under the firm style of Patten & Merrill, which relation continued three years. During 1887-99 he was the partner of Chas. P. Hansell, under the firm style of Hansell & Merrill. From 1899 to 1915 he practised alone. Since 1915 he has been of the firm of Merrill & Grantham, with Charles Pinckney Grantham. He represents various corporations including railroad companies, and other business interests, largely by yearly contracts, and is rated an authority on land titles, devoting much of his time to this work as a specialty. He was referee in bankruptcy during 1904-08, and judge of the superior courts of the Southern circuit of Georgia in 1910. Of thirteen cases tried by him taken to the Supreme court, eleven were affirmed; two reversed. He has never sought political office, and only accepted the offices above mentioned at the earnest request of the appointing power. His service on the bench elicited much favorable comment from the press. He was called an ideal presiding officer, whose rulings were characterized by sound legal knowledge and understanding, and excellent judgment. Aside from his professional activities he is president of the Thomasville Real Estate & Improvement Co.; vice-president and attorney Citizens Banking & Trust Co., and a director in various other commercial, industrial or financial institutions. He is one of the three Georgia members of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, 1912-19; member of its executive and legislative committees, and is frequently called on to preside over its deliberations in committee of the whole, and he is Georgia member of the general council American Bar Association; past president (1908-09) Georgia State Bar Association, and president of Thomas County Bar Association, past president Thomasville Public Library Association, and Thomasville Young Men’s Christian Association. Politically he is a Democrat, and he is a communicant of the Episcopal church, and has taught a Bible class for thirty years. He was a speaker in various drives for war work during 1917-18 in Georgia and Florida, and he was alumnus orator at the University of Georgia commencement in 1902. A paper by him for the Georgia Bar Association in 1901, “The Book in the Lawyer’s Library,” was widely published and attracted much favorable comment from members of the bar throughout the country. He finds his chief recreation in golf and horseback riding. He was married (1) at Thomasville, Ga., Dec. 30, 1885, to Mattie C., daughter of John G. Pittman, a real estate operator of Thomasville; She died in 1888, and he was married (2) at Thomasville, Nov. 12, 1890, to Blanche, daughter of Hiram R. Tarwater, a merchant of Louisville, Ky. He has one surviving child of the second marriage; Katherine, now Mrs. John Pasco, Monticello, Fla.

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