Herbert T. Silsby II ’48

Herbert T. Silsby II ’48, lawyer, jurist, historian, and author, died December 29, 2013, at his home in Ellsworth. He was born in Brewer, on February 8, 1925, and prepared for college at Ellsworth High School and Higgins Classical Institute. He served to private in the Army, then graduated a year early from Bowdoin in 1947, remaining a member of the class of 1948. He was a member of Chi Psi fraternity. He attended Boston University Law School but never graduated because he passed the bar at the end of his second year and was admitted to practice in 1949. He began his legal career as a member of the law firm of Silsby & Silsby, where he continued practicing for twenty-eight years with his father and brother William S. Silsby Jr. ’47. His judicial career began as an Ellsworth Municipal Court Judge from 1951 to 1955. In 1977, Gov. James Longley nominated him to the Maine Superior Court, where he served until retiring in 1992. He served on the Board of Governors of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association from 1964 to 1972, as president of the Maine State Bar Association in 1975, and as a member of the Maine Judicial Council from 1978 to 1992. One of his many accomplishments as a lawyer was drafting and procuring the passage of the Short Form Deeds Act, which made real estate transactions more affordable. He served the First Congregational Church as a Sunday school superintendent and Deacon, and as director of the Maine Conference of Congregational Churches. He also served on the Ellsworth City Council from 1967 to 1971 (as chairman in 1967), as well as chairman of the Maine Coast Regional Health Facility from 1976 to 1977, a trustee of the Ellsworth Public Library and the Woodlawn Museum, a director of the Union Trust Company of Ellsworth from 1967 to 1977, and as chairman of the Maine Young Republican Clubs from 1953 to 1957. He was a member of the Ellsworth Rotary Club for fifty years and served as club secretary and co-chairman of the Rotary District Conference Committee in 1962. He was honored twice by the Rotary with a Paul Harris Fellow award for his commitment to the Ellsworth Club and his continued support for the Rotary Foundation. He was a member of the Ellsworth Junior Chamber of Commerce, was named Jaycee of the year from 1958 to 1959, and Ellsworth Citizen of the Year in 1993. He was a lifelong member of the Masonic Lodge and a Shriner. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations and served as vice president from 2000 to 2004. He was president of the Hancock County Historical Society from 1966 to 1972 and president of the Maine Historical Society from 1973 to 1976. He served as a director of the Northeast Folklore Society in 1964 and as a trustee of the Maine League of Historical Societies and Museums from 1967 to 1977. In 1977, he was elected to the prestigious American Antiquarian Society. He lectured on Maine history at the Ellsworth Public Library, the Woodlawn Museum, and Ellsworth Adult Education programs. In 1989, he delivered a speech before a special session of the full Supreme Judicial Court of Maine at the Hancock County Courthouse commemorating the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of Hancock County. He was a co-author with his son-in-law, Timothy Plouff, of Somebody’s a Talkin’The History of the Union River Telephone Company in Aurora Maine (2011). He was a co-owner with his siblings of the Union River Telephone Co., which was co-founded in 1905 by his namesake, Herbert T. Silsby, and served as president from 1953 to 2013. He also wrote A Brief History of Ellsworth (1963), History of Superior Court (1980) and History of the Ellsworth American (2000), and was co-author of One Hundred Years of Law and Justice (1991) and many articles in historical and legal periodicals, newspapers, and magazines, including his popular weekly column “Looking Backward,” featured in The Ellsworth American from 1996 to 2004. He is survived by his wife of sixty-three years, Ruth Blaisdell Silsby; daughters Paula D. Silsby and Kathryn M. Silsby; brother William S. Silsby Jr. ’47, and sister Beverly McLean.

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