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Hon. Ellsworth Burnett Belden has carved his name high on the keystone of the legal arch of Wisconsin. He has the distinction of being the youngest man ever elected County judge in the state, and in January, 1902, he was elected judge of the circuit court, being then but thirty-six years of age. He has left the impress of his individuality upon professional, political and business interests of County and state and his record at all times has conferred honor upon the district which has honored him. The early development of high ideals, to which he has ever strictly adhered, has made him a successful business man and distinguished judge. He was born on the 18th of May, 1866, in Rochester, Racine County, his parents being Henry W. and Emily F. (Brown) Belden, the former a son of the Hon. Philo Belden, who at one time was state senator and judge of Racine County. The family was established in this County during the period of its pioneer development, and Henry W. was here born in 1840. With the outbreak of the Civil war he offered his services to the government in defence of the Union, becoming a private of the Twenty-fourth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Promotion, however, brought him to the rank of captain and he was in command of his company at the close of the war. When his military aid was no longer needed, he became a merchant of Milwaukee, where he conducted a book and stationery store, but after many years successful connection with the trade he retired from business life. He married Emily F. Brown, daughter of Ezra Brown, and they became the parents of three sons and two daughters: Ellsworth B.; Gertrude, the wife of Byron R. Jones of Racine; Ruby of Milwaukee; Charles E.. of Spokane, Washington, and Robert, who died at the age of twenty-one years.
Reared in Racine County Judge Belden supplemented his public school training by a course in the Rochester Seminary, from which he was graduated in 1883. His early training was an initial step toward his present judicial position and honors for, following his graduation, he became an employee of his grandfather, Judge Belden, in the County court, there remaining until the fall of 1884 when, having decided upon the practice of law as a life work, he matriculated in the University of Wisconsin at Madison and was graduated there with the class of 1886 and admitted to practice in the supreme court of the state of Wisconsin and the United States court for the western district of Wisconsin, being at the time twenty years of age and the youngest alumnus of the University of Wisconsin. He then spent a brief period in the office of the state attorney general and later returned to Racine and engaged in the practice of his profession. In April, 1889, he was elected by a handsome majority County judge of Racine County, and when Judge Philo Belden died in September, Judge E. B. Belden was appointed his successor to serve out the unexpired term of three months, his election establishing him. in the position on the 1st of January, 1890. A contemporary biographer has said: “This election was a just recognition of his ability and sterling traits of character. His popularity never waned through twelve years of judicial life, during which period he came nearer and nearer to the ideal of his fellow citizens as a jurist.” In 1898 Judge Belden was admitted as a member of the bar of the supreme court of the United States. In 1901 he was named for the office of circuit judge and popular suffrage established him upon the bench of the circuit court in January, 1902. He has since remained in the position, having been twice re-elected without opposition, his record being in harmony with his record as a lawyer and a citizen-characterized by the most faithful performance of duty and by a masterful grasp of every problem presented for solution. It is stated that Judge Belden’s record of affirmances on appeal in the Supreme Court is unsurpassed in the history of the state. Devotedly attached to his profession, systematical and methodical in habit, sober and discreet in judgment, calm in temper, diligent in research, conscientious in the discharge of every duty, courteous and kind in demeanor and inflexibly just on all occasions, these qualities have enabled Judge Belden to take his rank among those who have held high judicial office in the state. He has held court in practically every County of the state, having been called to preside in many important trials, and it is said that no man has a wider or more favorable acquaintance throughout the state. In April, 1916, Judge Belden received a wonderful endorsement by vote of the people for membership in the supreme court of Wisconsin, but certain political considerations injected into the campaign brought about the election of another. It is generally conceded by bar and laity throughout the state that higher judicial honors are in store for him. As a candidate for the supreme bench he had the endorsement of the bar associations of many counties in the state and his nomination papers were signed by more than fifteen thousand electors. Of him it has been written: “Judge Belden is a thorough lawyer, a tireless worker, a painstaking, considerate and essentially impartial judge, a dignified, courteous and cordial gentleman. Probably no man has a wider personal acquaintance or is more highly esteemed by the bar and the people. His career has been distinctly judicial, has made him broad-minded and kept him free from all political bias and factionalism. His mature life has been devoted to but one aim, that of fearlessly discharging the judicial functions so confidently entrusted to him by the people. During his entire judicial career he has shown himself to be a capable, conscientious judge, before whom all persons received the same fair, kind and courteous treatment, independent of politics, wealth or poverty of litigants, personality of counsel appearing in his court and all influences not legitimately arising out of the case in hand. His qualifications, experience, personal character, broad viewpoints of life, comprehensive learning and rare judicial temperament, eminently equip him to serve the people in their highest court”
On the 26th of June, 1900, occurred the marriage of Judge Belden and Miss Hattie M. Raymond, daughter of Hyland and Emily (Foster) Raymond, of Racine. Mrs. Belden is a member of the Racine Woman’s Club and various church societies, also of the Young Woman’s Christian Association, and is a lady of innate culture and refinement, whose developed powers have given her high standing as an artist and musician, while her tact makes her a most charming hostess in their attractive home, which has been blessed with the presence of two sons, Stanley and John, who are members of the class of 1917 in the University of Wisconsin. Judge and Mrs. Belden hold membership in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in which he is serving as junior warden. Judge Belden is also a trustee of St. Luke’s Hospital Association and has been for many years president of the Young Men’s Christian Association. His work in behalf of the organization is notable. The public acknowledges that it is largely through his efforts that Racine secured its new Y. M. C. A. building, erected at a cost of two hundred thousand dollars. The public and even those most closely associated with him in the work told him that it could not be done, but he never faltered in the undertaking, wisely laid his plans, secured the support and co-operation of influential citizens and active, earnest workers and carried on the project in the face of difficulties and obstacles until these succumbed before his steady, unfaltering purpose and the result was achieved-the building standing today as a monument to his efforts and his devotion to the welfare of young men. His public work has been very wide in extent and notable in its beneficence. He is a member of the board of visitors of the University of Wisconsin, a member of the Racine public library board and a trustee of Racine College, and his has been a potent influence in support of those activities which work for the uplift of the individual and the benefit of the community. He belongs to Racine Lodge, N. 18, F. & A. M.; Orient Chapter, No. 12, R. A. M.; Racine Commandery, No. 70, K. T., and Wisconsin Consistory of thirty-second degree Masons. He is also identified with the Knights of Pythias, the Elks, the Royal Arcanum, Modern Woodmen of America and with the Chi Psi college fraternity, having become a member of the supreme body of nearly all of these. He is connected with the Racine Business Men’s Association and is interested in every phase of the city’s progressive development, his influence making him a power for good in the community in which his entire life has been passed.