GALEN R. HITT
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IN THE ranks of the younger democratic Albanians no A man has risen more rapidly in the estimation of his party during the past few years than the subject of our sketch, Hon. Galen R. Hitt. He belongs to the sturdy race of New Englanders, and was born on the 16th of August, 1843, at Pawlet, Vt. There he passed his childhood days attending the district schools of his native place, playing on the green fields of his father’s farm, inhaling the pure, invigorating air of that delightful, healthful region of country, growing up a vigorous youth, with strong love for sports and pastimes, and evincing at the same time a disposition to become an educated man.
In 1859, after receiving a good common school education, he entered the Troy Conference academy at Poultney, Vt., where he remained four years, making commendable progress in his studies and taking a special interest and pride in declamation. Apt in learning, he always stood high in his class, and left the academy with an honorable record.
Having decided to enter upon the law as a life-long profession, he accordingly began his legal studies at Rutland, Vt., and finished them in Albany, where he was admitted to the bar by the general term in the spring of 1865. In the fall of the same year he married Miss Sarah J. Crowley, a daughter of the late Hon. John Crowley, of Mount Holly, Vt. Then taking up his residence in this city he was not long in showing his ability as a lawyer and in building up quite a large practice, especially in criminal cases, in which he has always been remarkably successful. By his boldness, tenacity, unyielding interest and eloquent pleas in behalf of his clients, he has won for them many difficult and almost hopeless cases, thereby gaining much reputation as an able and successful counselor.
In 1874 Mr. Hitt helped to organize the Albany Boatmen’s Relief association, of which he was for six years a director and for four years attorney. He joined the famous old Burgesses corps in 1877 and has acted as its president and vice-president, and is still a member.
In his political career, which we would briefly trace, Mr. Hitt has already won an enviable reputation. From the first he became an earnest and steady worker in the political field, throwing all his energies into the cause of the democratic party, of which he has long been ” a shining light.” There is nothing unstable about his political professions. He has always been outspoken, firm, unyielding in his convictions – following in the footsteps of the faithful in the leadership of his party amidst its sunshine of prosperity and its storms of adversity. As a leader in politics, his own abilities were soon recognized by his friends, and in the spring of 1884 he was elected an alderman from the sixth ward. And again in the spring of 1888 he was chosen alder-man-at-large, and served four years in the common council, of which he was a useful, industrious and influential member.
Mr. Hitt has entered heartily into all projects having for their aim the material improvement, advancement and adornment of his adopted city. In the bicentennial celebration in Albany he acted a conspicuous part as chairman of the common council committee on the celebration; and devoted much time and labor in helping to make the memorial occasion a grand success. In the winter of 1888 he was the first to start the carnival, which was a source of so much amusement and delight to crowds of spectators. And among other more useful things he has been deeply interested in the movement in favor of furnishing the city of Albany with pure water.
But more honors of a political nature came to grace the brow of Mr. Hitt. In the autumn of 1888 he was elected to the assembly by a plurality of 1,209 over James D. Walsh, republican, and C. L. Van Allen, prohibitionist. It was in the legislature that his talents soon won him recognition, and caused him to be widely known and respected through the state as a fearless debater. He served on the standing committees on the affairs of cities and on state prisons, as well as on several special committees, the most important of which was the conference committee on the annual appropriation.
Mr. Hitt went to work with a determination faithfully to serve his constituents in matters of general interest and improvements. He introduced into the assembly the bill for repaving State street, so long in a wretched condition, and advocated the measure with a force, fidelity and eloquence truly admirable, not relaxing his efforts in its behalf until it became a law and its provisions accomplished. And to his worthy, earnest efforts the citizens of Albany are indebted for the smooth, excellent, substantial repavement of State street – now one of the grandest avenues to be found in any city, and which must long continue to be the boast of our citizens and to be admired by visitors.
By this act alone Mr. Hitt’s popularity was greatly increased, especially among his progressive fellow-citizens, irrespective of party, and when the democratic assembly convention met on the 18th of October, 1889, its attention was turned to him as the proper man, and the strongest candidate for member of assembly from the third district, and he was accordingly renominated by acclamation. His success from the first seemed to be fully assured, and on the 5th of November he was elected over George E. Latham, the republican nominee, by the splendid majority of 2,534 – the largest ever given for any candidate in that district.
Li the last legislature, Mr. Hitt served, with distinction, on the following committees: ” Affairs of cities,” ” railroads,” and “public lands and forestry,” and in the contest on the world’s fair bill he led on the democratic side, and in the discussion of many important measures, he added new laurels to his well-established reputation as one of the most brilliant members of the house. Among the bills introduced by him now on the statute books of the state, are reappropriating money for an armory at Cohoes; amending the penal code in regard to electric railroads; relative to collection of taxes in Albany; incorporating the Cathedral of All Saints; relative to the Corning foundation fund; to enable the trustees of the sinking fund to take up bonds; revising the revised statutes, section 3, article i, chapter 4; amending the act relative to government of the city of Albany; providing for printing copies of the Gen. Sheridan memorial; creating a board of medical examiners for the state; relating to the government of Albany; regarding the property of street surface railroads; to confirm bonds of the city of Albany for street improvements; allowing the Broadway horse car line to cross into Troy.
As a polished and effective speaker, Mr. Hitt deserves more than a passing notice. He was one of the most eloquent debaters on the floor of the assembly, and whenever he rose to speak he was listened to with undivided attention and interest. His presence is impressive; his voice is one of considerable compass and power; his delivery is animated, and his words are well chosen and often incisive. One of the most effective elements in his declamation is his earnestness of manner, a throwing of his whole feelings into the subject under consideration, and the manifest evidence of a determination to carry conviction to the minds of his hearers by a bold, irresistible oratorical display. Ready and quick in repartee, he is a hard man to discompose or intimidate by any opponent on any subject whatever.
With every promise of continued oratorical success and even more widely extended-influence he completed his second assembly term as a faithful exponent of the principles of his party and with an eye ever watchful over the best interests of Albany.
On the 4th of October, 1890, Mr, Hitt was renominated, by acclamation, as the democratic candidate for a third term in the legislature. Speaking of his nomination, the Albany Argus said: “Mr, Hitt served with conspicuous ability in the assembly of 1889 and 1890, and his renomination for another term is a deserved recognition of his great usefulness to this city and its interests in the legislature.
“A year ago Mr. Hitt carried the third district by the magnificent majority of 2,500. Mr. Hitt’s record in the assembly for the last two years is made up of successful advocacy and enactment of scores of measures of importance to the city and county, coupled with a leading part in the general legislation of the sessions.”
And the Albany Evening Times of the same date contained the following: ” Mr. Hitt has made his mark in legislative circles. There was not a member of the legislature of 1890 who did not know, honor and respect him. He was not merely the leader of the Albany County delegation; he was recognized as an able second to the leader of the minority on the floor. He is a fearless and able debater. He can instantly command the attention of the house, and is always listened to with pleasure and profit.”