The various interests and activities of life maintain a splendid balance in Walter Curtis Palmer, an able and successful lawyer and judge, an enterprising business man, a public-spirited citizen and a faithful friend. He works well and plays well. He has the power of concentration, which enables him to put aside the cares and responsibilities of business when business hours are over and turn with equal zest to those activities and interests which relieve the stress and strain of professional and commercial life and constitute the upbuilding forces which qualify the individual for the labors of the succeeding day. Mr. Palmer was widely known as senior partner in the law firm of Palmer & Gittings, but severed that connection January 1, 1914, on taking his seat on the bench as County judge. He is also secretary of the Racine Building & Loan Association, a director of the First National Bank of Racine, a stockholder in other corporations, and a member of various lodges.
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Racine County, therefore, is proud to number him among her native sons. He was born in Waterford, October 8, 1858, his parents being Nelson H. and Sarah N. (Curtis) Palmer, both of whom were natives of New York, as was the paternal grandfather, who, during the period of pioneer development in Wisconsin, established his home in this state, devoting his life to general agricultural pursuits until he established his home in Waterford, where he passed away when well advanced in years. His family of two sons and two daughters included Nelson H. Palmer, who, on arriving at years of maturity, wedded Sarah N. Curtis. a daughter of William Curtis. a native of Massachusetts, a building contractor of Oswego, New York. He wedded Betsy Ga1pin and when on a visit in Wisconsin passed away. His widow afterward decided to make her home in Racine County and died in Waterford at the notable age of ninety years. Mr. Curtis was the builder of the first Kingsford starch factory and constructed many public and private buildings during his residence in Oswego, New- York. His sons became his business associates and all attained success.
During the period of his early manhood Nelson H. Palmer was employed in a woolen mill in New York and following his arrival in Waterford, Wisconsin, in 1838, engaged in carpentering for a short time. He afterward took up the milling business and still later turned his attention to merchandising. His recognized ability led to his selection for various positions of honor and trust and at all times he was a representative and valued citizen of his community, his life conforming to his professions as a member of the Congregational church. He died in November, 1899, at the age of eighty-one years. Their family numbered two sons and five daughters: Charles N., living in Clyde, Illinois; Walter C.; Minnie, the wife of Dr. James F. Malone, of West Allis, Wisconsin; Nellie B., the widow of Chauncey Lahatchka, of Racine; Satie K., the wife of Samuel E. Chapman, of Payette, Idaho: and Mattie and Lelia, both of Racine.
After attending the public schools of Waterford, Walter C. Palmer became a student in Rochester Seminary and subsequently studied law in the University of Wisconsin at Madison, being graduated with the class of 1881. He had also read law with Justice John B. Winslow, the present chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as his preceptor and in 1881 he was admitted to the bar. Upon his return home he began the practice of his profession and also assisted his father along mercantile lines. He was first called to public office when, in 1886, he was elected County clerk, occupying the position for four years. On the 1st of January, 1891, he formed a partnership with C. C. Gittings and the firm of Palmer & Gittings for years maintained a highly creditable position in the foremost ranks of the legal firms of the city, their practice being of a very extensive and important character, but the partnership terminated January 1, 1914, when Mr. Palmer became County judge. He has won for himself very favorable criticism for the careful and systematic methods which he has followed. He has keen insight and remarkable powers of concentration and his retentive mind often excites the praise of his colleagues. His comprehensive knowledge of law is manifest and his application of legal principles demonstrates the wide range of his professional acquirement, while his fairness and impartiality are above question.
Although he gives the closest attention to his judicial duties Judge Palmer yet finds time to devote to important business affairs. In 1891 he promoted and organized the Racine Building & Loan Association, which is one of the most successful financial concerns of the city, and served as its secretary until he took office as judge on the 1st of January, 1914. He has since been president of the company, of which he is also a director, and he is likewise president of the White Buck Hardware Company. He is a stockholder and director in the First National Bank, in the management of whose affairs he is active, and is also a stockholder in the Racine City Bank, the Farmers and Merchants Bank, the Racine Shoe Company and the Chicago Rubber Clothing Company.
On the 12th of March, 1889, Mr. Palmer wedded Miss Abigail H. Williams, a native of New York and a daughter of John and Eleanor (Jones) Williams, who were born in Wales and on coining to America, forty years ago, settled in Racine, where Mr. Williams passed away after working at the carpenter’s trade for several years. His wife survived him for some time and died at the home of her only daughter, Mrs. Palmer. The only son of the family, William R. Williams, is now a resident of Los Angeles. California. Mrs. Palmer is a member of the Episcopal Church and is a most charming hostess, presiding with graciousness over her hospitable home.
Mr. Palmer has long been recognized as an active worker in republican ranks, doing all in his power to promote the success of the party. He is president of the Racine Commercial Club and has membership in Belle City Lodge, No. 92, F. & A. M.; Racine Lodge, No. 32, K. P.; Lakeside Camp, No. 379, M. W. A., of which he is a charter member; Racine Lodge No. 220, R. A., and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. His position is ever that of leadership and in all his different relations he has become a molder of public thought and opinion. He has that quality which, for want of a better term, has been called personal magnetism, and a spirit of justice, a sense of right and recognition of his obligations to others are among the dominant qualities in his makeup.