Born: Monday, January 16th, 1854
Died: Sunday, January 13th, 1929
Birthplace: Sylvania, Indiana
Education: Earlham College (1872-1874)
Union College of Law, B.L. (1877)
Career: Bellingham City Attorney (1891-1896)
Superior Court (1896-1900)
President, Seattle Bar Association (1915)
Served: Wednesday, March 20th, 1901 to Tuesday, October 7th, 1902
Also Served: Monday, January 12th, 1903 to Monday, January 11th, 1909
Chief Justice: Monday, January 14th, 1907 to Monday, January 11th, 1909
Political Party: Republican
Appointing Governor: Rogers (Democrat)Judge Hiram Hadley’s ancestors were devout Quakers of Scottish and English descent. His parents, Jonathan and Martha (McCoy) Hadley, lived on a homestead inherited from Jonathan’s father in west-central Indiana. Hiram, the eldest of three sons, was born in the homestead farm’s log cabin. He received his early education in Rush Creek School near his home and later attended Bloomingdale Academy and Earlham College, both affiliated with the Society of Friends. He taught school to finance his college education. The future jurist enrolled in the Union College of Law in Chicago-later Northwestern University School of Law – graduating in 1877. He began practice in Bloomington, Illinois, where he remained until 1881. While in Illinois, Hadley took an interest in politics, gaining election as president of the Young Men’s Garfield Club. He returned to Rockville, Indiana, to practice law in his native county, remaining until 1889. At the urging of a friend who wrote glowing accounts of the Pacific Northwest, Hadley gave up a promising legal and political career in Indiana to resettle in Sehome (Bellingham), in the new State of Washington.
Two years after arriving in Washington, Hadley formed a law partnership with Thomas Slade and his brother Lindley Hadley, who later was elected to Congress. He started a new partnership a few years later with Charles Dorr, Lindley, and the third Hadley brother, Alonzo. In 1891 Hiram won election as city attorney for Bellingham, then called New Whatcom. As city attorney he was instrumental in consolidating the four rival communities surrounding Bellingham Bay into the new City of Bellingham.
Hadley became one of the few Republicans to survive the Populist-Democratic sweep in the county and state in 1896 when voters elected him to the Whatcom County Superior Court. Endorsed by all three parties for a second term on the trial bench, he ran unopposed. People often cited the bipartisan support Hadley enjoyed as an example of the way judges should be endorsed, and it provided a forerunner for the nonpartisan ballot instituted a few years later. A later newspaper account explained Hadley’s broad appeal:
In 1900, before the days of a non-partisan judiciary, he had as high an honor paid him as any man could receive. A committee of three lawyers, a Democrat, a Populist and a Republican, went before each of the three party conventions in Whatcom County and asked that no one be nominated to succeed Judge Hadley. This was granted and Judge Hadley was elected to succeed himself by unanimous vote.
In 1901 the legislature temporarily expanded the supreme court from five to seven justices to attack a large case backlog. Under provisions of the statute, Governor John R. Rogers would appoint one judge from each of the two major parties. He chose Hadley for the Republican slot. Hadley’s bipartisan support made him an acceptable Republican for the Democratic governor. Upon completing the temporary appointment, Hadley returned to private practice long enough to organize a campaign to return to a regular term on the high bench. His popularity convinced the Republican slate-makers to name him their candidate for the court. Indeed, his name at the top of the ballot enhanced the entire Republican ticket, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted:
The changes are all in favor of Judge Hiram E. Hadley heading the ticket. It is believed he will have a larger majority than any of the congressional candidates, owing to the fact that there is a general feeling of confidence in him and that factional fights, local differences and political prejudices do not affect his vote.
He successfully challenged James Reavis in 1902, earning a full six-year term.
Judge Hadley assumed a position of leadership on the court after only a short time. He dissented from his colleagues infrequently and wrote more than his share of the court’s opinions. His moderate views of the law and of the role of courts in the state’s political system placed him in the “swing” position between liberals and conservatives.
Hadley left the bench at the end of his term in 1909 and formed a law partnership in Seattle with his son Clyde and the son of his former partner in Bellingham, John Dorr. Later the firm became Hadley and Hadley and then Hadley, Hay, and Hadley in association with Edward Hay, the son of former Governor Manon E. Hay. The retired judge served on several state bar committees, and the Seattle Bar Association elected him president in 1915.
Judge Hadley married Mattie Musgrave in 1879. They became the parents of five children – three sons and two daughters. He was active in the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and prominent in Republican circles. He directed Will E. Humphrey’s campaign for reelection to Congress, and chaired the Seattle mayor’s special mediation committee that settled a serious Teamster’s strike. He belonged to the Presbyterian Church, serving as trustee and elder, was a high Mason, and a Knight Templar. Besides achieving considerable success in his law practice, Hadley made several profitable real estate investments throughout the state. Judge Hadley died of cancer in January 1929 after a long battle with the disease.
W. C. Wolfe, Sketches of Washingtonians (1906), pp. 184-185,194; C. S. Reinhart, History of the Supreme Court of the Territory and State of Washington (n.d.), pp. 117-118, William Prosser, History of the Puget Sound Country, vol. 2 (1903), pp. 555-556.
The preceding biography is from Charles Sheldon's The Washington High Bench: A Biographical History of the State Supreme Court, 1889-1991, © 1992 by the Board of Regents of Washington State University. Reprinted here with permission and licensed to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License by The Temple of Justice Project.