Robert McCormic

From the History of the Valley of the Hudson, River of Destiny, 1609-1930, Volume V, Biographical. Contributed by Jerry Sterrit and transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


Robert H. McCormic, who has engaged in the practice of law in Albany for many years, winning state-wide prominence in his profession, was born in this city January 30, 1870. Of distinguished lineage, he represent the seventh generation of McCormic family in America and in each generation the eldest son has borne the name of Robert. The immigrant ancestor was born in Londonderry, Ireland, of Scotch-Irish parentage, and in 1725 came to the new world in company with John Woodburn, the great-grandfather of Horace Greeley. They were among the original settlers of Londonderry, New Hampshire, and later members of the McCormic family founded the town of Londonderry, Vermont. Mr. McCormic’s great-grandfather in the paternal line was a soldier of the Revolutionary war an served under General Stark in the battle of Bennington.

The father, Robert H. McCormic, Sr., was born in Coxsackie, Greene county, New York, October 25, 1839, and as a young man he enlisted in the Union Army, winning a captaincy. After the war he engaged in the insurance business in Albany and here resided until his death. He figured prominently in the affairs of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving as assistant adjutant general in 1894, and was a member of Lew Benedict Post, No. 5, and also of L. O. Morris Post, No. 121. Fraternally he was identified with Clinton Lodge, No. 7, I. O. O. F., and was made noble grand of his lodge. His wife, Caroline (Van Ness) McCormic, was bone in Stuyvesant, Greene county, New York, a daughter of Isaac and Amanda Van Ness, and died August 20, 1874. Her son, Robert H. McCormic, Jr., represents the twelfth generation of the Van Ness family in this country. In the natural line he traces his ancestry to Cornelius Van Ness, who was a native of Havendyck, Holland, and came to America in 1642, settling at Greenbush, New York. The family spread rapidly and later generations settled upon tract of land in Columbia county, near Kinderhook. The family has produced many lawyers, contributing to the profession men of high legal attainments. Mr. McCormic’s great-great-grandfather, John P. Van Ness, was born in the Claverack district in 1770, studied law at Columbia University and was subsequently admitted to the bar. Elected to congress in 1801, he afterward became the mayor of Washington, D. C., and president of the Bank of the Metropolis. He had two brothers, William P. and Cornelius P Van Ness, who were also distinguished lawyers and jurists. Cornelius P. Van Ness was admitted to the bar in 1804 and later removed to Vermont. He became United States district attorney, collector of customs, assemblyman, chief justice of the supreme court of Vermont, was twice governor of that state, and served as minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary to the court of Spain. William P. Van Ness was one of the leading lawyers of his time and became judge of the United States district court for the southern district of New York. He was a close friend of Aaron Burr and was chosen as one of his seconds in the famous Hamilton and Burr duel. His country home, known as "Lindenwald," was at Kinderhook and this beautiful estate he afterward sold to Martin Van Buren, who read law in his office. William P. Van Ness served with the rank of colonel in the War of 1812 and was a member of the constitutional convention in 1821. Mr. McCormic’s great-grandfather, Jesse Van Ness, served as a captain in the War of 1812. He was a prosperous farmer and owned a large tract of land lying between Castleton and Muitzeskill, in Columbia and Rensselaer counties, portions of which remained in possession of the family until quite recently.

After the death of Mrs. Caroline (Van Ness) McCormic, her mother, Mrs. Amanda Van Ness, at once removed to Albany and tenderly cared for the two motherless children, Robert H. Jr., and Grace E. McCormic, the former a lad of four and the latter of two years of age at the time. When he reached the age of seven years the boy became a pupil in grammar school No. 12, from which he was graduated with honors, receiving a scholarship diploma and a certificate from the board of regents. In 1888 he completed a classical course in the Albany high school and held important offices in its Philologian Society. He spent a short time in his father’s insurance office, which he left in 1888 to become a bookkeeper for Joseph Gardner, a clothier, and when the establishment was closed he reentered his father’s business. While thus engaged he devoted his leisure hours to the reading of law books and on September 1, 1889, entered upon a regular clerkship under William A. Allen, a well known attorney who shared a suite of offices with Robert H. McCormic, Sr. On the 18th of April, 1891, Robert H. McCormic, Jr., became a minor clerk in the office of County Judge J. H. Clute and soon afterward was made managing clerk of the office. He was admitted to the bar September 15, 1892, and on April 1, 1896, shortly after retirement of Judge Clute from the bench, became his law partner, continuing as a member of the firm of Clute & McCormic until the death of the senior partner in 1902. In 1897 Mr. McCormic was elected alderman of his ward and in the same year became first assistant district attorney of Albany county, serving under John T. Cook and George Addington until 1908, when he was appointed attorney for the state comptroller. On the 1st of January, 1916, he became associated with the state legislative bill drafting commission and is now counsel for the commission. He renders to this body the services of an expert, being widely recognized as an authority on constitutional and statutory law. For over forty years he has been active in politics and has acted as counsel for the republican county committee for a quarter of a century.

Mr. McCormic was married October 31, 1894, in South Westerlo, New York, to Miss Estelle N. Lockwood, a native of that town and a daughter of Horace P. and Esther J. (Green) Lockwood, who are now deceased. Mrs. McCormic attended Greenville Academy, completing her studies in the State Normal School of Oswego, New York. Mr. McCormic belongs to the Aurania Club and is a Mason, identified with Wadsworth Lodge, No. 417, F. & A. M. he is a past grand of Clinton Lodge, No. 7, of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, a member of the Ojibway Tribe, No. 307, of the Improved Order of Red Men, and in the latter organization is a past grand sachem of the state. Bowling affords him relaxation and diversion during the winter season and for three years he has been commissioner of bowling in Albany. His city residence is at 285 West Lawrence street and his summer home is at Crystal Lake in the Catskills. While Mr. McCormic enjoys life, he has faithfully fulfilled its duties and obligations and ably upholds the high standards of his profession.


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