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Henry Loomis Nelson


Centurion, 1894–1908

Born 5 January 1846 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Died 19 February 1908 in Williamstown, Massachusetts

Buried Williams College Cemetery, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Proposed by Noah Brooks and Montgomery Schuyler

Elected 3 February 1894 at age forty-eight

Century Memorial

Henry Loomis Nelson died in the occupancy of a chair at Williams College, where he had graduated in a famous class, and to which his devotion was long and ardent. But while thoroughly successful as a teacher, stimulating as a lecturer, distinguished as a professor, he was not born nor trained to that manner. He graduated from Columbia in law, but I do not think he had the juristic temperament, though he practised his profession for several years. He was pre-eminently a present-day political philosopher, a man who read and studied profoundly, who sought and found in the examples of history fruit for the present use, a man given to forming and pronouncing pregnant opinions for contemporary purposes, a polemic with the joy of battle in his heart, a born controversialist and pamphleteer. Of necessity, therefore, after a short experience at Washington under Mr. Carlisle, then Speaker of the House, he became a journalist. He was an editorial chief in Boston and in New York, a writer on politics for the leading reviews and magazines, and finally the editor of Harper’s Weekly, on which he had long collaborated. He was a novelist and an expert in economics, for avocation, and a man of letters by evolution. His sudden death found his biography of George William Curtis, with whom he had an almost lifelong intimacy, far advanced but, alas, incomplete.

Such a man must needs be a reformer, and in the six national associations of which he was an important member, his voice and pen were ever busy for advance on the lines of regeneration in national life, in every direction, but especially in the reconstruction of the civil service. His yeoman service in that successful movement was recognized throughout and cannot be forgotten. He had been a member here for fourteen years and was always hailed with acclaim as a genial, stimulating personality. In his professorship, he gave freely from his rich stores of knowledge and experience; he set himself to learn the profession of college administration, and his appeals to the manhood of his students were never in vain.

William Milligan Sloane
1909 Century Association Yearbook