century association biographical archive

Earliest Members of the Century Association

View all members

Lawrason Riggs


Centurion, 1921–1963

Full Name Lawrason Riggs Jr.

Born 30 April 1881 in Saint Louis, Missouri

Died 6 January 1963 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Woods Hole Village Cemetery, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Proposed by Francis Marion Burdick and Henry Rutgers Marshall

Elected 1 April 1921 at age thirty-nine

Century Memorial

A lawyer by profession, Lawrason Riggs was an amateur photographer, sailor, oceanographer, astronomer, and man of letters. He could also sketch and play the harmonica. At The Century, when he was not in the poolroom where he played billiards as well as cowboy he would sit on the terrace through long summer evenings and fascinate the group that gathered round him. Every incident of his life was an adventure; he never lost his curiosity about every phase of life. As the rector who officiated at his funeral said of him: “His vast interests and quenchless mental hunger kept law in its proper place, leaving him free to wander and wonder endlessly in all parts of God’s fascinating world.”

From birth, Lawrason was handicapped by obscure vision, the result of congenital cataracts. As a boy, he was forbidden to read for more than five minutes consecutively after which he would have to rest for another five. Yet, at St. Paul’s School, at Columbia College, and at Columbia Law School, he was always near the top of his class. At the law school he had the rare distinction of editing the Law Review. Throughout his life he was a student of the classics and a constant reader. He also was able to sail at night in the tricky waters about Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he lived, while many another with clear vision ended on a reef.

In Woods Hole, he was president of the Marine Biological Laboratory and later trustee emeritus. He was also treasurer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Society. These interests extended to Bermuda where he was a trustee of Bermuda Biological Station.

In New York he was a devoted member of the Society of Literary Knowledge, a group composed largely of Centurions that met fourteen times a year and read papers about some new literary discovery or analyses of some literary work. Riggs wrote many such papers; all of them had a background of thorough research.

Lawrason Riggs was born in St. Louis in 1881. After graduating from St. Paul’s, he took his bachelor’s degree at Columbia in 1903. He was then a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He took his law degree from Columbia Law School three years later. He practiced law with the firm of Riggs, Ferris and Geer, which later became Riggs, Ferris, Trafford and Syz. His practice was largely in the estate and trust field.

His early eye trouble was compensated for by a detailed, almost photographic memory. Members of the Society of Literary Knowledge say that he could remember every paper that had been read there with the single exception of one of his own.

He was a member of the New York City Bar Association for fifty-five years. He was trustee and secretary of the Society for the Relief of the Destitute Blind in New York and a director of the Near East College Association.

His many friends remember that his distinguishing virtues were patience, persistence, and optimism. These qualities were with him throughout the phases of his optical affliction and many other troubles that would have defeated men less endowed with faith and peace of mind.

He was with us in The Century for more than forty years—over half his life.

Roger Burlingame
1964 Century Association Yearbook