Vermont Bar Journal
Winter 2008 - #4.
Chester Ketcham: Small Town Boy Becomes First Lawyer in His Family
The Vermont Bar Journal #176, Volume 34, No. 4 WINTER 2008
YANKEE JUSTICE:THE LIGHTER SIDE OFTHE LAW
Chester Ketcham: Small Town Boy Becomes First Lawyer in His Familyby Virginia C. DownsThe following profile of Chester Ketcham is the twenty-seventh in a series published in the Journal under the general title of "Yankee Justice." The profiles are based on interviews of members of the bench and bar conducted by free-lance writer and oral historian Virginia Downs in 1978 and 1979. The project was proposed at a meeting of an ad hoc committee of the Vermont Bench and Bar in April of 1978 to tie in with planned bi-centennial celebrations of the state's legal beginnings in 1779. It was in that year that Stephen Bradley and Noah Smith were sworn in as Vermont's first official lawyers. The profiles include biographical material and anecdotes from the interviewees' legal activities.
Chester Ketcham was an attorney from Middlebury who was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when interviewed in the State House.
"I was born in Salisbury, Vermont, a small town south of Middlebury. I believe there were 532 people there when I was born. I graduated from Brandon High School and the University of Vermont before going to law school. My mother tells me that when my father ran a country store in Salisbury, selling everything available at that time, people would come into the store when I was five and six years old and ask what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a lawyer. I remember one instance when someone said `You have to be a liar to be a lawyer. I got real mad and said, `Abe Lincoln wasn't.'
"No one in my family was ever an atorney. I was always interested in politics and my father ran for local offices and served in the General Assembly a couple of times in the late `30s and early `40s. I was always interested in government and civics and things of that nature. When I was in the early teens, I changed and wanted to be a car salesman for a while, but I always came back to the law. After I graduated from law school I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as Judge Ernest Gibson's law clerk. That was in 1954, a wonderful experience. He was a great personality, a great judge and excellent attorney. I often said, `Often reversed, but never wrong.'
"After that, I served in private practice with the firm of Edmunds, Austin and Wick in Burlington, and in 1963 I had the opportunity to work as Deputy Attorney General with Attorney Charles Gibson, then carried on with John Connarn when he won in 1964.
"I recall that was in the time of reapportionment. I had to appear before the United States Supreme Court on a reapportionment problem. With the encouragement of Governor...