William W. Harts 1889

1889 Class Crest

Cullum No. 3286 • Apr 21, 1961 • Died in Madison, Connecticut

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General Harts, born in Springfield, Illinois, in 1866, was the son of a Civil War officer, Captain Peter Wilde Harts and Harriet Bates Harts. He attended Princeton University for a time...from which he was later given the Master of Arts degree. He was graduated from the United States Military Academy in the Class of 1889. Following this came graduate study in the Engineering School of Application, the Army War College, the Navy War College, and the Field and Coast Artillery Schools. He married Martha Davis Hale on 27 October 1898.
In the earlier years, during which he served in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection, General Harts supervised the construction of a number of large projects, among which were Fort Adams, Rhode Island; locks and dams in the Kentucky River; Fort McKinley, near Manila; Tennessee and Cumberland River improvements; and projects in California and Oregon. After a tour of duty as instructor in the Army War College, he became military aide to President Woodrow Wilson. During this period in Washington, he supervised the construction of the Lincoln Memorial, the Arlington Memorial, and the American Red Cross Building.
He left with his regiment for France in 1917, where he served on the Champagne and Picardy fronts, and became in 1918, Chief of the American Mission to the British General Headquarters. Immediately following the armistice, he was appointed military governor of Paris and the Paris District, as well as military aide to President Wilson while the latter was in Europe for the Peace Conference. Later he was Chief of Staff of the Army of Occupation in Germany.
After his return to this country, he was assigned the command of artillery defenses of the Panama Canal Zone, and from 1926 to 1930 was military attache in the American Embassy in Paris. In 1927, when Charles A. Lindbergh arrived at Le Bourget after his trans-Atlantic flight, General Harts and the then American Ambassador Myron T. Herrick, welcomed him and arranged the resulting round of receptions.
One of the most interesting and exotic experiences of his ceremonial assignments was that of being in charge of the military commission of the United States to Abyssinia at the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930.
During his career, his own country, Britain, France, Belgium, Romania, Abyssinia and Montenegro, bestowed their honors upon him. Among them were the Distinguished Service Medal of the United States, Britain’s Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and France’s Commander of the Legion of Honor.
The several Engineering Societies to which he belonged conferred their highest awards, including the Rowland Prize of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Telford Medal of' the Institution of Civil Engineers, London.
General and Mrs. Harts started to summer in Madison in 1909 in the home of Mrs. Harts’ grandmother, Mrs. Philemon Scranton. The General was a founder of the Madison Country Club, and from 1930 until his death, he was a permanent resident of this town. Through his energetic efforts, the Madison Property Owners Association came into being, and for a number of years he served as its president. He was particularly interested in town zoning and the control of billboard advertising. As an officer and member of the Boards of Directors of the Golf and Beach Clubs, he took particular interest in the development of these facilities. He was a member of the original chapter of the American Legion in Paris, of Griswold Post No. 79, and a long-time member of Rotary International. He and Mrs. Harts established the Harts prize, presented each year to a member of the graduating class, Hand High School, who demonstrates proficiency in the use of the English language.
General Harts had a keen interest in civic matters, particularly those pertaining to the esthetic development of this community. He had learned well the lesson of nature, and even as he went about his own land, planting, pruning, removing dead wood, so in civic matters his aim was to cast away the ugly, to plant seeds of beauty, and to open the way to a richer life for his fellow men. His intellectual interests were many. In the later years, despite infirmities of the flesh, the outreach of his mind did not diminish, nor did his desire to be useful. He was a fine classical scholar, and delighted to talk of the Greek civilization. He was expertly versed in the campaigns of the Civil War and was able to make them come to life for the listener. We who have called him ‘friend’ and ‘neighbor,’ will always remember his strong, yet refined discipline of body, mind and spirit.
Now, as we mark his passing, it seems that we mark, too, the passing of an era, an era characterized by loyalty to country, by courage, by creative self-discipline, independence of spirit, and rugged self-reliance. All of these qualities, General Harts possessed. By honoring these values in our lives, we shall best honor his memory.
The General has passed, as we believe, through the gateway called death, to continue a life that has been abundant, as well as full of years. Having been a good soldier, he was ready for the transition.
—Rev. F. A. Bower Pastor
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