Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dummer Kiah Trask (1860-1914)

From Shuck's History of the Bench and Bar of California, 1901.

  Our judicial theme continues ever onward and the following write-up examines the life and career of a Judge named Dummer! An odd first name to give a child for sure, but this honorable educator and practitioner of law certainly didn't let his odd name curb his ambitions, as he carved a distinguished career in California public life, holding a seat on the Superior Court of Los Angeles for nearly a decade.
   Dummer Kiah Trask was a native son of the state of Ohio, being born in Cincinnati on July 17, 1860, a son of Kiah Bailey and Mary Jane (Dunton) Trask. The Trask family are recorded by the Shuck's 1901 Bench and Bar of California as removing from Cincinnati to Lewiston, Maine when their son was about a year old, and as an adolescent "taught school at age seventeen" and attended school in Lincoln County, graduating from the Waterville Classical Institute in the class of 1881.
   In the year following his graduation, Trask left Maine and resettled in San Joaquin County, California, where he taught school for a short time.  He became active in educational affairs in this area and served as principal of the Business College and Normal Institute in the city of Stockton. Trask was later a member of the San Joaquin County Board of Education for one year (1886-1887) and later occupied the same position on the Los Angeles Board of Education, serving from 1893-1894. He married in 1887 to Ida C. Folsom (1860-1922) and had four children Ida Mary (1889-1975), Dummer F. (died in infancy in 1891), Dorothy Trask Goodrich (birth-date unknown) and Walter Folsom (1896-1919).
   In 1890 the Trask family moved to Los Angeles, and here Dummer established a law practice, having commenced studying in San Joaquin County. He was recorded as doing a "fine law business" throughout the 1890s and in 1898 was appointed by then Governor James Herbert Budd to a vacancy on the Superior Court of Los Angeles, succeeding Walter Van Dyke (1823-1905), who had been elected to the California Supreme Court. 

 From the History Bench and Bar of Southern California, 1909.

   Despite having no previous experience as a judge prior to his appointment, Dummer Trask threw himself wholeheartedly into his office, with the Bench and Bar of California noting that as a judge, Trask "showed much impartiality and industry, and brought such general ability to the discharge of his duties, that, at the general election of November, 1900, although he was a Democrat and his party in a hopeless minority, was elected as his own successor for a full term of six years." 
   Following the 1900 electionTrask resumed his duties on the bench and in December 1905 was even talked of as a potential candidate for Governor of  California in the upcoming gubernatorial election. His potential candidacy was announced (to his great surprise) in a statement by a Capt. George M. Cake at a California Tammany Club banquet on December 20, 1905, and within a day or two of Cake's speech advocating Trask's nomination the Los Angeles Herald had picked up on the story. In its December 22nd edition the Herald quoted Los Angeles attorney E.L. Hutchinson as stating:
"I don't know how we could do better than nominate Judge Trask for Governor of California. His has been the ripe experience that makes for capable officials and he is well qualified for the position. He would undoubtedly be elected  if given the nomination, as I believe he is one of the strongest and best known men in California."

   Despite being boosted for the post, Trask himself is reported as smiling and stating that he " certainly wouldn't refuse the office." The thought of a Trask gubernatorial candidacy appears to have been a "nine-day wonder", for lack of a better term, as nothing else could be found mentioning it after December of 1905. A few weeks after his gubernatorial dreams came to naught, Trask (while still serving on the bench) accepted the presidency of the Consolidated Realty Company, which had been "organized for the purchase of business property" in the city of Los Angeles. In the 1906 election, Trask refused to run for another term on the Superior Court and retired from service in January 1907, noting that he would recommence with his law practice in Los Angeles.

Dummer K. Trask (with fancy hat), pictured in the Nov. 19, 1906 Los Angeles Herald.

   After retiring from the bench Trask formed the law firm of D.K Trask and Co. and was also active in a number of non-political areas, being a longstanding member of the Knights of Pythias Lodge ( serving as Grand Chancellor in California in 1902-03), and in 1910 was elected as president of the Jefferson Club of Los Angeles. Trask also held a seat on the Los Angeles Police Commission, entering into that office in 1909. He continued to practice law in Los Angeles until being felled by a fatal stroke while "engaged in trying a lawsuit" in probate court on March 12, 1914. He was recorded in the San Bernardino County Sun as having "died without regaining consciousness" in almost identical circumstances as that of his younger brother Walter (1862-1911), a Los Angeles attorney who died of apoplexy while speaking at a Los Angeles club. 
   Following his death Dummer Trask was interred at the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, and was later memorialized in the Official Record of Proceedings of the Knights of Pythias Lodge in the accompanying passage:
"In the passing away of Dummer Kiah Trask we have impressed upon us the truth that ''life is confined within a space of a day''. Only fifty-three years, as time is measured, was his allotted stay on earth. Then came the summons; not unexpected, but still unwelcome, and now the places that knew him only to love him ''shall know him no more forever."
From the History of the Bench and Bar of California, 1912.

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