Friday, December 4, 2015

Gleason Burnham Speenburgh (1907-1971)

Portrait from the Binghamton Press, February 26, 1958.

    A practicing attorney in the Delware County, New York area for over three decades, Gleason Burnham Speenburgh was elected to multiple terms as District Attorney of that county. His lengthy tenure in that office ended under cloudy circumstances in 1958 when he resigned due to income tax evasion. Born in Margaretville, New York on November 15, 1907, Gleason B. Speenburgh was the son of Delmar and Jessie Dewel Speenburgh. He graduated in the class of 1926 from the Milne School in Albany and married in that city in 1934 to Ms. Dorothy Regan (1909-1986), to whom he was wed for over thirty years. The couple would remain childless through the entirety of their marriage.

Speenburgh's portrait from the 1926 Milne Crimson and White yearbook.

   Admitted to the New York bar in 1931, Speenburgh would later establish a law firm with George A. Speenburgh (presumably a relative), operating under the name Speenburgh and Speenburgh. Their firm would continue until its dissolution in 1946. In 1937 Gleason Speenburgh emerged as one of three candidates for District Attorney of Delaware County and in that year won the election. He would be returned to that office in 1940 and 1942 and in the last named year was "reelected in absentia", due to his service in the ongoing war effort. Stationed as a captain in Washington, D.C., Speenburgh would reach the rank of first lieutenant and during his service  Layman G. Snyder served as acting district attorney
  Speenburgh was reelected as district attorney in 1946, 1949, 1952 and 1955. In the late 1950s rumors began to leak out about alleged income tax evasion on the part of Speenburgh, and in 1958 it was revealed that he had indeed falsified his income tax return in 1951 in order to avoid "payment of  nearly $4,000 in taxes." On February 25, 1958, Speenburgh appeared at the U.S. District Court at Utica, where he pleaded guilty. He was subsequently fined $5,000
  Despite this hefty fine, Speenburgh's problems with the tax man weren't over yet, as his "returns for several other years" were under scrutiny. By 1961 the U.S. government had leveled a claim that "Mr. Speenburgh owed $32, 733.98 in income taxes and penalties during a seven year period ending in 1954", and in April of that year settled the case "for some $37,000."

From the February 26, 1958 issue of the Binghamton Press.

   Little could be found on the remainder of Speenburgh's life following his income tax problems. He continued to reside in the Delaware County area until his death on November 25, 1971, ten days following his 64th birthday. The Catskill Mountain News reported that Speenburgh suffered a fatal heart attack behind the wheel of his jeep while on a hunting trip with his wife. Unable to move him from the vehicle, Mrs. Speenburgh walked over a mile through snow to get aid for her stricken husband, who was later pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Margaretville, New York. Following his death, Speenburgh was interred at the Clovesville Cemetery in Fleischmanns, New York.

1 comment:

  1. George Angelo Speenburgh (1878-1963) was Gleason Burnham Speenburgh's uncle. George's World War I draft registration card says he was born on January 9, 1880, yet he appears on the 1880 Jewett, Greene County, NY census as being 2 years old. His Find A Grave memorial also indicates that he was born in 1878.