101 years of contributions

Remembering the courage, service and style of Judge Arthur Bean

Amid all the concerns and alarm the coronavirus has caused Americans and New Hampshire citizens in recent weeks, this writer —like most New Hampshire workers — is writing this column from home, remotely connected by technology to his office, hoping for the best — there have been reminders of great lives lived and continuity, which should help put current concerns into perspective.

As this confusion was evolving came news of the death of 101-year-old Judge Arthur Bean. Reading the obituary, and knowing the man, should put many things into perspective — for those who knew him and for those who did not!

One hundred and one years is a long time for anyone to live. Living it the way Arthur Bean did was an inspiration.

Born in Concord in 1918 on Armistice Day, he graduated from Concord High and went to UNH. He was within a semester of graduating when, after World War II broke out, he left to join the Army Air Corps.

Arthur Bean served with distinction for seven years, leading the 8th Air Force in raids over Germany 29 times, and was repeatedly awarded decorations for his bravery.

After the war, Bean went to law school at Boston University, still not having graduated from UNH. He was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1951 and went to work in the Attorney General’s Office, serving under Gordon Tiffany and Louis C. Wyman. Those remembering their history know that this was an interesting time with significant cases involving Wyman and New Hampshire, including those of Uphaus v. Wyman and Sweezy v. New Hampshire, both involving the “Red Scare” and both resulting in U.S. Supreme Court cases upholding the right of the individuals.

Bean and Wyman opened a law office in Manchester in 1957, although Wyman had further political ambitions and was elected to Congress in 1962 and later was involved in the two-election saga against John Durkin in 1974 and 1975.

Bean was appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. Meldrim Thomson in 1977 and served until the mandatory retirement age. Those who appeared before him remember Judge Bean as a fair, gracious and good judge who served with good humor, and a firm hand when required.

After his retirement, he returned to the law, serving as judicial referee from time to time. As he grew older, more and more of his contemporaries passed from the scene, until, during his last years, he was the senior active member of the bar, and affection for him grew further.

Every year, Arthur Bean had a foursome in the Pro Bono Golf Tournament. Usually, with the help of imported talent, that foursome won. Even last year, at age 100, Bean played, and his foursome, with certain allowances for longevity, came in second, much to his delight!

A couple of years ago, at a Bar Foundation event at the Currier Museum of Art, when Arthur Bean was recognized, someone offered him a portable microphone. In a strong and stern voice, he said, “I have never needed a microphone to be heard, and I don’t need one now.” And he didn’t.

Finally, during 2019, an estate that had been closed for a long time had to be reopened because of an asset that had not been included. Arthur Bean was named the successor executor under the very old will, and the original executor had passed away. I arranged for the heir who was involved with the asset to serve as the administrator and sent Judge Bean a form to sign to decline the appointment. Upon receipt, the spry and bright 100-year-old asked detailed questions about the estate, remembered the facts and could not quite understand why he should decline to serve, since he thought it might be fun. That kind of spirit and wit got him to 101.

In a great recognition of this remarkable life, UNH not only honored Judge Bean with one of its most significant awards last June, it also gave him an honorary bachelor’s degree, completing the course of study he left to go off to war.

Arthur Bean’s life was an example of courage, service and style. It should put some of the present problems into perspective, and it would be great if we had the benefit of his comments today, comparing this to the serious things he witnessed over such a remarkable life.

Brad Cook is a Manchester attorney. The views expressed in this column are his own. He can be reached at bcook@sheehan.com.

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