Deceased April 10, 2001
George Lewis Ingalls '35 died April 10, 2001, in his hometown of Binghamton, N.Y., from a heart attack while in the hospital. George had been troubled by fluid buildup in his lungs for the past several months and was about to be discharged after 10 days of treatment in the hospital, when a coughing fit triggered fatal cardiac arrest. George came to Amherst from a small town in northeastern Connecticut. Although his ancestors had attended Yale since before the American Revolution, he needed a scholarship, which Amherst offered when Yale didn't. George was a member of Theta Xi, and shoveled coal for the house furnace as part of his rooms arrangement.
That's remarkable because a birth defect had left him without a left forearm and hand. It didn't slow him down though, or prevent him from accomplishing pretty much whatever he set out to do. For example, he became an excellent tennis player, and while in college, he once played in the Southeastern Connecticut tennis tournament in New London, drawing a rising star named Jack Kramer who beat George "love and love" and then promptly turned pro. One can only imagine what Jack Kramer was thinking as he soundly whipped his one-armed opponent!
George had plans to study physics and geology to become an engineer, but he recognized his difficulties in handling a transit and other tools, so he studied history and prepared for law school instead. He was Phi Beta Kappa at Amherst and sang in the Glee Club.
After Amherst, George returned to his hometown to teach at Killingly High School in Danielson, Conn., for one year before accepting a scholarship to attend Syracuse Law School, graduating at the top of his class in 1939. Several law school friends were from Binghamton, N.Y., 90 miles south of Syracuse; he decided to stick with them when they moved back home. He joined a small law firm in Binghamton at the salary of $17 per week!
George kept a financial journal back then, toting every penny. It shows he began his career on Aug. 5, 1939, with "cash on hand" of $4.61. Of his first week's pay, he recorded spending 10 cents on an ice cream cone and playing tennis twice, paying 30 cents on Aug. 9 and 25 cents on Aug. 13, without explanation of the difference. His journal records his meager but diligent contributions to Amherst, such as $3 for an Amherst reunion, June 13 – 15, 1941, followed by a gift of $1 to the Amherst Alumni Fund on June 26 (must have been a good reunion?).
In July 1942 he paid $110 plus $12.50 tax for a diamond ring, to marry a local girl named Dorothy Joggerst (Skidmore '35). They had three boys and a girl, including a son John, who was in the Amherst Class of 1972, along with the sons of two other members of the class of 1935, Phil Ward and Charley Torem. As George wrote in his remembrance for the 50th Reunion Class Notes, "each sire was Phi Beta Kappa, each son magna cum laude."
Dorothy J. Ingalls died May 26, 2001, after 58 years of marriage. She had been combating colon cancer, having been operated on shortly before her husband died. She was able to greet family and friends at his funeral but decline came quickly and she passed peacefully at home with her sister at the bedside.
George also noted that "politics called me in 1952" when he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He was a successful trial lawyer then, as a named partner in one of the leading law firms in town, but somewhat bored with the routine of practicing law. Politics complemented his legal career and abilities, and he rose through the ranks to become majority leader of the assembly in 1961 during the heyday of then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. After Lyndon Johnson's landslide in 1964, the Republicans found themselves in the minority, with George as their leader. The pressure of politics and an ulcer caused George to retire from the Assembly in 1966, but Gov. Rockefeller took care of him by appointing him as a trustee of the New York Power Authority, which generates half of New York's electricity. George was popular with everyone and was reappointed by Democrat as well as Republican governors so often he was the longest serving trustee in history, finally retiring in 1990.
George gave up the practice of law at the age of 65, spending all his time on the golf course, playing to a handicap of 13 at his best. He always played from the white tees until he gave up the game in 2000 at the age of 86 when ministrokes robbed him of his balance and put him in a wheelchair. His family always said that if George couldn't play golf he would just as soon die, which was exactly his sentiment as he entered the hospital for his final stay in March 2001. He was mentally sharp with a droll wit, though, as he struggled against congestive heart failure, which finally caught up with him. He is survived by his three sons and a daughter and eight grandchildren.
He was always grateful to Amherst for his education and scholarship assistance, giving what he could spare after private school tuition for four children.
John S. Ingalls '72