CitySketch – Roscoe Conkling

Roscoe Conkling was a Republican back when that meant being a supporter of the rights and dignity of African-Americans. He was also a believer in temperance and didn’t drink or smoke. The only vice he seemed to enjoy was having sex with married women.

He was mayor of Utica before becoming a US Representative and Senator from the state of New York from 1859 to 1881. President Ulysses S. Grant offered him the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but Conkling declined. Later he was nominated and confirmed to the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court but he turned that down as well.

During the Great Blizzard of 1888, Conkling tried to walk from his office on Wall Street to his home near Madison Square Park on 25th Street. He got as far as Union Square at 14th Street before he collapsed. He died of pneumonia a few weeks later.

But Roscoe lives. If you’ve ever been to the Roscoe Diner in “Trout Town USA,” you’ve spent time in a place named for this man. His statue stands near the southeast corner of Madison Square Park.

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