PRIME TIME: Holcombe was important businessman, civil servant

Published on Sunday, 22 November 2020 21:12


Last week’s entry by Eleanor Wilson was on Emily Seymour Holcombe and it is part of the “Builders of Bristol” series, short biographies of local natives who made contributions to Bristol or outside of town that were beneficial to the population. Today’s story is on her husband, John Marshall Holcombe (1848-1926).

Holcombe holds a position of life service. Born on June 8, 1848, the son of Emily Martin (Johnson) and James Holcombe, he was educated in the Hartford school system. He went on to study at Yale University and graduated with the class of 1869.

Holcombe initially worked for Connecticut Mutual Life Company, the same company his father-in-law did and after leaving, returned to Hartford to become the first actuary of the newly-organized Connecticut Insurance Company.

Holcombe then accepted a position with the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance in 1874 and steadily advanced to the president’s position in 1904. After 50 years with the company, he resigned in 1924, and under his leadership, the company increased assets, policyholders and its insurance volume. (One of Bristol’s most notable citizens, Robert Fiondella, retired as president and CEO from Phoenix Life Insurance Company in 2003.)

Holcombe took part in Hartford’s business affairs as one of the founders of the Fidelity Trust Company, as a board member of Phoenix National Bank, Phoenix Fire Insurance Company and the National Security Company of New York.

Civic involvement included serving on the Hartford Board of Alderman, a health commissioner, board of finance member, city planning commission and the Meadows Development Commission, in addition to several clubs and organizations. He was one of the first lecturers for Yale’s insurance course and was the recipient of two honorary degrees, a master of arts from Yale and doctor of law from Trinity College.

Holcombe died on June 15, 1926 and he and his wife, Emily, were both privileged to be buried in the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford.

Bob Montgomery can be reached at 860-583-5132 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 22 November 2020 21:12. Updated: Sunday, 22 November 2020 21:15.