Hon. William James Roche
City of Troy

This biography is from Troy and Rensselaer County, New York, Volume III, by Rutherford Hayner, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., New York and Chicago, 1925. It was submitted by Debby Masterson.

HON. WILLIAM JAMES ROCHE—One of the foremost figures in the public and civic life of to-day in Troy, New York, is Hon. William J. Roche, attorney and counselor-at-law—a man of unusual note and a public-spirited, progressive citizen. Mr. Roche has been active in the practice of law for upwards of forty-five years, and during a considerable portion of that time has held several responsible offices. He comes from an old Irish family, of which six generations have borne the name of William Roche. His father, William Roche, was born in Castletown Roche, Ireland, and came to the United States in 1841, settling in Troy about three years later. For many years he was employed at the flour mill of Vail & Hayner, on Spring avenue, later at the Crystal Palace Flour Mills, on River street, conducted by Bills & Thayer, where he was a salesman, and later was waymaster at the Burden Iron Works. He died in 1891. His mother, Margaret (Guiry) Roche, who was also born in Ireland, came to this country in 1845, and died in 1886.

William J. Roche was born in Troy, New York, March 7, 1853. He was educated at St. Mary's Academy, later known as La Salle Institute. Having made his choice of a profession he entered the law office of Townsends & Browne, and there he read law under the able preceptorship of those gentlemen. He was admitted to the bar in 1874. He succeeded Mr. Browne in that firm four years later, and the name became Townsends & Roche. Subsequently, in 1881, upon the dissolution of this firm, a new partnership was formed between Hon. Martin I. Townsend and William J. Roche. Further changes in the personnel of the firm occurred in 1889, when Henry T. Nason was taken in, the firm becoming Townsend, Roche & Nason.

Mr. Nason retired from the practice of law in 1897, after he was elected county judge of Rensselaer County, and the firm continued as Townsend & Roche until 1900. Meanwhile, and in 1883, Mr. Roche was appointed city attorney of Troy, serving in that capacity for upwards of two years. In December, 1886, he was appointed by Mayor Whelan to act as city comptroller to fill an unexpired term, and his work in this office was so acceptable that he was reappointed for a full term, which brought him forward in the same office to October, 1890. In that year he was appointed corporation counsel, and thereafter, for nearly ten years, he continued to be the legal adviser of the Municipal Government. While acting as city comptroller, Mr. Roche became convinced that the method of assessing the entire expense of public improvements upon private property was a great hindrance to the making of improvements and to the growth and beautification of the city, and so he initiated an agitation which led to the formation of the Citizens' Association to examine into the matter, and this resulted in getting Legislature to amend the City Charter in such manner as to divide the assessments for such improvements as the opening, grading, sewering and paving of streets in equal proportions upon the property benefited and the city-at-large, and also in the creation of a Public Improvement Commission to lay out public streets in the undeveloped portions of the city, and to prescribe a sewerage system for all unsewered streets. The effect was to stimulate the making of improvements under the system, which has continued in vogue to this time.

During his incumbency of the office of corporation counsel, Mr. Roche tried and argued many cases for the city and had marked success therein. He instigated and drew the first law that was passed for the establishment of a public park in Troy. The observance of Old Home Week and the Hudson-Fulton Celebration found in him an active supporter, and in connection with the former he delivered one of the principal addresses at a largely attended meeting in Music Hall. In 1893 Mr. Roche was elected a delegate from the Eighteenth Senatorial District to the State Constitutional Convention of 1894. He took a very active part in the work of that body, whose proposed constitution was approved by the people and became efifective January 1, 1895. In this body Mr. Roche served as a member of the Committee on Legislative Powers, and also on the Committee on Corporations. In 1900 he entered a partnership with his brother, Edmund G. Roche, under the firm name of Roche & Roche, which continued until the death of his brother in 1903. A new firm of Roche & Roche was formed in 1909, consisting of William J. Roche and his son, William C. Roche, and this firm was succeeded by Roche, Tierney & Roche, which was formed January 1, 1916, Michael A. Tierney, who had been Rensselaer County judge for many years, being taken into the firm. This firm holds high standing in the professional world, and the head of the firm is counted among the prominent figures of the bar of this State. William J. Roche is a member of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the Rensselaer County Bar Association; and he was a vice-president of the State Bar Association.

When "The Supreme Court Library at Troy" was created by act of the Legislature in 1908, Mr. Roche was appointed by Governor Hughes to be one of the three trustees of the library, and by successive appointments he has continued in that position up to this time. He is also a trustee of the Troy Public Library. Politically he has been identified with the Democratic party, and as a delegate has attended many of its conventions. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, of the Troy Club, and the Alumni Association of the La Salle Institute, of which he was one of the founders and twice president.

Mr. Roche has been actively identified with the movements for the improvement of the Hudson river, the development of the barge canal, and the establishment of a canal terminal at this city, and, in support of this work, he addressed many meetings and conventions; for a number of years he was one of the directors of the State Waterways Association; and he was also a director for this district of the National Waterways Association. On April 12, 1916, Troy celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of its incorporation as a city. Mr. Roche was the chairman of the Citizens' Committee, which, in conjunction with a committee of the Common Council, took the matter in charge, and on that evening he delivered the historical address at Music Hall.

Mr. Roche married, on May 15, 1880, Mary L. Campion, of New York City, and they have four sons living: 1. William C., educated at La Salle Institute and Albany Law School, now a member of the firm, who married Alice Manny, and has two children: William M. and Mary L. 2. Alfred E., educated in La Salle Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with the degree of Civil Engineer, now city engineer of Troy, who married Laura Yund, and has two children: Charles, and Louis. 3. Frank L., educated in La Salle Institute and Troy Academy, who married Helen Hartigan. 4. Edmund G., educated in La Salle Institute, Lafayette College and Yale University, Bachelor of Arts degree, who married Winifred Stapleton, and has one son, Edmund, Jr. A fifth son died.

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