William Binney

Inducted: 2006
Born: 1825
Died: 1909

Binney, William, 1825-1909

William Binney (1825-1909), was the son of Horace Binney, a trial lawyer of national acclaim who twice declined a seat on the United States Supreme Court. His grandfather, Barnabas Binney, was a renowned surgeon, who served with distinction in the American Revolution. William Binney was born in Philadelphia and obtained bachelors and masters degrees from Yale University. He also earned a masters degree from Brown University in 1856, launching his storied connection with Rhode Island.

Binney came to Providence as a young lawyer in 1853 and quickly rose to prominence in the profession. He practiced successfully until 1867, when he organized and founded the Rhode Island Hospital Trust Company. He became a life-long member of that bank’s board of directors and was the first president of that important institution, serving from 1867 to 1881. The bank was initially created to fund the nascent Rhode Island Hospital and eventually became the oldest trust company in New England. Its charter was unique in that Hospital Trust was the first local bank to be granted immunity from state taxation provided it devoted a certain portion of its profits to charitable purposes–specifically, for a time the company was required to pay one-third of its net income over 6 percent to Rhode Island Hospital.

In addition to his charitable and banking endeavors, Binney served on the Providence City Council from 1857 to 1874–eight years as its president. During his tenure, he became the principal draftsman of a new city charter.

Binney, who also served with distinction in the Rhode Island General Assembly, has been described as a man who exemplified the “ancient ideals of scholarship, of gentle dignity, of reverence and sincerity, of honor and integrity, of sanity and good taste.” He died in 1909 at the age of eighty-four.

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