Helen Pratt (1906-2000), daughter of Robert and Nellie (Buckner) Pratt, made her mark locally and nationally. After graduating from Albany Law School, Miss Pratt was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1928. She then joined her father’s law firm in Dansville and formed Pratt & Pratt where she continued the firm for the next 64 years before retiring in 1992.
According to her obituary, she and her father practiced law continuously in the same location for a collective 105 years.
Among Miss Pratt’s many achievements was serving as the youngest alternate to the Democratic National Convention in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for U.S. President. Her youth and vitality attracted news journalists who were struck not only by her interest in politics but also by her ability to operate an airplane.
In 1976, she was the first from Livingston County elected to serve on the Electoral College when she cast her vote for President-elect Jimmy Carter.
Her distinguished career included serving as Dansville village attorney; county attorney for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), a government-sponsored corporation created as part of the New Deal; president of the Livingston County Bar Association and chairperson if its Committee of Legal Ethic; president and director of the Dansville Community Chest; director and legal consultant of the Clara Barton Chapter of the American Red Cross; president of the Livingston County Women’s Democratic Organization; director of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce, Dansville Memorial Hospital and Craig Developmental Center.
In 1994, Helen Pratt received the Albany Law School Kate Stoneman Award. The award honors those in the legal profession who actively seek change and expanding opportunities for women. According to the Albany Law School Alumni Magazine, Winter 1999/2000, “She was lauded for her methodical and precise work, her sure instinct for what she wanted to accomplish, and a practical integrity combined with a sense of humor.”
Miss Pratt was honored posthumously in October 2017 with others at the third induction ceremony conducted by the Foundation for Dansville Education and her name was added to the Wall of Pride. “She contributed to the economic and social fabric of Dansville,” said fellow Dansville attorney John Scura, who accepted the Wall of Pride honor on Helen’s behalf. “She was a compassionate and respectful advocate for her clients.”
Helen Pratt’s legacy lives on as an inspiration for women in the legal field and all who aspire to serve their community.