Denby was born February 18, 1870 in Evansville, Indiana. He was the son of Charles Denby (attorney, diplomat (U.S. Minister to China) and educator. His mother was Martha (Fitch) Denby, the daughter of U.S. Senator Graham Fitch of Indiana. His education was begun in Evansville public schools until 1885. At the age of 15 the family moved to China where Charles took up the post of U.S. Minister, Edwin’s primary education was completed in China.
In 1887 Edwin entered the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, which he served for ten years. During this service Denby returned to the United States and attended the law school at the University of Michigan. He graduated in 1896 with the degree of LL. B. In 1897 Denby passed the bar in Michigan, resigned his customs post and became an associate with the Keena & Lightner law firm. He later became a partner in the May, Denby & Webster firm. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War Edwin volunteered to serve in the navy. He was a gunner’s mate, third class aboard the U.S.S “Yosemite”. He was honorably discharged August 23, 1898. This would not the end of his military service. Denby was elected to a term in the Michigan House of representatives (1902). At the end of that term he ran for and was elected to a seat in the U.S. House as a Republican from Detroit. He served for four years. In 1908 Denby was appointed one of two commissioners of “Land Titles for the Panama Canal Zone”.
On March 18, 1911 Edwin married Marion B. Thurber the daughter of Henry Thurber (former private secretary to President Grover Cleveland). They had two children.
Having returned to his law practice Mr. Denby also under took several civic responsibilities. He was President of the Detroit Charter Commission (1913-14), President of the Detroit Board of Commerce (1916-1917), Michigan Republican State Central Committee (1917).
In 1917 Edwin Joined the U.S. Marine Corps. as a private. He retired in 1919 as a Major in the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve. He was appointed Chief Probation Officer of the Detroit Recorders Court in 1920. He worked on the Presidential campaign of Warren G. Harding. The President appointed Denby Secretary of the Navy. He held this post for all of the Harding administration and for one year of the Coolidge administration. Denby resigned in 1924 and returned to Detroit.
Edwin Denby died February 8, 1929. Denby High School on Detroit’s East side was named in his honor.
Born: February 18, 1870
Died: February 8, 1929
Buried: Lakeview Section, Lot 20