Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the
District of Columbia Circuit
United States Courts
District of Columbia Circuit
James C. McKay, Esquire
Interviews conducted by:
Mary B. DeRosa, Esquire
May 8, July 29, and October 16,2003
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface ……………………………………………………… i
Oral History Agreements
… James C. McKay, Esquire ……………………………………. 111
Mary B. DeRosa, Esquire …………………………………….. v
Oral History Transcript of Interviews
May8,2003 ……………………………………………… 1
July29,2003 …………………………………………….. 36
October 16,2003 ………………………………………….. 7 1
Index ……………………………………………………… A1
Table of Cases and Statutes ……………………………………… B 1
James C. McKay, Esquire …………………………………… C1
Mary B. DeRosa, Esquire …………………………………… C3
The following pages record interviews conducted on the dates indicated. The interviews
were electronically recorded, and the transcription was subsequently reviewed and edited
by the interviewee.
The contents hereof and all literary rights pertaining hereto are governed by, and are
subject to, the Oral History Agreements included herewith.
0 1998 Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
All rights reserved.
The goal of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia
Circuit is to preserve the recollections ofthe judges who sat on the U.S. Courts of the District
of Columbia Circuit, and judges’ spouses, lawyers and court staff who played important roles
in the history of the Circuit. The Project began in 1991. Most interviews were conducted
by volunteers who are members of the Bar of the District of Columbia.
Copies of the transcripts of these and additional documents as available – some of which may
have been prepared in conjunction with the oral history – are housed in the Judges’ Library
in the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. Inquiries may be made of the Circuit Librarian as to whether the
transcripts are available at other locations.
Such original audio tapes of the interviews as exist, as well as the original 3.5″ diskettes of
the transcripts (in Wordperfect format) are in the custody ofthe Circuit Executive of the U.S.
Courts for the District of Columbia Circuit.
INTERVIEWEE ORAL HISTORY AGREEMENT
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
Oral History Agreement of
1. In consideration of the recording and preservation of my oral history memoir by
the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, Washington, D.C., and its employees
and agents (hereinafter “the Society”), I, James C . McKay , do hereby grant and
convey to the Society and its successors and assigns all of my rights, title, and interest in the tape
recordings, transcripts and computer diskette of my interviews as described in Schedule A hereto,
including literary rights and copyrights. All copies of the tapes, transcripts and diskette are
subject to the same restrictions herein provided.
2. I also reserve for myself and to the executor of my estate the right to use the tapes,
transcripts and diskette and their content as a resource for any book, pamphlet, article or other
writing of which I or my executor may be the author or co-author.
3. I authorize the Society to duplicate, edit, publish, including publication on the
internet, or permit the use of said tape recordings, transcripts and diskette in any manner that the
Society considers appropriate, and I waive any claims I may have or acquire to any royalties from
SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED before me this
22 day of
My Ckmmimh Isrpires AqW 31,2005
My Commission expires
, 200f, by Stephen J. Pollak, President of A ACCEPTED this 8, day of p~;~,~Lvthe fistorical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit.
@ha.” Step en . Pollak
INTERVIEWER ORAL HISTORY AGREEMENT
Transcripts of “ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW OF JAMES C. McKAY, ”
including paper copies and copies on computer diskette
Audio tape recordings of the oral history interview of James C. McKay
INTERVIEWER ORAL HISTORY AGREEMENT
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
Oral History Agreement of
1. Having agreed to conduct an oral history interview with
for the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, Washington, D.C., and its
employees and agents (hereinafter “the Society”), I, Mary B. DeRosa, do hereby grant and convey
to the Society and its successors and assigns, all of my right, title, and interest in the tape recordings, transcripts and computer diskette of intervisws, as described in Schedule A hereto,
including literary rights and copyrights.
2. I authorize the Society, to duplicate, edit, publish, including publication on the
internet, or permit the use of said tape recordings, transcripts and diskette in any manner that the
Society considers appropriate, and I waive any claims I may have or acquire to any royalties from
3. I agree that I will make no use of the interview or the information contained
therein until it is concluded and edited, or until I receive permission from the Society.
SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED before me this
o?b* dayof Ma4 ,2005
My Commission expires 31 AdUSr *Os
ACCEPTED this &8ay of
the Historical Society of the District of Columda Circuit.
3pczEi,L~ ,L, ,2004, by Stephen J. Pollak, President of
Stephen J. Pollak
INTERVIEWER ORAL HISTORY AGREEMENT
Transcripts of “ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW OF JAMES C. McKAY, ”
including paper copies and copies on computer diskette
Audio tape recordings of the oral history interview of James C. McKay
ORAL HISTORY OF
JAMES C. McKAY, ESQUIRE
FIRST INTERVIEW – May 8,2003
Ms. DeRosa: Would you please say your full name.
Mr. McKay: My name is James Creighton McKay. I was born on February 24,1917, in
South Pasadena, California.
Ms. DeRosa: Would you go through your history very briefly of where you’ve lived and
what your jobs have been so that I can go back and get into more detail?
Mr. McKay: I lived in California only for a short time, in fact less than a year. My dad,
who was with the Department of Agriculture, came east. We settled for a short time in
Kensington, Maryland, and then lived in various places in the District of Columbia area. We
lived on Van Buren Street in Takoma Park, D.C. until 1927, when we moved to Somerset,
Maryland. I lived in Somerset with my father, mother, brother, and sister from the age of ten
until the beginning of my second year in college. While living on Van Buren Street, I went to the
Takoma Park School.
After finishing the fifth grade at Takoma Park School, I went to Henry Pope School,
which was at 7’h and P Streets, N.W. After completing the sixth grade, I attended Columbia
Junior High School, which was at 7″ and 0 Streets, N.W. My next school was Gordon Junior
High School on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Gordon had just opened as a new school. I
went there for one year in the eighth grade. I then entered Western High School, which was on R
Street, between 35″and 361h Streets. That school is now the Duke Ellington School of Fine Arts.
I spent four very happy years at Western High School. I was in the high school cadets. I made
lots of great friends. I then entered Cornell University in September of 1934. I graduated in June
of 1938 from the College of Agriculture.
My mother and father had attended Cornell, my father graduating from the College of
Agriculture in 1908, and my mother graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences in the
class of 1909. My mother’s father attended Cornell and graduated in 1872, the first full four-year
graduating class. My mother’s grandfather on her mother’s side was a member of Comell’s first
faculty and dean of the English Department.
On my father’s side, his uncle, after whom I am named, Professor James Edwin
Creighton, was a professor of philosophy and dean of the Graduate School at Cornell. I had
aunts who also attended Cornell, as well as a first-cousin. I had lots of Cornell background. To
round it out, two of my children graduated from Cornell.
After graduating from Cornell, I got a job with an organization known as the California
Fruit Exchange. My job was to promote the sale of deciduous fruits in the New Jersey area.
When that promotional campaign ended after three or four months, I got a promotional job with
the California Walnut Growers Association, which is now the Diamond Walnut Company. I
promoted the sale of Diamond walnuts in the Eastern Pennsylvania area. Following that stint,
which lasted about four months, I went to work for the Department of Agriculture in
Washington, D.C. I was an assistant marketing specialist. My work involved formulating and
administering marketing agreements between the Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace,
and growers of various varieties of fruits and vegetables. The growers agreed to not ship lower
grades of produce in interstate commerce so as to, hopefully, keep prices at a reasonably high
level. The agreements were formulated under the Marketing Agreement Act of 1936.
During that period, we were aware that a war was coming. I registered for the draft and
was classified 1-A, which meant I was healthy enough to be shot at. Frankly, I was not happy
about the thought of being drafted and earning $21 a month. The last line of a popular song was
“21 Dollars A Day Once A Month.” I applied to the Army Air Corps and the Navy Air Corps.
However, I didn’t weigh enough. I finally was able to get an ensign’s commission in the Navy.
After I was provisionally accepted, I had to gain ten pounds in two weeks in order to pass the
physical examination, which I did. My commission had a November 1941 date.
I vividly remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I was at home on a couch, listening to a
radio broadcast of a professional football game between the Redskins and the Eagles. The
announcer stopped the broadcast of the game to say that a report had been received that the naval
base at Pearl Harbor had been bombed by Japanese aircraft.
I reported for duty on December 15 of 1941. I served until late September of 1945, after
VJ Day. I operated in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. I can talk later about my four years in
the Navy. Meanwhile, while working for the Department of Agriculture, I entered night law
school at Georgetown. I completed one year. When I was released from the Navy in September
of 1945, I was a lieutenant commander. I was married in June of 1943.
After the war, I decided to go back to Georgetown Law School. I went to work for the
firm, with which I am still associated. It was then called Covington, Burling, Rublee, Acheson
and Shorb. I went to work as a law clerk and continued my night school studies. I got my LL.B
in February of 1947. I later got an honorary degree of LL.D from Georgetown in June of 1989.
After receiving my LL.B, I became an associate with the firm. I left the firm for the
position of Assistant U.S. Attorney for a little over a year in 1948-49. I became a partner in
January of 1957. I served as an independent counsel from February of 1987 to the fall of 1999. I
became a senior counsel at the firm in 1987. I continued representing paying clients for five or
six years, then concentrated almost entirely on pro bono work. I spent a year with the Justice
Department in 2001-2002, working as a legal advisor in the Professional Responsibility Advisory
Office. My pro bono work has included representing veterans in the U.S. Court of Appeals for
Veterans Claims, and representing people who wish to adopt children in the Superior Court of
the District of Columbia. I also have done a lot of creative writing. I have enjoyed myself very
Ms. DeRosa: Okay. That’s fine. I wanted to have that in order to structure myself for
the interview. Let’s go back to the beginning. You said you were born in South Pasadena. Tell
me a little bit about your parents and your grandparents and their history.
Mr. McKay: My mother’s family goes way back in this country. Her maiden name was
Curtis, Margaret Curtis. She told me a hundred times that one of our distant ancestors, going
back to the 1600s, was Charles Chauncey who was the Vicar of Ware in England. Reverend
Chauncey became the second president of Harvard College. My mother would not let her
children forget that. Her grandfather, Professor Charles Shackford was, as I said before, the dean
of the English Department and a member of the first faculty at Cornell University. My mother’s
father, Gram Curtis, was a civil engineer, who lived in the Pittsburgh area. He graduated in the
class of 1872 from Cornell. My mother grew up in Newcastle, Pennsylvania. She had a sister
and two brothers. Her sister went to Cornell, as did one of her brothers. The other brother went
to Lehigh University.
My dad was born and raised in Nova Scotia. He lived on a little farm in River John
which is on the Northumberland Strait. His Uncle James took him and his youngest sister from
the farm and put them through Cornell University. My dad met my mother at Cornell. After
graduating from Cornell, my dad had jobs involving agriculture, mostly with the Department of
Agriculture in Washington.
Ms. DeRosa: If he was with the Department of Agriculture, did that take him out to
Mr. McKay: Yes. He was an agricultural economist. His specialty was cooperative
marketing. He was one of the pioneers of the farmers’ cooperative marketing movement in the
United States. He was involved with the organizing of Sunkist, which used to be called the
California Fruit Growers Exchange. He helped organize many other farmers’ cooperatives in
various parts of the country. Under President Hoover, he was the Chief of the Cooperative
Marketing Division of the Department of Agriculture. I don’t know why he was in California.
For the greater part of his career, he was with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.
In addition to being a wife and mother, my mother wrote and published many short
stories. She did a lot of creative writing. That was her extracurricular interest.
Ms. DeRosa: So, the time in California was only about a year?
Mr. McKay: For me, about a year. Yes.
Ms. DeRosa: Were your parents there before you were born?
Mr. McKay: They had been there for several years. I don’t know what my father was
doing out there.
Ms. DeRosa: But they wouldn’t have considered themselves Californians?
Mr. McKay: No.
Ms. DeRosa: They were really from the East?
Mr. McKay: Yes.
Ms. DeRosa: I’m just curious because it seems like it would have been an interesting
time to be active. Did they ever talk about that?
Mr. McKay: Well, I have many letters my mother wrote to her mother soon after I was
born. Most of the time she was talking about me. She had a lively social life out there. My dad
did a lot of traveling, as was reflected in the letters my mother wrote her mother. My
grandmother saved the letters that my mother wrote to her, but I never read any replies.
I might say that Professor Shackford was a close friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, which
is interesting. I have several letters that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote my great grandfather.
Ms. DeRosa: Wow!
Mr. McKay: I once wrote an Emerson-type organization and asked them what I should
do with them, and they said, “preserve them.”
Ms. DeRosa: And so you still have them at your home?
Mr. McKay: I have them here at the office.
Ms. DeRosa: And do you remember anything from those letters?
Mr. McKay: They are dated October and November of 1863. They were trying to get
together. Mr. Emerson lived in Concord. My great grandfather lived in Lynn. They talked about
arrangements to meet. The letters are very short, but formal. He starts with “My Dear Sir,” or
“My Dear Shackford.” He ended one of them by writing, “With kindest regards to Mrs.
Shackford, & to my young friends. Yours, RW Emerson.”
Ms. DeRosa: That sort of demonstrates that your great grandfather was a part of a
community. Have you heard any other stories about that?
Mr. McKay: No. But I might say that my great uncle, Professor Creighton, was a
renowned philosopher in his day. He taught and wrote books on philosophy. I have a volume of
philosophical writings that was dedicated to him by a philosophical group. I’ve tried to read his
essays, but it’s very hard going.
Carnegie Steel Corporation in Pittsburgh. I remember him very well. His name was Gram
My mother’s father was the chief engineering officer for the
Ms. DeRosa: It seems to me that it would have been unusual at that time for a woman to
attend college. Was it?
Mr. McKay: Yes it was. Her sister also went to college. My father’s younger sister
Katherine graduated from Comell. Cornell is a land grant college by virtue of the Agricultural
College and perhaps other colleges. Women could not be excluded from land grant colleges.
Ms. DeRosa: Did your mother have friends? Was her circle of people mostly educated,
with occupations like your mother’s?
Mr. McKay: She mingled with people who were interested in writing. From her earliest
days she wanted to write. I have a copy of the first short story she sold. She got $21 for it. She
wrote on it, “My first sale!” My dad also wrote and published short stories, but he didn’t have as
much time as she did to do that kind of writing, although he wrote a great deal about cooperative
Ms. DeRosa: Was politics of any significance to your parents in their life? Were they in
any political group?
Mr. McKay: No, they weren’t. My dad worked for the government. I don’t think the
law at that time prohibited government employees from engaging in political activity. I’m not
sure. Anyway, they were almost apolitical. I do remember he told me that when President
Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech during the Depression-about the only thing to fear is fear
itself-he went out and bought General Electric stock.
Ms. DeRosa: That worked well for him if he held onto it.
Mr. McKay: Well, no he didn’t, I’m afraid. I wish he had.
Ms. DeRosa: Oh well.
Mr. McKay: They were not politically inclined. They had their views, but did not
participate in politics.
Ms. DeRosa: Let’s wrap up the history of your parents before we get to your childhood.
World War I, did that affect them in any way? Did your father go?
Mr. McKay: No. My father had a very severe leg injury as a young man. I think he was
kicked by a horse. He had an awfd scar on his hip. Also, he was married before the US.
entered the First World War. My brother was born in 1914. I was born about six weeks before
we got into the war in April of 191 7. In her letters to her mother, my mother asked several times,
“What does father think of Wilson now?” Those were the only indications that she was aware
that we had gone to war.
Ms. DeRosa: Okay. Well, let’s move on, unless there are any other interesting things
about your parents’ background?
Mr. McKay: My father was a very wonderful man. My mother was wonderful. They
both had an enormous influence on me, especially my mother who was very erudite. When my
brother and I were young boys, she read many classics to us. Charles Dickens was her favorite
author. She read Great Expectations, Barnaby Rudge, Bleak House, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two
Cities, and others. She read Zvanhoe to us when I was eight or nine years old. I read it recently,
and can’t understand how I was able to understand it at the time. As a result of her reading to
me, I did a lot of reading when I was a child. She had a tremendous influence on me.
Ms. DeRosa: Well, you mentioned one brother. Did you have one sibling?
Mr. McKay: I had three siblings. My youngest brother, Bobby, died of spinal
meningitis when he was three years old. My older brother died five or six years ago, I had a
younger sister, Martha. She had a tragic life. She’s gone too. I’m the sole survivor of the
Ms. DeRosa: How much younger was your sister?
Mr. McKay: Seven years.
Ms. DeRosa: What was your sister’s name?
Mr. McKay: Martha. That was my maternal grandmother’s first name. My brother’s
name was Curtis. My father’s name was Andrew William McKay. My brother was Curtis
Ms. DeRosa: Your brother was two years older?
Mr. McKay: Two and a half years older. He was a Navy flier in the war and worked for
the Federal Aviation Administration after the war.
Ms. DeRosa: When you were growing up did you have a close relationship with your
Mr. McKay: Well, we fought all the time, physically fought. I guess that constitutes a
close relationship. However, we didn’t get very close in other ways until we were adults. We
then became very close. But we had problems when we were boys.
Ms. De Rosa: That’s very common. You mentioned your sister. Would you be
interested in going into it a little more on that, or would you rather not?
Mr. McKay: Well, she committed suicide. She was psychotic. It was a terrible and
tragic thing. Fortunately, my mother and father both died before that happened because that
would have killed them.
Ms. DeRosa: Let me just say, when you said off the record, there’s going to be a
transcript made of this, we can take that part out if you would like.
Mr. McKay: Okay. Well, it’s up to you.
Ms. DeRosa: No, no. I would like to have everything in there.
Mr. McKay: Well, let’s keep everything in then.
Ms. DeRosa: So, she died when?
Mr. McKay: About ten years ago would be my best guess. She has one child who is
getting married this month. I maintain a good relationship with her son. His bride to be is
Ms. DeRosa: Back to your early childhood. Maybe if you can just talk a little about
what memories stick out about school, religion. I don’t know if you were in any church. Just
sort of set the scene of what it was like when you were young.
Mr. McKay: Okay. When I was living in Takoma Park I went through the fifth grade at
the Takoma Park School. I remember my kindergarten teacher’s name was Mrs. Lee. My first
grade teacher’s name was Miss Holmes. The Takoma Park School was about a 15-minute walk
from my home. I walked to school. In those days you didn’t worry about getting run over.
There were as many horse and wagon vehicles as automobiles.
I have clear recollections of the Takoma Park Theater where we saw the silent films. It
was before the “talkies,” as they called them. We walked to the theater Saturdays for the
matinee. My memory about living in Takoma Park is very clear. I don’t know how much detail
you want me to go into.
Ms. DeRosa: As much as you can.
Mr. McKay: Well, I remember all the boys were crazy about baseball, as were my
mother and dad. The owner of the Washington Senators major league baseball team was Clark
Griffith. His sister, whose last name was Robertson, had been married to the manager of the
Montreal baseball team in what was then called the International League. That league was one
level below the American and National Leagues. Mr. Robertson died. She had seven children.
Mr. Griffith brought all of them to Washington. There was a son, Calvin, who retained the name
Griffith. Mildred also retained that name, as did Thelma. Those three children lived with Clark
Griffith in a huge mansion at the corner of Decatur and 16‘h Streets, N.W. I drive by it
frequently. The other four boys retained the name of Robertson. They and Mrs. Robertson
moved to 7‘h Street, a block from our house. We nearly went crazy over the fact that we had the
four nephews of Clark Griffith as neighbors. We became great baseball fans, and played baseball
practically all of our spare time. Once in awhile, Mr. Griffith would come out in his Lincoln and
– 1 1-
visit his sister. The boys would sit on the curb and watch as our heroes emerged from the
limousine. Mildred later married Joe Cronin, a legendary baseball player. He played shortstop
for Washington. He was the playing manager of the 1933 team which won the American League
pennant, but lost to the New York Giants in the World Series. He later became manager of the
Boston Red Sox team. Thelma married Joe Haynes, who pitched for the Senators.
The pinnacle of excitement was reached in 1924, when the Senators won the American
League pennant, and then won the World Series from the New York Giants. I have vivid
recollections of that season and of the World Series, even though I was only seven years old. My
mother and dad attended one of the games in Griffith Stadium.
The Senators won the series in seven games. During the series, we walked to Walter
Reed Hospital, where a huge board was set up. The progress of the game was demonstrated
electronically. There was a diamond on the board. If there was a one-base hit, a black ball
rushed down to first base. If it was a home run, the ball would go all the way around. They had
wooden seats set up for the spectators. I did not go to Walter Reed Hospital for the last game of
the World Series. I don’t know why. I listened to the game on the radio. When the last out was
made, the announcer shouted, “Washington is the champion of the world.” The city was turned
upside down by Washington winning the World Series,
The next year the Senators won the American League pennant. The Pittsburgh Pirates
won the National League pennant. Washington won the first three games, but lost the next four.
It was terrible. Walter Johnson was our ace pitcher. In the seventh inning of the last game it
started to rain. The game should have been suspended, but the Pittsburgh umpires refused to take
that action. It really was a terrible thing for Washington fans. It was said that during the rain,
when the Pittsburgh pitcher took the mound, sawdust was sprinkled on the mound so he wouldn’t
slip. The groundskeepers refused to do that when the Washington pitcher took the mound. I
could not prove the truth of that accusation. We were pretty bitter about that.
Bucky Harris was the manager and second baseman of the Washington Senators’ 1924
team. He was 29 years old, and was known as the “boy wonder.” I could name the entire roster
by position, but will refrain from doing that. His son, Stanley Harris, was a judge on the district
court here in Washington and is now a retired senior judge. We are friends. Once in awhile, we
discuss that terrible Pittsburgh game. I went to a number of schools in Washington before I
entered Western High School.
Western is the one that is now Duke Ellington School of Fine Arts?
Yes. It’s on R Street, between 35‘h and 36”, a few blocks from Wisconsin
Avenue. I had a wonderful time at Western. I was in the high school cadets. In those days, the
high school cadet corps was more important than football or baseball, or any other sport. Every
high school in Washington had a regiment of cadets. There were five or six companies in each
Ms. DeRosa: Can I interrupt you and ask you what is the cadet corps? What did they
Mr. McKay: The cadet corps consisted of a regiment in each of the District of
Columbia public high schools. The Western High School regiment was the fourth regiment.
Each regiment had two battalions, composed of three companies. Each school had a cadet band.
Each school had a reserve army officer who was in charge. The companies began drilling
outdoors as soon as school started. An Honor Guard competition was held in mid-year when the
most proficient company in the city was designated.
The grand climax came in June when the competitive drill was held in Griffith Stadium.
Every company in the city participated, about 30 in all. The drill lasted two days. Each day, the
drilling companies were witnessed by more than 20,000 spectators. To win the competitive drill
was like winning the Super Bowl or the World Series, nowadays. The captain of the winning
company received a replica of the Allison Naylor medal. I never knew who Allison Naylor was.
Each member of the winning company got free passes to movies, free rides at Glen Echo, free
meals at restaurants, free soft drinks, etc.
In my sophomore year, I was assigned to Company G. We had a first-class drill unit.
Our captain, a boy named Warren Draper, was an inspiring leader. We won the Honor Guard,
and were the favorite to win the competitive drill. We were allowed extra time to drill.
During our performance when our turn came, we were doing well until the order came to
stack arms. Each squad had eight cadets, and so there were two rifle stacks to a squad. When
that order came, each of the six squads stacked arms and then fell out. Our captain had
repeatedly told us that the worst moment for him would be when we stacked arms. Well, in this
case, just as we fell out, one of the stacks of the first squad fell and hit the other stack, which also
fell. It was a huge disaster. Warren Draper looked as though he had been kicked in the stomach
when those eight rifles fell to the ground. My mother was in the stands. She cried. I still
remember that awful moment.
Overall, I had a good time in high school and had wonderful friends. Western was the
outstanding high school in Washington. Students whose fathers were Senators and Congressmen
and ambassadors went there. I met a lot of interesting people at Western.
Ms. DeRosa: Were you in the band as well?
Mr. McKay: No. I did play the tenor banjo. That was another part of my growing up.
Ms. DeRosa: Were private schools very common back then?
Mr. McKay: They weren’t as common as they are now. St. Albans was in existence.
Bullis School also was in existence. Other private schools that had opened were Georgetown
Prep, Holton Arms, Madeira School, and probably others. I don’t think Landon had opened.
Most of the parents, regardless of their affluence, sent their children to the public schools back
then because they were regarded as among the best in the nation. My mother did not want me to
go to a school in Maryland, even though we lived in Somerset. Montgomery County schools
were not nearly as good as they are now, and certainly not nearly as good as the D.C. schools at
I did fairly well scholastically. I probably had a B average. I seemed to have been in
trouble frequently. I spent too many times in the principal’s office, being reported for
misdemeanors that I can’t remember.
Ms. DeRosa: Were you sort of devilish?
Mr. McKay: Well, that was it. I did some stupid things. It was more just acting up in
class. I stayed out of trouble after I started playing the tenor banjo. We had an orchestra in our
neighborhood. My brother played tenor sax. Two other boys played the alto saxophone. Other
instruments were the piano and drums. We had a trumpet player, who also played the trombone.
We played for high school proms and tea dances. As a result, I still remember most of the music
back being played in those days. I can still hum them. We made $5 each when we played at a
dance. It kept us out of trouble and we earned pocket money. The only real musician in our
orchestra was a boy named Billy Aiken. Billy Aiken had perfect pitch. He could pick up almost
any instrument and play it. He picked up my banjo and played it better than I could. He was the
boy who played the trumpet and the trombone. The name of our orchestra was “Billy Aiken and
his Columbian Ramblers.” Our theme song was “Just a Cheerful Little Earfd.” We played over
WTOP before it was affiliated with CBS. It was a great experience.
Ms. DeRosa: Did Billy Aiken go on to perfom?
Mr. McKay: My brother got in touch with him after the war. He had opened a music
store in Richmond, Virginia. None of the other members of the orchestra continued with music
for very long. I did not play the banjo when I went to Comell. My brother continued to play the
saxophone through college, but did not continue with his music after he graduated.
Ms. DeRosa: Are there any other things besides what you described in Washington? It
sounds like it was a baseball town during that period of time. Also, there was the Cadet Corps
in the public schools. Are there any other things you can think of about Washington during that
period of time that would be interesting?
Mr. McKay: Yes, there are. It was a town virtually without crime and without fear.
Our group of‘ boys never got into serious trouble. We thought nothing of going down to the 7‘h
and U area at night. There was no place in Washington you couldn’t go without fear of being
molested. My parents never worried about us when we wandered around downtown
Washington. We went to the movies at the Fox Theater at 14‘hand F Streets. That theater later
was called the Capitol Theater. There were several other movie theaters along F Street, which
we attended. We went downtown by streetcar. The streetcars were wonderful. When I went to
the Henry Pope School in the sixth grade, I walked from Somerset to Chevy Chase Circle. I took
the trolley car down Connecticut Avenue and turned left on Calvert Street. Just after we crossed
the bridge on Calvert Street, the trolley was lowered, and the plow was lowered from the bottom
of the car through the middle rail. We proceeded on, turning right on 1 gth Street, left on U Street,
then right on 7’h, then on to P Street. I reversed the route in order to get home. Streetcars were a
big factor in our lives. When I went to Western, I walked to the District line, because I would
have to pay an extra ten cents to get on the streetcar in Maryland. My mother was very frugal. I
took the streetcar to R Street, and walked from there to Western High School. The streetcars
were quiet and without pollution. It was a terrible thing when 0. Roy Chalk bought the Capital
Traction Company, and ripped up all the streetcar tracks. He replaced the lovely, quiet,
pollution-free streetcars with the horrible buses, which fill the city with pollution. He really
messed up Washington. He should have been put in jail.
By and large, Washington was a small, quiet a town. We often went to Glen Echo. A
Cabin John streetcar stopped at Glen Echo. There were all kinds of things you could do at Glen
Echo. We rode the roller coasters, the Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. We rode on the merrygo-round and the airplanes. We swam in the large swimming pool. The midway-a huge
building-contained slides, rotating barrels, moving steps, and crazy mirrors. There was a huge
spinning disk in the middle of the building. The trick was to get on the disk and stay on it
without being thrown off by the rotation. We danced to the music of big bands at the Spanish
Pavilion, which is still open. Glen Echo fell on hard times after World War 11. It has been
making a comeback recently, but is nothing like it used to be in the good old days.
Ms. DeRosa: What was the racial makeup of Washington at that time?
Mr. McKay: It’s hard to believe now, but all the schools were segregated. Most of the
high schools were totally white. There was a high school for black students. There were
restrooms for blacks and restrooms for whites. The requirement that black people go to the rear
of a streetcar didn’t exist in Washington, perhaps because it’s the Capital of the United States.
However, I remember being with my mother in Virginia. I struck up a conversation with a man
at the streetcar stop. When my mother and I got on the streetcar, we sat in a seat in the fi-ont of
the car. The man walked to the rear. I asked my mother why he didn’t set near us. She said,
“Because he’s colored.” I was very surprised. I had very little contact with any blacks when I
was growing up. There were very few black students at Comell. I’m getting ahead of the story,
but one of the stars of the Comell football team was Brud Holland. He was black. He became an
All American. Brud Holland ended up as the president of one of the very well known black
Ms. DeRosa: Were you in high school during the Depression?
Mr. McKay: The Wall Street crash occurred in October of 1929. I was 12 years old
then, and was in the seventh grade at Columbia Junior High School. The Depression continued
while I was in high school. It didn’t end until after World War I1 began. One of my closest high
school friend’s father had owned a music school. His business failed. He became a chauffeur. I
recall the Bonus March of 1932. During the Easter vacation period, we visited my mother’s
sister and her husband in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. On one of those trips to Swarthmore in
May of 1932, while driving north on Route 1, we saw a large group of men headed toward
Washington. The veterans of World War I had been promised a bonus. When it was not
forthcoming, it was very difficult for the veterans because many of them were without jobs. In
May of 1932, there was a march on Washington from many parts of the country. The veterans
walked because they couldn’t afford to take buses or trains. When they got to Washington, they
set up these shacks and tents on the grounds of the Washington Monument and in other parts of
Washington. Recently, the Smithsonian Magazine had an article about the Bonus March. The
veterans stayed in tents and shacks. Some of them brought wives and children. They called their
homes Hooverville, named after President Hoover. But, they did not get their bonuses. After a
few months, a terrible thing happened. General MacArthur ordered the Army troops to drive the
veterans from their camps. The troops were commanded by Major George Patton. Dwight
Eisenhower, who was MacArthur’s aide, advised against this cruel action. But MacArthur
ignored him. MacArthur and Patton were happy to use tear gas on these veterans and their wives
and children. They burned the tents and shacks. It was a disgrace. These veterans of World War
I and their families were given this awful treatment by our government. Many of the veterans
and their families suffered from the tear gas. That left a very bad black mark.
Ms. DeRosa: How long were they there?
Mr. McKay: They were there from May to late July. I don’t think they ever got their
Ms. DeRosa: And would you see them when they were there, or was there a lot on the
radio about it?
Mr. McKay: We read about them in The Washington Star. We heard about them being
Ms. DeRosa: Was there outrage at the time about that?
Mr. McKay: Yes. The entire country was outraged. I’m sure the old newspapers are
available at the Smithsonian. It was a sad situation. I was 15 years old then, and remember the
bonus marchers quite well.
Ms. DeRosa: Was your family somewhat insulated from the Depression because your
father was in government?
Mr. McKay: Yes. We were very lucky. My dad was never out of a job and so we were
lucky. Many families had very difficult experiences. There was not enough food. The kids got
rickets. It was a terrible thing. You’d see soup kitchens and men who had had good jobs, lining
up to get soup. It was terrible. Then the war came along, which had a lot to do with the ending
of the Depression. Also, Roosevelt and his administration helped get the country out of the
Ms. DeRosa: You mentioned a little bit earlier about remembering his election and the
sense of optimism.
Mr. McKay: Well, yes. As I said, my dad listened to his speech, where he said, “The
only thing you have to fear is fear itself.” Roosevelt was determined to get the country going
again, and as a result, my father felt buoyed up and optimistic.
I don’t know just how detailed you want to get but one of my sharpest memories is
related to my experiences on a small dairy farm located about ten miles from Belair, Maryland.
One of my dad’s aunts, who was not much older than him, and her husband owned this tiny farm.
My aunt’s name was Margaret. Her husband was John Foster Creelman. From the time I was 12
or 13, I spent each summer working on the farm. My mother drove me to the farm the day after
school closed. She drove me home the day before school opened. The farm was very rustic. It
had no electric lights, no heat, no indoor plumbing. They had 16 dairy cows, so few that they
named them, as though they were pets. As I said, I went there every summer for three months
from the time I was about 12 or 13 until the end of my first year of college. People used to say I
had a strong grip. I think it was from milking cows. We had no milking machines. Anyway, my
aunt and uncle got up at 4:OO a.m. and worked all day. I worked along with them. I went to bed
about 8:OO. My friends in Washington were going to the beach and having fun. I was working
on the farm. But, as I indicated, it had a positive influence on my life. It was very hard work.
My aunt and uncle had a ranch in Montana. They were driven out of Montana by the drought.
They packed their belongings in a truck and drove to Maryland, where they bought this tiny dairy
farm. They adopted a boy, who they named James Russell Creelman. They called him Russell.
He died from a brain tumor. On one occasion, when my Aunt Margaret visited us when we lived
in Somerset, I recall her asking me, “How would you like to come and visit us on the farm?” I
said I would. They looked upon me as their son. Both of them were wonderful. They were very
religious. They made me go to both Sunday School and church, which kind of cooled my
It was quite an experience, working on the farm and living that farm life. I made friends
with all the farm boys in the area. It seemed difficult at the time, but I think it was good for my
Ms. DeRosa: And did you keep relationships with any of the people that you knew?
Mr. McKay: I kept up relationship with my aunt and uncle. One of the things about the
farm that I disliked was the fact that we drank unpasturized milk. In 1938, my Uncle Foster died
from undulant fever as a result of drinking that horrible stuff. My Aunt Margaret went to live
with a cousin in Philadelphia. I kept in touch with her for awhile. Then the war came along and
it was not easy to see her. She died in 1953.
Ms. DeRosa: You say you did that every summer through your first year in college.
Why don’t we talk a little about college. You moved up to New York, I take it?
Mr. McKay: Ithaca, New York. Yes, I entered college in September of 1934. I had
scarlet fever (it seems like I’m jumping around but this is connected) when I was 14 years old. I
had every known childhood disease, including rheumatic fever. I also had scarlet fever and the
mumps. When I had scarlet fever, my mother, who was an avid Cornell booster, taught me all
the Cornell songs. That inspired me to want to go to Cornell. Back in those days, it wasn’t
nearly as difficult to get in as it is now. In September of 1934 my mother and her sister, who
lived in Swarthmore, drove me up to Cornell. I lived my first year in a dormitory called
Cascadilla Hall. The Cornell campus is amazing. Have you been there?
Ms. DeRosa: I have, long ago. Gorgeous.
Mr. McKay: It really is. It’s very built up now. But it still is a beautiful campus.
Gorges that were carved out by the glaciers run through the campus. I used to go to sleep to the
rushing roar of Cascadilla Falls. I attended the College of Agriculture. I took such courses as
vegetable crops, entomology, plant physiology, biology, botany, and all of those farm-type
courses. It nearly drove my mother crazy because she kept writing me, “take a course in English;
take a course in philosophy. Your Great Uncle James was a world famous philosopher.” I did
take freshman English, but she was very distraught that I was taking courses such as vegetable
crops I, I1 and 111, and all those other agriculture courses. I had a faculty advisor named Professor
Powell. He talked to me at the beginning of each term about the courses I should take. I once
told him that my mother was urging me to take a course in philosophy. He said, “Oh my God,
philosophy. I had an old fuddy duddy teach me philosophy. It was awful.” I asked him, “Was
his name Professor Creighton?” He said, “Yeah, that’s the guy.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s my great uncle.” You never saw a guy back down so fast. It was
very funny. So anyway, my courses necessarily were fairly technical. Others included farm
management and animal husbandry. I learned how to judge sheep and cattle. I joined a
fraternity. I was pledged to Kappa Sigma. My brother was a Kappa Sigma at the University of
(Begin New Tape)
Ms. DeRosa: Okay, we will continue, talking about Kappa Sigma.
Mr. McKay: Oh, Kappa Sigma, right. My cousin, who is the son of my mother’s sister
who lived in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, was a Kappa Sigma. Back in those days fraternities
were really very constructive organizations. I met some of my closest friends in connection with
the fraternity. It was a small fraternity. We had about 23 or 24 boys living in the fraternity
house. I lived in Cascadilla Hall the first year, and in my sophomore, junior, and senior years, I
lived in the house. We were very well organized. It was a very positive experience.
Toward the end of my freshman year, I began to worry about my father’s finances. My
brother was in college. My sister was nearing college age. The reason I went to the Ag School
instead of the Arts and Sciences was that the tuition was $200 for one semester. The tuition in
the College of Arts and Sciences for one semester was $400. And so I started waiting tables at
another fraternity house. My meals were free. Jumping ahead, during my sophomore, junior,
and senior years, I waited tables at the Sigma Nu fraternity house. When I was a senior, I became
house manager of the Kappa Sigma house, which resulted in my getting my room at no cost.
And so, in my senior year, I did not have to pay for my room or board. That was very helpful to
my dad. I believe his salary in those days was about $5,600 a year. It’s hard to believe how little
the salaries were back in those days. But everything cost much less. We bought our first car for
$400. It was a Model A Ford.
My life at Cornell was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed the
guys I met at the fraternity, and I enjoyed my professors. I did not do very well. I had about a B
average at Comell. I didn’t even come close to being a Pi Kappa Phi. I will jump ahead to say I
did very well in law school, because it was the first time I took courses that interested me.
Ms. DeRosa: Do you remember any kind of political atmosphere in college? Were there
any political groups?
Mr. McKay: There were. Interestingly, I became very close friends of two guys who
were members of Kappa Alpha. The Kappa Alphas were very erudite. Kappa
Alpha wasn’t like the ordinary fraternity. It was very scholastic. For some reason, these two
Kappa Alphas took an interest in me. They were very active in politics. I sometimes had dinner
at the Kappa Alpha house when I could get off from my table waiting duties. My Kappa Alpha
friends were very active in the Young Democrats group at Comell. They invited Mrs. Roosevelt
to speak. I met Mrs. Roosevelt, as though I was a part of all this political activity, which I
wasn’t. Apart from that, I was not involved politically.
I went out for the freshman baseball team. I went out for varsity soccer. I wasn’t
sufficiently adept at sports to be able to make any athletic team, so I became a cheerleader.
Ms. DeRosa: Cheerleader for what sport?
Mr. McKay: For football and basketball. Baseball was regarded as a minor sport then.
Cheerleading was fun. We traveled to other colleges in the Ivy League, places like Princeton,
Yale, Pennsylvania, Columbia, Brown, and Dartmouth. We also went to Syracuse, which was
then a bitter rival in athletics. We led cheers. I had a big megaphone on my white sweater, with
a big red “C” on it. I wore white slacks.
I enjoyed my four years at Comell. As I said, I wasn’t particularly interested in the
subjects I took. The most interesting subject was plant pathology. It was taught like a graduate
school course. The instructor, who was in graduate school, taught me something I still try to do:
if I asked him for assistance, he invariably would order me to look it up. He would not tell me
anything until I had exhausted my efforts to find the answer. That training helped me research
questions in my later legal career. I remember among other things we had to study the life cycle
of insects that injured fruits and vegetables. I wrote a term paper on the life cycle of the citrus
white fly. In the meantime, my dad had taken a job with a citrus fruit company in Orlando,
Florida. After three years, the company failed and he returned to the Department of Agriculture.
I received a B in plant pathology. I was happy to get that mark.
I spent some vacations in Orlando. It was then a very quiet and peaceful town. But
nowMs. DeRosa: Anything butMr. McKay: Yes, anything but. We lived in a little cottage on Edgewater Drive
between two lakes. We had a dock and an outboard motor boat. We had our resident alligator,
and so there was very little swimming. But it was possible to catch fish. Orlando was then a
wonderful little town.
Meanwhile, life went on at Cornell. In order to graduate from the College of Agriculture,
I had to earn farm credits. I had earned a number of farm credits by virtue of having worked on
the dairy farm in Maryland. I worked on that farm the summer after my freshman year. The next
summer I worked on the muck farm. That was quite an experience.
Ms. DeRosa: Muck farm?
Mr. McKay: I worked on a muck farm near Batavia, New York, not far from Lake Erie.
Muck is an organic soil which was formed when the glaciers ground down millions of cattails.
The soil is very black and highly productive. For example, inorganic soil might produce 150
bushels of onions an acre. The muck would produce 400 or 500 bushels an acre.
I worked on the Porter and Bonnie muck farm. Two other Cornell Ag students were with
me. The owners hired two or three college students every year, mostly from Cornell. I worked
ten hours a day, six days a week. We had 30 minutes for lunch. The 30 minutes were in addition
to the ten hours. I was paid 20 cents an hour and so I earned $12 a week for the six 10-hour days
I worked. I paid $5 a week for my room, board, and laundry. I lived in a house in Elba, owned
by a very nice lady. I actually saved money that summer.
The muck fields were long and narrow. The soil was very light. Windrows of trees were
planted on each side of the fields to help prevent the soil from blowing away. If I was harvesting
spinach, I crawled on my hands and knees the length of the field, cutting spinach, and putting it
in a basket. When I reached the end of the field, I crawled back, doing the same thing. I did that
for ten hours a day. Sometimes, I topped onions. That involved walking alongside the onion
plants and snapping off the tops. I think that prevented the plants from going to seed, but I’m not
sure now why we did that. At least I could stand when I topped onions. There were many other
laborers, of course. Most of them were Polish people who came from Buffalo. The men brought
their wives and children. They lived in camps during the harvesting season.
Ms. DeRosa: Did you eat any of the Polish food?
Mr. McKay: No. They wouldn’t let us go into their camp. We were told to stay away
from the camps.
I should say that the summer of 1936 was the hottest and driest summer I had ever
experienced. One afternoon when we were quitting for the day, the temperature was at 136
degrees, which was the highest it could go on the thermometer. The muck, being very black,
would not reflect the sun. When you put your foot in the soil, it was as though you were putting
it in a hot oven. In order to take a bath, we college boys drove for miles, trying to find a creek
that had not dried up. I started drinking beer that summer. It was either beer or soda pop. I
chose beer. It was a great thirst quencher.
The next summer, the summer of 1937, I got a job with the Railroad Perishable
Inspection Agency. It was amazing. I learned that they would give jobs to college students in the
Manhattan Produce Yards, located between Jersey City and Newark. The pay was $125 a month.
It’s hard to believe now, but that was a fortune. And so, I applied for a job with the Railroad
Perishable Inspection Agency. I’ll never forget when I received a letter in reply. I was so excited
I ripped it nearly in half. I still have the letter. The letter said I would be hired and would be
paid $125 a month. That was an enormous amount of money to me.
The work involved inspecting carloads of watermelons shipped from the south to the
Manhattan Produce Yards. I lived with my aunt in lower Manhattan. I had to be on the job by
seven o’clock in the morning. We broke the seals on the car doors and opened them. We then
inspected the loads of watermelons to determine if any melons had been damaged. We had to
figure out whether any damaged melons were caused by the railroad, such as by two cars
crashing together when the train stopped suddenly, or whether the damage was due to improper
loading or disease. That decision was important to the people receiving the melons because, if
the damage was the fault of the railroad, they would be paid the value of the melon. Every penny
was important during the Depression. I frequently had problems with the receivers, who were
foreigners. If they disagreed with my determination as to the cause of the condition of the
melons, I invariably got into a huge argument with them. I remember once being backed into the
corner of the freight car by several guys screaming at me. It was scary. My boss’s name was
Andy. I told them that I would do whatever Andy said should be done. Andy looked at the load
and said, “No railroad damage.” The receivers were satisfied. I saved money that summer. Do
you want me to continue with this?
Ms. DeRosa: I think probably what we can do is finish college and then we will have a
Mr. McKay: Okay. So I returned to college for my senior year in September of 1937.
That was an uneventful year. I had better grades than before, but nothing great. I had good
grades in a course called Farm Management. That pleased me because my professor, a Professor
Rasmussen, was a good friend of my father. We left penny postcards with our professors, and
they would send our grades on the cards. I got a 92 in Farm Management. Professor Rasmussen
wrote “Congratulations” on the card. I sent it to my father.
During the spring of 1936, I wrote about 30 letters, trying to find a job. I still have copies
of the replies, all but one saying “no.”
Ms. DeRosa: I’m curious about the atmosphere, because this was still during the
Depression. Right? Was there a lot of difficulty finding jobs for people coming out of college?
Mr. McKay: It was very difficult. Jobs were very scarce. I finally received a letter from
the California Fruit Exchange, a farmers’ cooperative marketing association with headquarters in
Sacramento. They offered me a job as a dealer service representative. The pay was $135 a
month. I had to have a car. They would pay me five cents a mile. I was very happy to get a job.
But unfortunately, I had to report for work before my commencement. I still hold that against
them because it didn’t make that much difference. I wrote and told them my commencement
date and asked whether I could report on the Monday after that date. They refused, saying that
they wanted to get the sales promotion program started. And so, my diploma was mailed to me.
I missed my commencement, but I had a job. That was the most important thing.
My dad found a Dodge coupe that had 1 1,000 miles on it. The price was $200. That was
one of the best cars I’ve ever owned.
Ms. DeRosa: How long did you own it?
Mr. McKay: I owned it until 1940. In 1940 I bought a new Dodge for $833. After I
bought the first car, I reported for duty in Manhattan.
Ms. DeRosa: Oh, your job was in Manhattan?
Mr. McKay: Well, it was for a very short time, maybe one week. I couldn’t hack it in
Manhattan. I was supposed to promote the sale of deciduous fruits marketed by the California
Fruit Exchange, the Blue Anchor Company, as it was called. I visited produce markets. I had a
terrible time finding a place to park in Manhattan near the markets I had to visit. It was very
hectic. I reported my problems to my boss. He was very kind. It was agreed that I did not have
the temperament to deal with the New Yorkers. It was suggested that I would be better off in
New Jersey. I agreed. So I found a place to live in Rutherford. My landlady treated me like a
son. I proceeded to promote the sale of deciduous fruits throughout eastern New Jersey.
Ms. DeRosa: This is a good time to stop.
Mr. McKay: Okay.
Ms. DeRosa: Just so I remember from the beginning, you worked for a couple of years
before joining the Navy. Is that right?
Mr. McKay: Yes. I reported for active duty December 15, 1941. I graduated from
Cornell in June of 1938.
Ms. DeRosa: Well maybe we will go up to the time when you joined the Navy if there
are any significant memories you have from your first couple ofjobs. You’ve talked a little
about the first one and moving to Rutherford.
Mr. McKay: Right. My job had to do with promoting the sale of deciduous fruits or
non-citrus fruit such as apples, pears, grapes, and plums. I don’t know why they call those hits
“deciduous.” I went from town to town in New Jersey, to places such as Newark, Jersey City,
Elizabeth, the Oranges, Montclair, Secaucus, and so forth. I would contact the managers of fruit
markets, and get permission to put up my displays. If I constructed a window display, I had a
photographer take a picture which I sent to Sacramento. I prepared weekly reports of my
displays and the nature of the displays. When the California Fruit Exchange sales campaign
ended, the California Walnut Growers Association asked me if I would do the same thing for
them in eastern Pennsylvania. The organization is now called the Diamond Walnut Company.
It’s a cooperative marketing association. My main headquarters were in Reading, Pennsylvania.
I lived in the YMCA. I traveled to the various towns in that general area. Another headquarters
was Scranton. I lived in the YMCA when I was in that city. The hope of the association was that
people could be persuaded to buy walnuts during all seasons of the year. That still may be the
Ms. DeRosa: Did you enjoy that?
Mr. McKay: Not particularly. It was very lonely. As I said, I lived in the YMCA. I
was by myself. I worked during the winter months. It was tough driving in the snow. I had to
use chains a lot. I went from town to town putting up displays in various types of stores. I don’t
know how successful we were in making consumers change their habits about buying walnuts. I
remember my first visit to Scranton. I had been home for Christmas. When I got to my room in
the YMCA, I saw a bulb hanging from a cord in the middle of the room that had one window
with a green shade ripped its entire length. I was very depressed. However, to my surprise,
Scranton turned out to be very lively at Christmas time, even though the Depression had hit that
area very hard.
I went as far as Hazleton and Shenandoah in the hard coal region. The mines had been
abandoned. Many of the streets had sunk into the mineshafts. It was very depressing. The
people were very poor. All in all, it was not much fun.
I knew that the walnut program would soon end and I would have to get another job. I
wrote the Department of Agriculture and fortunately was able to land a job as assistant marketing
specialist in the Marketing Agreements Division of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.
The division administered marketing agreements between farmers and the Secretary of the
Department of Agriculture, who was Henry A. Wallace. He later was Vice President during the
first three Roosevelt administrations. Under the marketing agreements, the farmers agreed they
would not sell lower grade products in interstate commerce. They would sell only the higher
grades, which would bring a higher price. It was the law of supply and demand. The less the
supply, the higher the demand, and, hopefully, the higher the price that the farmers would get for
And so, I worked on developing marketing agreements for various kinds of agricultural
products. I was paid the enormous salary of $2,600 a year. I was able to buy a new Dodge for
$833. None of my friends made money like that. My problem was that I only had enough work
to keep me busy for two or three hours a day. It was frustrating. Then my immediate boss came
to me and said, “Jim, we’re hiring a junior marketing specialist to assist you.” I said, “I don’t
need any help. I don’t have enough work to do.” “Oh” he said, “we’re going to expand.” I was
very angry. I spoke to a close friend, who had just started Georgetown Law School at night. I
told him that even though I didn’t have enough work to do, they were going to hire someone to
help me. He said, “Well, why don’t you go to law school?” And I said, “I’m going to do that.” I
walked to Georgetown Law School, which was then at 6”and E Streets, N.W., in a dingy old
brick building, and told Dean Fegan that I wanted to go to law school. It was simple. All I
needed was a transcript from Cornel1 and the money to pay the tuition. I was admitted to
Georgetown Law School.
I attended law school five nights a week. By the way, Dean Fegan didn’t like the term
“night school.” He referred to the “late evening classes.” I worked at the Department of
Agriculture during the day. I did a lot of studying at my desk, with a large agricultural report
hiding my case book. I enjoyed studying law. I guess that’s why I did very well. I was first in
my class at Georgetown. They even gave me a check for $35.
Ms. DeRosa: You mean after the first year?
Mr. McKay: At the end of the first year. The war messed me up as far as being in any
particular class was concerned. I did well in law school after the war. My grades helped me in
later life, because I was recommended by the dean to the U.S. Attorney, and was able to become
an Assistant US. Attorney in Washington. That was a good result.
Ms. DeRosa: That was Dean Fegan?
Mr. McKay: That was Dean Fegan. I was able to finish one year at Georgetown before
going into the service.
Ms. DeRosa: What was the experience? Did you feel in going to the late evening
classes that you were part of the law school community?
Mr. McKay: No. Before the war, I was invited to join the Georgetown Law Journal. I
didn’t even know what that was or meant. I had enough work to do, and so I ignored the
invitation. I should note that I think our instructors and teachers at the night school were as good
or better than those in the day school. Many of them were practicing lawyers. I got a very fine
legal education at Georgetown.
There were about 125 students in my class before the war. There were no women
students at that time. The night students were very serious. Law school was just a means to an
end. We were not there for fun. It was hard to work all day, go to school at night, and then study
for a couple of hours after getting home. It was even harder after the war when I was a law clerk
at Covington because my work at the law firm was much more intensive than it had been at the
Department of Agriculture.
During this period, I was concerned about the draft. I learned from a friend that the Navy
was looking for recent college graduates to enter the Navy as administrative officers. I went the
very next day to the Navy Yard. Only two applicants were there, including me. I was accepted.
About 400 applicants showed up the next day. I was very lucky. That’s how I got my
Ms. DeRosa: I think you said earlier that you wanted to fly. Is that right?
Mr. McKay: My brother was a flyer. My best friend, who later became my best man,
was a flyer. I had other friends who flew. My brother bought a Piper Cub for $500. I flew with
him several times. I applied to the Army Air Corps, but because I weighed only about 125
pounds, I was rejected. I applied to the Naval Air Corps. They turned me down because of my
weight. Colonel Vandergrift and his wife lived next door to us. He later was the General
Vandergrift, who led the Marine First Division that landed at Guadalcanal. He urged me to enter
the Marine Corps. I decided that I didn’t want to go into the Marine Corps, so I ended up going
into the Navy as an ensign. My commission was dated November 23, 1941. I was ordered to
report for duty on or before December 15. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, I called and asked
whether they wanted me to come right away. They said they would wait a week for my services.
So I reported for duty on December 15, 1941, as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve. I
even had a sword.
Ms. DeRosa: I was going to ask about Pearl Harbor, but maybe we’ll stop here. Then
we can get a few memories of Pearl Harbor. We can start the next session with that.
Mr. McKay: Okay. I have very vivid memories.
Ms. DeRosa: Yes. I think it’s probably good to start with that.
Mr. McKay: Well, thank you.
Ms. DeRosa: Great. Thank you.
ORAL HISTORY OF
JAMES C. McKAY, ESQUIRE
SECOND INTERVIEW – July 29,2003
Ms. DeRosa: All right, I’ll just say we are now in our second session, and we are going
to start again with Jim McKay. As we discussed, maybe you can give us your memories of Pearl
Mr. McKay: Well, I think I have already stated that I received a commission as an
ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve in late November, with orders to report for duty on December
15, 1941. At that time I was working for the Department of Agriculture and, of course, I was
going to cease working there soon. I was living at home with my mother and dad in Foxhall
Village on 44‘h Street. It was a Sunday, as we all know, and I will always remember that. And I
was lying on the couch, listening to a football game on the radio. The Philadelphia Eagles were
playing the Washington Redskins. Suddenly, in the middle of the game, we heard the
announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt this broadcast to announce that the White
House has just reported that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and the Army Air Corps
Base at Hokum Field. The extent of damage is not known.”
I remember rushing upstairs to tell my mother that the Japanese had bombed Pearl
Harbor. I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was. I don’t think most Americans living on the
mainland in the United States knew where Pearl Harbor was. Maybe I’m underestimating them,
but in any case, I didn’t, nor did my mother. We began looking through our library. We found
out that Pearl Harbor was in Hawaii, much to our astonishment. It was incredible to think that
the Japanese could have flown all the way to Pearl Harbor. I remember that throughout the
evening and into the next day we heard all kinds of terrible rumors about the Japanese. They
were headed for Los Angeles, San Francisco, and west coast cities. It was an apprehensive
situation that we experienced during the next week or so. In the meantime, I had purchased my
uniforms and was ready to report for duty at the Navy Yard. Where should we go from here?
Ms. DeRosa: Well, I guess just one question about learning about Pearl Harbor. Where
did you get most of your news from? Mr. McKay: We read the newspapers. We also got news
over the radio. There was no television back in those days.
Ms. DeRosa: And the rumors? Were they in the news?
Mr. McKay: They were in the news. Yes. It was a scary time. Nobody knew what was
happening. Of course, the United States declared war on Germany and also on Italy within a very
short period of time. Then the British lost one battleship from Japanese air attacks, the Prince of
Wales. It was one of the most modem battleships at that time. The British also lost a cruiser. I
think it was the Repulse. She also was sunk by Japanese aircraft. That was very upsetting. It
was just devastating. Coincidentally, the Prince of Wales was the ship on which President
Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had met for the Atlantic Conference near Newfoundland. The
British lost thousands of sailors, who went down on those great ships. And that’s the way it
went. The Japanese troops could not be stopped. They captured Corregidor, which fell fairly
quickly. MacArthur had boasted that all those islands, including the Philippines, could be
defended. He took off and left General Wainwright to defend Corregidor. Wainwright was
captured, and spent the rest of the war in a Japanese prison camp. Then there was the death
march. It was a terrible, temble upsetting situation. Things that are happening nowadays are
upsetting, but they are no comparison with the devastation and the terrible things that were going
on in Europe and in the Pacific. It wasn’t a happy time.
Ms. DeRosa: And so what happened when you reported as an ensign for duty?
Mr. McKay: Well that was not the happiest period of my life. I had never been on the
water before but, being in the Navy, I thought I should be on a ship. However, they assigned me
to the receiving station in the Navy Yard. What a receiving station does is receive sailors from
all over the country and ship them off to their next duty. I was at the receiving station for nearly
a year. It was a very unhappy period of my life. I was doing something that anybody could have
done. I was doing administrative work. I became personnel officer and did mostly paper work.
Meanwhile, my future father-in-law was the Inspector General of the First Army, and would soon
be headed for Europe. I felt I had to get on a ship and so I applied to go to the Local Defense
School in Boston. I was accepted and, in December of 1942, I entered that school. It was a very
good school. I was trained in navigation, gunnery, communications, and seamanship. We went
out into the ocean on YASS, which were yachts taken over by the Navy. We learned to pilot a
ship. We took star sights with sextants. We learned the things that a naval officer should know.
After completing the course in Boston, I applied to attend the Submarine Chaser Training
Center in Miami, Florida, and was accepted. That school was one of the finest training schools
organized by the Navy during World War 11. The school trained officers to become officers on
anti-submarine warfare vessels, such as subchasers and patrol crafts called SCs and PCs. They
were also trained to go aboard ships known as destroyer escorts or DES. I reached Miami in the
early spring of 1943. I underwent training there for about six or seven weeks. The school
graduated a class each six or seven weeks. SCTC, as it was called, provided thousands of
officers to go aboard these anti-submarine warfare vessels. It was a wonderful program. Do you
want me to continue?
Ms. DeRosa: Yes.
Mr. McKay: Meanwhile, in December I become engaged to be married. My training at
SCTC ended on June the IOth, 1943. I came by train to Washington. I was married to Mary
Anne Hunter on June 12, 1943. My wife and I recently celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary.
We went by train to Miami where I awaited my orders for about a week. The thing that bugged
me the most was that I had to do calisthenics at eight o’clock each morning, even though my
schooling was over. I complained to the chief petty officer conducting the exercises. I told him
I’d just got married. He just shrugged. We had a week in Miami. It was a great week, in spite of
the calisthenics. I then received my orders to take the position of executive officer of the SC1335, a subchaser. SCs were 1 10-foot wooden ships with a complement of three officers and 23
enlisted men. She was being constructed in Halesite, Long Island, which is on the north shore.
Ms. DeRosa: You were an ensign still?
Mr. McKay: Yes. And so I reported for duty. Mary Anne came up from Bethesda,
where she lived with her parents. We rented a little apartment on the top floor of a home in
Halesite. I remained there during the construction of the SC-1335. My commanding officer was
George Doyle. The third officer was Bob Bartlett. I never called George Doyle “George” while
he was my commanding officer. I always called him “Captain.” He always called me “Mr.
McKay.” You had to maintain that formality, even though the three officers shared a stateroom.
We never stepped over the line. We were very busy during construction, which was completed
in August of 1943. We then proceeded to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where we were
commissioned as a ship of the United States Navy on August 12, 1943. We next received orders
to proceed to Miami for shakedown. The trip to Miami was difficult. The captain was the only
one of the three officers who had been to sea. Most of the members of the crew had never been
to sea. And so the captain had his hands full. But we managed to get safely to Miami. While in
Miami, we did shakedown training. We practiced attacking a submarine using our underwater
sound gear, called “sonar,” to detect the submarine. We practiced ship handling at sea, and went
through various exercises, such as general quarters, fire drills, man-overboard drills, and so forth.
All of those exercises were done under the supervision of experiences officers. Our next orders
were to proceed to Norfolk, Virginia, to join a slow convoy bound for the U.K. Our ship
received orders to proceed to Casablanca, where she would be turned over to the Free French
under the Lend-Lease Program. And so we headed north. And I will say I don’t know how I am
sitting here after what we went through on that journey. Our captain made the mistake, in my
view, when he decided that we would not proceed close to the coast, but would go east for 200
miles or so, then head north. In that way, we would avoid the busy shore traffic. We were
always blacked out at night. And it was hazardous to travel up the coast when none of the ships
burned running lights. That decision turned out to be almost a fatal disaster. No one had
checked the weather reports. Maybe it was my responsibility. I don’t remember. As a result, we
encountered the worst storm that I ever have experienced. I will never understand why the ship
didn’t go down. She was only a tiny 1 10-foot wooden vessel. I remember being on the flying
bridge and looking up at a 45-degree angle at the gigantic Atlantic rollers headed our way. The
winds were gale force and more. As I said, the waves were enormous. It was like being in hell.
I was sure we would not survive. But, we did, obviously. It took us six days to get to Norfolk.
Because we suffered such severe storm damage, the ship had to go into dry dock for repairs. I
wrote a piece about that storm, called “The Storm,” and also one about our trip to Casablanca.
When repairs were completed, we joined the next slow convoy and headed for Casablanca. Our
station at all times was about 2,000 yards on the port beam of the destroyer commanded by the
escort commander, whose station was about 3,000 yards in front of the center of the convoy. He
ordered us not to activate our sonar, which was rather insulting. There were numerous escorting
destroyers. All of them had names such as Hercules, Samson, Poseidon, Ajax, and so on. Our
code name was Kitten.
Ms. DeRosa: Can I just interrupt you. You mentioned you wrote two stories. What was
the name of the second one?
Mr. McKay: “Hold Your Fire, It’s Kitten.”
Ms. DeRosa: And where are these stories?
Mr. McKay: On my computer. I’ve done a lot of creative writing. The “Hold Your
Fire, It’s Kitten,” piece may include the storm. And so, we proceeded across the Atlantic. It was
quite rough, but we had survived that horrible storm, almost hurricane force, certainly gale force.
I still get nervous when I think about that storm. The base speed of the convoy was ten knots.
There were about 150 merchant ships and about 16 escorting destroyers. Our complacence was
interrupted when we were ordered to take on fuel. That turned out to be an exciting experience.
We went alongside this huge tanker and they put a line over. We hauled in the hose and began
taking on !%el. When heling was completed, we cast off. We stopped our two engines to switch
over to the tank that had just been filled. It turned out that the fuel was filled with water and dirt.
Our engines failed and there we were in the middle of the Atlantic, unable to move. We began
sending blinker messages to the tanker, that was disappearing over the dark horizon along with
the rest of the convoy. Finally, we got a message from the tanker that said that Ajax would take
us in tow. You can imagine how we felt. Finally our wonderful engineer, a petty officer, got our
engines started. And so we started off to resume our position in front of the convoy. The
problem was that the speed of the convoy was ten knots. Our top speed was 12 knots. It took us
many hours to catch up with the convoy. When we finally got along the port beam of the escort
commander, it was about three o’clock in the morning. That seemed fine. We later met some of
the destroyer officers in Casablanca. When they found out who we were, one of them said, “Oh
my God! Were you on that tiny little ship?” We said we were. They told us, “Every time any
member of our crew members complained about the weather we pointed at you and said ‘just be
thankful you’re not on that thing.”’ One of the officers went on to say, “You know, we nearly
blew you out of the water.” I should point out that an SC’s profile at night resembles a surfaced
submarine had been sighted. Just as their five-inch guns were trained on the target, a lookout
shouted, “Hold your fire, it’s Kitten.” So that’s how the name of the story came about. You’re
giving me a great chance to reminisce.
Ms. DeRosa: How interesting.
The officer told us how his ship had come to general quarters because a surfaced
Well, we finally got to Casablanca. Oh, I should tell you that one of the
most interesting people I have ever met was the prospective French commanding officer who
came aboard our ship in Miami. There were then four officers and three bunks. When one was
on watch the other would sleep in that officer’s bunk. His name was Jean Charles Devin du
Fontenay. He had been a prisoner of the Germans. He told us that the Germans would
periodically take one of the prisoners and shoot him or her to retaliate against some hostile action
by the French. His father had been an admiral in the French Navy. His family bribed the
German guards and he escaped. He made his way to the United States and was assigned to be the
commanding officer of the SC-1335 when she was turned over to the French.
Ms. DeRosa: Can I just get the spelling, for whoever is going to be transcribing this.
Mr. McKay: Jean Charles DeVin du Fontenay is the closest I can come. Anyway, he
was a character. He was sure he was going to die on February 27, 1947. We had many
discussions about that. He said he would have his ship come to general quarters on that day. The
entire crew would be wearing life preservers. We couldn’t talk him out of it. I saw him after the
war and I asked him, “Jean, you didn’t die, did you?” You know how the French are. He just
shrugged the Gaelic shrug. And so, we finally reached Casablanca. George Doyle and I stayed
aboard for a week or so to teach the French crew how to operate the ship. Our French wasn’t all
that great, but we managed with the help of Jean to train the crew. Then, we had a ceremony.
The U.S. ensign was lowered and the French ensign raised, and a little band played the
Marseillaise. George Doyle and I were ordered ashore in Casablanca to await orders. They
accidentally allowed us to stay in a VIP suite in a posh hotel. We each had a separate room with
a bed covered by huge mosquito nettings. We invited friends to our beautiful quarters and served
food and drinks, which cost almost nothing. Our brief holiday ended when we both were ordered
to go aboard the SC-507, which was operating out of Casablanca.
Ms. DeRosa: It was operating as a US. ship?
Mr. McKay: Yes. She was guarding the Port of Casablanca. Our job was to keep
strange vessels away ffom the port. We challenged incoming ships with the current recognition
signal and would be sure that the ships had the correct response. The Portuguese were engaged
in a lot of spying activity. Once in awhile we would run off a Portuguese fishing vessel by firing
our machine gun across her bow. That was a lot of fun. After about six months of that duty, my
captain decided that I should be sent back to the States to attend the command course at
Submarine Chaser Training Center. So, I was relieved of my duties as executive officer of the
SC-507. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had a plague shot. Otherwise, I would have been able to return
on the Pan Am Clipper, which was going to Dakar, then to Rio de Janeiro, then to Miami.
Because I had not had the shot, I could not go.
Ms. DeRosa: You hadn’t gotten a plague shot?
Mr. McKay: No. And so I flew back on a Naval Air Transport Command aircraft from
a port near Rabat. I think it was Port Leautey. The aircraft was called an R5D. It was the
equivalent of a DC4. We landed for refueling in the Azores, and then went from there to
Newfoundland where we again took on fuel. Our final destination was a naval facility near
Washington. After about a week’s stay in Washington, I was ordered to Miami where I attended
the command course at SCTC. After completing that course, I was ordered to proceed to Norfolk
to take command of the USS PC-1596. The PC was a 175-foot steel patrol craft. She had
previously been a mine sweeper, operating out of Bermuda. She was named Effective, and was
designated as AM-92. Her armament consisted of a three-inch 50 gun forward, a 40MM cannon
aft, anti-submarine rockets which were launched from the bow, and depth charges aft which were
launched from K-guns on each side, and rolled from the stem. She also had six 20MM cannons
scattered about the ship. The usual complement was five officers and about 58 enlisted men. I
took command on June 4, 1944. Then we headed with four other PCs to Bermuda. All of the
PCs had been AMs and had been converted to PCs. It was understood that we would conduct
patrol operations out of Bermuda, guarding the island. However, no sooner had we tied up in
Bermuda than we were told we were going to the Mediterranean. This was quite a blow because
nobody really wanted to fight. I don’t think anyone wanted to be a hero.
(End of tape.)
Ms. DeRosa: You were saying?
Mr. McKay: We learned that we would soon be headed for Bizerte, which is in North
Africa. And so for about ten days in Bermuda, we went through a lot of drills. Then we left
Bermuda to rendezvous with a slow convoy which had departed from Norfolk. It was
denominated UGS-34. That trip took about 23 days. We went to general quarters many times,
upon hearing the words, “Red alert. Submarine attack imminent.” But none came. We were
lucky because I have since read that our convoy was the only one of the UGS convoys up until
that time which was not attacked by submarines in the Atlantic, and by German aircraft in the
Mediterranean. Both Convoy UGS-33 and Convoy UGS-35 were subjected to submarine and air
attacks. I think the reason was that we had a huge escort, both in the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean, which included many destroyers, destroyer escorts, and a battleship. And 12 PCs
also served as escorts. I’ll never forget our arrival in Gibraltar. Seeing the Rock was a great
thrill. As we waited for the convoy to form, a huge British battleship joined us, along with
British destroyers. With that enormous escort, the convoy headed eastward in the Mediterranean
along the coast of North Africa. Every night we received red alerts that an aircraft attack was
imminent. We would rush to our stations at general quarters, but nothing would happen. We
reached Bizerte unscathed. When we reported to headquarters, we became a unit of the 8Ih
Amphibious Force, a part of the 8Ih Fleet.
Ms. De Rosa: Now, can we get the context of this? Where are we as far as World War
I1 is concerned?
Mr. McKay: We are in the third week of July 1944. The Sicilian invasion was in of
July of 1943, followed by the Salerno and Anzio invasions. I was in Casablanca while all of that
was going on. By the time I got to the Mediterranean, the Americans had occupied Sicily, and
the Sh Amy was fighting on the Italian mainland. The Normandy invasion had occurred on June
6, 1944. I was not involved in any of those invasions. We knew that another invasion was
coming soon, and that we would be involved. I guessed that the invasion target would be
southern France, and that’s where it turned out to be. And so, we knew that we would start
preparing to participate in the next invasion. As it turned out, the air bombardment and shore
bombardment was the greatest in history up until that time, even greater than the pre-invasion
bombardment at Normandy. The expectation was that southern France would be the bloodiest
landing of all. In fact, it turned out to be mild, comparatively speaking. An Admiral Moon, who
had an important role in the invasion of Southern France, committed suicide. We were not happy
when we learned about that before the invasion. We practiced escorting landing craft to the
beach in Salerno. We then headed for Ajaccio, Corsica. Ajaccio is a port on the west side of
Corsica, the largest port in Corsica. We learned that our job would be to escort LCIs to the
beach. “LCI” stands for landing craft infantry. They hold 45 or 50 GIs. Their job is to land on
the beach and lower their platforms. The GIs then rush to the beach. We were ordered to escort
elements of the 451h Division to about a mile from the beach. We rendezvoused with the LCIs
near Ajaccio the evening of August 14, 1944. We then headed for southern France. H-hour was
0800 on August 15. The landings were to be in the St. Tropez area. We were underway the
entire night, escorting the LCIs. I remember there was a perfectly beautiful full moon. The
Mediterranean was like a calm lake. We already had learned that the Mediterranean can get very,
very rough. That really surprised me. We experienced some terrible storms in the
Mediterranean. But this night was gorgeous. All of us were wearing helmets and life jackets.
We were at general quarters. I remember wondering why people were thinking of killing each
other on such a beautiful night. As we approached the beach, we came upon the first line of the
shore-bombardment units, a line of battleships blasting the beach. I remember most vividly
seeing the beautiful French battleship, Richelieu. She was the most beautiful ship I have ever
seen. We went by the line of battleships firing those tons of shells at the beach. Then we passed
by the cruisers, and then the destroyers. During this period, we could hear the air bombardment,
the bombs dropping and exploding so fast, it sounded like a loud, continuous drum roll. Our LCI
charges were following us as we headed for the beach. When we reached a point about 2,000
yards from the beach, we signaled the leading LCI to continue on course. We then turned back
and headed out to sea. We saw several hostile planes. We also saw our ships firing at British
Spitfires. I felt sorry for the British pilots who were trying to land on newly constructed landing
strips. It was a bit of a chaotic situation. But none of them was hit by the so-called friendly fire.
After D-Day, we had a number of assignments. One of them was to circle the U.S.
battleship Nevada one night, to protect her from underwater saboteurs. After leaving the
Southern France area, the PC-1596 engaged in escorting small convoys of LSTs or LCIs to
various ports in the Mediterranean. Palermo, Sicily, became our main operating base.
Whenever we needed major repairs, we went to Bizerte. We patrolled out of Marseille for
several weeks, protecting the port from entry by enemy vessels. We operated out of Naples, to a
certain extent. On several occasions, we conducted a night patrol out of Leghorn. We operated
under the command of the British Navy. The patrol was called the “NifYy” patrol. We never
figured out where the name came from. Our mission was to prevent German E-Boats, based in
La Spezia, from attacking the ships in the Leghorn. We patrolled about five miles off the beach,
coming as close to La Spezia as we dared, then turning back for ten miles or so, then turning
toward La Spezia again. That would go on until dawn. We patrolled beyond the front lines of
the U.S. Sth Army, which was battling the Germans in the mountains. We had a ringside seat of
the war. It was like a huge Fourth of July celebration. One of us would point to the beach and
say, “Oh my God, look at that!” We would see these huge explosions and thousands of tracers.
The SIh Army was fighting the Germans in the rugged mountains, while we were a few miles
away, comfortable in our little ship. That was a very interesting experience. We were in
Palermo on VE Day. That was May 8, 1945. The word came over the BBC radio that the
Germans had surrendered. The poor people in Sicily had suffered for years. First, the Americans
bombed them. After the Americans captured Sicily, the Germans bombed them. They were
bombed repeatedly by both sides. VE Day was an absolutely beautiful day in all respects. A
couple of officers and I went uptown. It was so heartwarming to watch these people. Everybody
was out walking with linked arms, as Europeans do. Bells were ringing. People were smiling
and laughing. It was wonderful. No more war for them. The PC-1596 was ordered to escort a
group of small landing craft to Oran. After that, 13 PCs gathered in Oran to get ready for the trip
to the United States. Off we went, some of the ships flying “Homeward Bound” pennants. The
seas were rough and the winds were high. The only incidents of note were when we twice passed
surfaced German U-Boats on their way home. We stared at them without binoculars. It gave us
an eerie feeling to see those ugly boats. We stopped for refueling in Horta in the Azores. Our
next stop was Bermuda, where we again refueled. We then proceeded to Charleston.
After I reported to naval headquarters in Charleston, we were ordered to proceed to
Jacksonville, where the ship was to go into dry dock for repairs prior to proceeding to the Pacific.
I received orders, upon being relieved as commanding officer of the PC-I 596, to report to the
Pacific by the fastest available government transportation, first to San Francisco, then to
Honolulu, then to Okinawa. I didn’t look forward to duty in the Pacific, with the terrible things
going on out there, including the Kamikaze attacks. An officer named Bill Taylor had been
assigned to take command. But, since I was the captain, I delayed being relieved of command
and kept stalling. After the atomic bombs were dropped, I figured that war would end pretty
soon. And it ended while I was in Jacksonville. I then turned the ship over to Bill Taylor and
headed for Washington. My orders to the Pacific were cancelled.
I should back up, because I neglected to tell about a very momentous thing that happened.
While we were on patrol duty out of Marseille, President Roosevelt died. That was a huge
shock. I was in command of a task force of four PCs assigned to protect the port of Marseille.
We were the only United States ships in port. I was the senior officer on board the U.S. ships.
By then I was a full lieutenant. The official term was Senior Officer Present Afloat, or SOPA.
Naval regulations provided that, upon the death of the President, the SOPA was required to
conduct a ceremony on his ship to be attended by the crews of all ships in the port. Everyone
was required to wear black armbands. Well, I nearly died when I read that. We rushed around,
getting our mess hall ready for the ceremony. We located material to make arm bands. We were
about to notify the other ships of the time of the ceremony when we received a message from the
Naval headquarters at Marseille that, due to wartime conditions, naval regulations were
suspended insofar as they applied to the death of the President. So I was spared from that ordeal.
I was very relieved. That was a memorable occasion. No one, at least not me, knew anything
about Harry Truman.
Ms. DeRosa: So it was memorable. Were people frightened or sad?
Mr. McKay: We were not frightened. We were very sad, yes. It was a terrible blow. It
was like when Kennedy was killed. Not that horrible. The President had been sick. It was one
of those events that sticks in your mind because it was such a historical thing to have happened.
It seemed a shame because VE Day came along soon after President Roosevelt died. He didn’t
get to celebrate that great day. As I said, I returned to Washington after VE Day. I was relieved
from active duty, but remained in the reserves for a couple of years.
Ms. DeRosa: Can I back you up for one thing? You mentioned your reaction was that
war would be over soon. Is there anything else that you remember about it?
Mr. McKay: I remember being in a barber shop’s chair in Jacksonville. I heard one
barber say to the other barber, “Hey, I just heard over the radio that they dropped a bomb on
Japan that has the equivalent power of 40,000 tons of TNT.” I thought “baloney,” but soon
learned that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. Then another was dropped on
Nagasaki. That may have been overkill, but I have no regrets that the bomb was dropped on
Hiroshima. It probably saved my life and the lives of thousands of other. I had been ordered to
Okinawa for duty on another ship. I’ve seen the plans prepared for the invasion of Japan. They
have been declassified. At least a million casualties were expected. It would have been a terribly
costly invasion. After the bombs were dropped, there was a great wave of hope that the war
would be over soon.
We were staying in Jacksonville. My wife had come from the Washington area. Some of
the other officers’ wives were there. We were waiting for orders to go to the Pacific. Then, we
didn’t have to go. That was a big relief for everybody.
I had completed a year of law school at Georgetown night school. I mentioned that a
friend had suggested I go to school. Incidentally, my friend was on one of the ships that escorted
the convoy to Bizerte. He and I had a wonderful reunion in Bizerte. He was killed on July 24,
1945, a few weeks before the war ended. He was on the USS Underhill, DE-682. She was sunk
by a suicide submarine that the Underhill was attacking. The submarine blew itself up under the
magazine of the Underhill, killing 112 members of the crew. On every July 24 there is a
ceremony in Annapolis in honor of the Underhill. I went last year. I couldn’t go this year. I
keep in touch with my friend’s granddaughter and his son, who was born on July 12, 1944. I was
the one who informed his father of his son’s birth by blinker message while we were in Bizerte.
Getting back to my return to Washington, I could either return to my job in the
Department of Agriculture, where I was promised a two-grade raise, or I could get a daytime job
and go to law school at night. One of the officers I met in the Mediterranean was the legal officer
of the 8‘h Amphibious Forces. I learned he was in Washington. His name was David Louisell.
And so, when I got to Washington, I went to see him at naval headquarters. I told him I didn’t
know whether to continue with law school or work for the Department of Agriculture. I was
mamed and my wife was pregnant. They were offering me a two-grade raise which would pay
nearly $5,000 a year. That sounds like peanuts now, but was a lot of money then. He said, “Why
don’t you talk to my law firm?” His firm was Covington, Burling, Rublee, Acheson and Shorb.
The Acheson was Dean Acheson, who later became Secretary of State.
Ms. DeRosa: Covington, BurlingMr. McKay: Covington, Burling and Rublee, Acheson and Shorb. So, I went up and
talked to Gerhard A. Gesell, who later became a district court judge. He said, “We’d like to help
out you fellows, but we can’t pay you any more than $1 50 a month.” I told him, “I can’t do that.”
And back to the Department of Agriculture I went to report for duty. But I changed my mind. I
just did not want to work for the Department of Agriculture. My decision was triggered by the
condescending attitude of the personnel officer. I had a huge chip on my shoulder in those days.
And so, when I walked out of his room and saw an empty telephone booth, I entered it and
telephoned the law firm. Fortunately, I had a nickel. That’s all I needed. I spoke to Dick Moore,
one of the lawyers I had talked to when I had visited the firm. I asked him if the law clerk job
was still open. He said, “Yes, but why?” I said “Never mind why. I’ll take it.” He later told me
he thought I was crazy. And so I went to work as a law clerk at Covington & Burling at $150 a
Ms. DeRosa: Do you remember when you started?
Mr. McKay: In October of 1945. I was able to start law school that term. I went to
classes five nights a week, and continued through the summer. I finally got my LL.B degree in
February of 1947. At the firm, I had the good fortune of being assigned to work for Howard
Westwood, who was the dean of the aviation bar. The firm represented American Airlines.
Howard was the greatest mentor I’ve ever had, although he was very rough on me. He had been
a corporal in the Marine Corps, and was delighted with the fact that he was giving orders to a
former officer in the United States Navy. I’d been a lieutenant commander in the Navy. He did
it in a good humored way, but, as I said, it was tough going.
Ms. DeRosa: This was when you were a law clerk but also after you wereMr. McKay: As a law clerk until I was admitted to the bar. I worked continuously for
Howard until I went to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1948. Working for Howard Westwood was
a fabulous experience. He taught me more than I’ve ever learned from anybody else. Even now,
when I have to get a job done, I pretend that Howard Westwood has asked me to do it. That
spurs me on. He was a great man and a great mentor. In June of 1946, I took the bar
examination, even though I was still in law school. You could do that then. I passed the
examination, and was admitted to the bar in October of 1946. I had the nerve to insist that, since
I was now a lawyer, I should be paid as a lawyer. My salary was increased to around $3,000 a
year. A few months after I got my LL.B degree, an episode occurred which led to a career
change, and greatly affected my career in a positive way. I was sitting in my office, which I
shared with another lawyer. The telephone rang. When I answered, a voice said, “Mr. McKay?”
I said “Yes.” She said, “ I’m calling from the United States Attorney’s Office. The United States
Attorney would like to see you if you could come to his office.”
People had been playing practical jokes on each other in our office. I said, “Oh yeah?”
She said, “Yes.” Then I began to cross-examine her. I asked, “What’s the name of the United
States Attorney?” She said, “Well, George Moms Fay.” Then I asked, “Where is his office
located?” She said “We’re down in the district courthouse.” Then, I asked, “What’s your
telephone number?” She gave me a number, and I told her I would call her back. So I dialed the
number she’d given me. The same voice answered. I was really embarrassed. So I said, “Look,
I’m sorry. I feel like a fool.” Then a man’s voice came on the line. The man said, “Mr. McKay,
this is really the United States Attorney.”
I started to babble. He interrupted and said that Dean Fegan had given him my name,
and that he would like to talk to me. And so, down I went to his office. I’d been watching the
television program called “Mr. District Attorney,” or something like that. I had visualized
somebody who would look like the television character. However, Mr. Fay looked like he was
about 25 years old. He offered me a job as an Assistant United States Attorney. After talking to
Howard Westwood about it, I agreed to accept the position. It was one of the smarter decisions
that I have made in my life. Getting that kind of experience trying cases is just incredibly
wonderful. I was in court continuously, trying mostly misdemeanors. I also handled cases in
what was then called the Municipal Court of Appeals, and is now the D.C. Court of Appeals. I
wrote briefs and argued cases in that court and also in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of
Appeals. I was very lucky. I had lots of trials and wrote a number of briefs and argued a number
of cases in the two appellate courts. Then one day the phone rang. Gerhard A. Gesell was on
the line. He said he wanted to see me in his office. And so up to the firm I went and met with
Mr. Gesell. He said that the executive committee of the firm wanted me to return. He sort of
stumbled over the next words which were “on a permanent basis.” I said, “Well, I can’t come
now.” I wanted to put in more time in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. When I told my fellow
Assistant U.S. Attorneys that I’d put Gesell off, they thought I’d lost my mind. But I stayed on
for another six months. It wasn’t as long as I would have liked, but I did have the chance to go
back to a great firm. So I returned to Covington, I believe in the fall of 1949. I can’t remember
Ms. DeRosa: Let me just ask, Judge Gesell, was he- Mr. McKay: He was on the
executive committee. He was also one of our most prominent litigators. When I talked to him he
said that the firm needed to have someone who at least knew where the courthouse was. That
obviously was an exaggeration. He was looking for somebody to help with the litigation in the
office. Shall I continue?
Ms. DeRosa: Yes. As you do, I think it would be interesting to give a flavor of what
Covington was like.
Mr. McKay: Okay. Well, at that time in 1948 or 1949, we were on the two floors of
the Union Trust Building at the southwest comer of 15‘h and H Streets. Our main entry was on
the seventh floor. We had all of the seventh floor and one-half of the sixth floor. Our
bookkeeping department was in one room on the fifth floor. What a difference. Now we have a
huge accounting department, with layers of bureaucrats. They would drop dead if they heard me
refer to it as the bookkeeping department. We had maybe 35 lawyers when I first went to work
as a law clerk. Many of the lawyers were still in the service. As the firm grew, we cut a hole
through the wall and took offices on two floors of the Walker Building, next door. Judge
Covington had died before the war ended. The name of the firm was Covington, Burling,
Rublee, Acheson and Shorb until Mr. Acheson became Secretary of State. Mr. John Lord
O’Brian had joined our firm after the war. When Mr. Acheson left to become Secretary of State,
the name of the firm was changed to Covington, Burling, Rublee, O’Brian and Shorb. Mr.
O’Brian was one of the most wonderful men that ever lived. He was a truly great lawyer. He
joined the firm when he was in his 70s. He was head of the War Production Board during the
war. He was from Buffalo. He was probably the most prominent lawyer in the United States at
that time. He lived to be nearly 100 years old. I worked with Mr. Gesell on several cases. Then
I was assigned to a case in which we represented DuPont. DuPont was by far our most important
client in those days. We represented DuPont simultaneously in about six huge antitrust suits. I
was assigned to work for a case referred to as “the paint case.” I don’t know how much detail
you want. DuPont formulated and patented a synthetic finish called “Duco.” Before that
synthetic finish was developed, automobiles were lacquered by hand, one at a time. Many coats
of lacquer were used on each automobile. After Duco was invented, automobiles were put on an
assembly line and the synthetic finish was sprayed on them as they went by. Duco was used in
industries other than the automotive industry. It was used as a finish for houses, for locomotives,
refrigerators, and for many other manufactured products. Duco was enormously profitable.
DuPont entered into licenses with many paint companies, which allowed them to use Duco on
their manufactured products. Those companies included Sherwin & Williams, Pittsburgh Plate
Glass, Glidden, and many others. Those companies paid a license fee which permitted them to
manufacture Duco. Dupont established the price at which the Duco products could be sold by
the licensees to their customers. DuPont’s biggest customer was General Motors. Duco was
used on General Motors automobiles and on other products manufactured by Dupont, such as
refrigerators, locomotives, and house paints. The Duco patent finally expired. However, the
Department of Justice claimed that the paint companies continued to agree on the resale prices of
the Duco finishes, even though the licenses also had expired. An indictment was issued in
Pittsburgh, charging the entire finishes industry with price fixing in violation of Section 1 of the
Sherman Act. There were about 12 corporate defendants and about another 15 or so individual
defendants. As I said, I was assigned to work on the case.
At that time, another unbelievable lawyer entered my life. His name was Hugh B. Cox.
Mr. Cox, and I never called him anything but Mr. Cox, came fiom a firm that had an office in
New York and an office in Washington. In New York, the firm was called Cleary, Gottlieb,
Friendly & Ball. In Washington, it was called Cleary, Gottlieb, Friendly & Cox. The Friendly
was later Judge Friendly of the Second Circuit. Mr. Cox left that firm and came with us. It was
one of the luckiest breaks our firm ever had. I had the great luck of working with him on the
paint case. All the indicted companies and individuals pleaded nolo contendere, except DuPont
and Glidden. We had a lot of pretrial work to do, and then we had a two-and-a-half month’s jury
trial in Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful experience. We had a great trial team. My colleagues
included Burke Marshall. Burke later became Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil
Rights Division under President Kennedy and President Johnson. He became one of the top
executives of IBM. He preferred academia and ended his career as associate dean of Yale Law
School. He died about two months ago. He was a wonderful man. After an exciting trial, the
jury brought in verdicts of not guilty as to DuPont and Glidden. How much detail do you want
me to go into?
Ms. DeRosa: Well, I think, particularly as you’ve been doing significant cases and why
they are significant and what is interesting.
Mr. McKay: Mr. Cox was an interesting and remarkable man. He loved England. He
was educated at Oxford. The only holidays he ever took were to go to London where he bought
his suits and visited libraries. He’s my all-time hero as a lawyer. He represented the
Pennsylvania Railroad and I was fortunate enough to represent the Pennsylvania Railroad in
many jury cases. That’s how I got a great deal of civil trial experience. I had a great deal of
criminal trial experience at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
I was involved in many personal injury cases on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad,
including grade crossing crashes, derailments, windows being broken by children throwing
stones at trains, and electrifications. The Pennsylvania Railroad was electrified. Children and
adults would climb on the boxcars, touch a wire, and be zapped by 10,000 volts. I was involved
in many interesting jury trials. I appeared before many trial judges and appellate judges. I was
fortunate as an associate to get that much trial experience in such a large law firm. Many of our
associates don’t get a great deal of trial experience, other than being second chair or taking
Ms. DeRosa: And that was as true back then as it is now?
Mr. McKay It was. I was lucky because of working for Mr. Cox and his happening to
represent the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Ms. DeRosa: Was Covington mostly a litigating firm at that point?
Mr. McKay: It was a large litigating firm, but not to the extent that Hogan & Hartson
was. We did have a large antitrust practice and very larger tax practice. Our international law
practice also was very active. The antitrust cases were the largest cases we handled during that
period, in terms of the number of lawyers involved. The next huge case I worked on was the socalled “General Motors case.” I believe it was the largest antitrust suit that had been brought as
of that time. It was a civil divestment case under the antitrust laws. DuPont owned 25 percent or
30 percent of the stock of General Motors. The government claimed that, by virtue of DuPont’s
stock ownership in General Motors, General Motors was required by DuPont to buy its
automotive finishes from DuPont. The government sought to divest DuPont of its stock
ownership in General Motors. The charge was ludicrous. I actually volunteered to work on the
case. Everybody thought I had lost my mind. The case was thought to be a huge giant that
swallowed up lawyers. I ended up having to live in Wilmington for seven months while we
prepared the case for trial in Chicago. I volunteered because Mr. Cox was in charge of the case
at our firm, which represented the Dupont Company. The Dupont “family” also were defendants.
They were represented by a New York firm, which later became the Dewey, Ballentine firm.
The chief lawyer from that firm was John Harlan, who later became a Justice of the Supreme
Court. The Sidley, Austin firm from Chicago was brought in to help out. There were about 30
lawyers working on the case. We all moved to Wilmington where we prepared for trial. I had a
wonderful experience because Mr. Cox gave me very interesting work to do in that case. I have
gone back in time because my work on the General Motors case occurred before I began to
handle cases for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The General Motors case was interesting in many respects. I met Alfred P. Sloan, who
was the CEO of General Motors. I met Pierre DuPont. I met Irene Dupont. When I met Alfred
P. Sloan at a lunch, and listened to him speak, I thought how ridiculous it was to think that
Dupont could force him to do anything he didn’t think was in the best interest of General Motors.
In fact, the reason why General Motors bought its finishes from DuPont was because Dupont’s
products were the best that could be obtained. One of my assignments was to visit all of the
many manufacturers of refrigerators that also bought finishes from DuPont. These include
companies like General Electric and Philco. The officials of all of those companies said they
bought from DuPont because of Dupont’s price, quality, and service. Those were the three keys.
DuPont had the best quality and service at reasonable prices. I lined up witnesses from those
companies and prepared them to testify in Chicago. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity
to examine them. I did resent that a bit.
I also developed the evidence involving a company partially owned by Dupont, called
“Kinetic Chemicals.” That company manufactured Freon and sold it to General Motors and
other companies for use as refrigerants in refrigerators. The government claimed that General
Motors bought our Freon solely because of the stock ownership, which was untrue. I prepared
those witnesses and brought them to Chicago, but did not get to examine them, much to my
disappointment. The trial in Chicago lasted six or seven months. I did not have to go there for
the duration because one of the partners, who had been handling the Pennsylvania Railroad cases,
unfortunately died. It was very sad. However, it was a break for me because Mr. Cox asked me
to take over his cases. That’s how I began trying cases for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Ms. DeRosa: After the Chicago trial?
Mr. McKay: The Chicago trial went forward. I didn’t have to go out there until “my
witnesses” were scheduled to testify. I then went to Chicago and met with them and with Mr.
Cox, who examined them. That was the General Motors case, which was a very key case in my
life. During that period of time, none of the out-of-town firms had Washington offices of any
size. As a result, I handled a number of cases that Piper & Marbury, located in Baltimore,
referred to us. I handled several cases for General Electric that Piper & Marbury sent us. They
were not large cases. We used Piper & Marbury as local counsel when we had cases in
Baltimore. That firm was our local counsel in a case I handled in the Baltimore district court for
Parke-Davis, a pharmaceutical firm, against a retailer that was selling Parke-Davis’s product
below so-called “fair trade” prices. At that time, the Fair Trade Act allowed companies which
sold trade marked products to require their customers to adhere to minimum resale prices. That
law was later repealed. The firm handled many cases arising in Washington which were referred
to us by out-of-town law firms. That doesn’t happen very often nowadays.
Ms. DeRosa: And when area firms would refer cases sometimes, did they involve cases
brought by the government or cases brought against the government?
Mr. McKay: Yes, but I didn’t get involved in those cases. We were often asked by outof-town law firms to handle cases brought by or against the government in the District of
Columbia, not as local counsel, but as the principal firm.
Ms. DeRosa: Talking about your experience, would you say the two DuPont cases were
the pivotal ones?
Mr. McKay: I think working with Mr. Cox was pivotal, particularly on the DuPont
cases and on the Pennsylvania Railroad cases. I also worked a lot with Mr. Gesell. I called him
Mr. Gesell at first, but finally got up the nerve to call him “Gerry.” I worked with him on a
Robinson-Patmen Act case brought in Tampa, Florida, against the American Can Company. He
and I tried a lengthy criminal antitrust suit brought by the government in Baltimore against the
Hiram Walker companies and several officials. Unlike Mr. Cox, Gesell let me examine
Howard Westwood was very supportive of me at the firm. That also was pivotal. I had
worked for him as a law clerk and as an associate before I went to the US. Attorney’s Office.
For example, if I did something a client thanked me for, Howard would write a memorandum to
the executive committee, saying something like, “I want you to know what Jimmy has done
lately.” He always called me “Jimmy.” I would say that Howard Westwood, Gerhard Gesell and
Hugh Cox were my strongest supporters at the firm.
I was made a partner on January 1, 1957. At the same time, the firm made two other
partners. They were Paul Warnke and Don Harris.
Ms. DeRosa: Just the three?
Mr. McKay: Three of us. Yes.
Ms. DeRosa: Is that about how many usually were made partners?
Mr. McKay: That’s right. At least up until that time. Some years, only one partner was
made. I believe the firm took in five partners a couple of years later. I remember I was very
nai’ve, because when Eddie Burling, Jr.’s secretary asked me to come to his office, I had no idea
why. When I entered his office, Paul and Don were the only ones there. They were looking very
pensive. I said, “What’s going on? Why are we here? What have we done?” I guess I had a
guilty conscience. They were silent. We were told by Eddie Burling’s secretary to go to the
conference room. We were in the Union Trust Building. At that time, all the partners could fit
into a relatively small conference room. We entered and there were the partners, seated around a
conference table. Newel1 Ellison, who was the chairman of the executive committee, told us to
be seated. He then said that he had been authorized to say that the firm wished to invite the three
of us to become junior partners. Would we accept? I nearly fell out of my chair, but I accepted.
Ms. DeRosa: That’s interesting because I know that the process now is quite formal in
most large firms and it is unlikely that someone would be surprised by being made partner.
There would be a certain amount of time when you knew you’re being considered. But that’s not
the way it was?
Mr. McKay: No. At least it wasn’t that way with me. Don may have been told. Paul
Warnke probably was told by Tommy Austern, who was the partner he worked closely with. The
closest I came to being told arose from the fact that a couple of years before I had received an
offer from the Sylvania Electric Company. Because I had three kids by then and was getting
concerned about my future, I had started putting out my resume to a number of companies.
Campbell Soup offered me a position, which I refused because I would have had to move to
Camden. If you’ve ever been to Camden you’ll know why I refused. DuPont offered me a job in
their legal department, but at that time I’d decided I did not want to work for a corporation. Yet,
as time went by, I began to get discouraged. I was in my late 30s, having lost time by not going
to law school immediately after college and by being in the Navy for nearly four years. Sylvania
offered me a job that would pay about three times as much as I was getting from the firm. 1 went
to Gesell and told him I was thinking of accepting the Sylvania job. He said, “Well, let me talk
to the executive committee.” He called me to his office a couple of days later and said, “I’ve
been instructed to tell you that if you go to work for Sylvania you probably will make more
money than you’ll make here, but if you continue on here there is a reasonable chance that you
will become a partner. It’s up to you.” And I said, “I want to play in the big leagues. I think I’ll
take my chances.” So that’s why I stayed at the firm. That was the only advance notice I had
received. Nothing had been said to me about a possible partnership during the next two-year
Ms. DeRosa: So you didn’t know, It wasn’t said that you’ll be considered in two years
or anything like that?
Mr. McKay: No. It didn’t work that way with me. I don’t know about Don and Paul.
The procedure was not as regimented as it is now. In the meantime, before being made a partner,
I tried a case for DuPont in Martinsburg, West Virginia, I’d like to talk about. Actually, I had
been in charge of several small DuPont cases that were brought in Washington. One involved
selling DuPont house paint to a woman. who claimed to have been poisoned as a result of
inhaling the fumes. She died before the case went to trial. And so, that was the end of that case.
I probably shouldn’t mention this, but I deliberately refrained from taking her deposition, with
the thought that she might die before the case went to trial. She didn’t die from the paint fumes.
The case in Martinsburg was one of the most interesting trials I’ve ever been involved with.
DuPont had a laboratory near Martinsburg called the Potomac River Laboratory. DuPont
manufactured commercial explosives called Nitromon that was used in construction jobs.
Dupont tested those explosives at the Potomac River Laboratory. The testing involved setting off
50-pound shots, 25-pound shots, and 10-pound shots. The people who lived in the vicinity of
those activities claimed that their chickens stopped laying, their turkeys became fiightened and
smothered themselves when they crowded up against a fence in panic after hearing the shots.
They even said that the foundations of their houses were cracking from the explosions. Several
of them filed a law suit in the federal district court in Martinsburg, alleging that Dupont was
maintaining a private nuisance and asking the court to enjoin DuPont from continuing that
activity. It was a very important case because those testing operations were very important to the
company. I was very lucky to be able to take charge of the case and try it.
Ms. DeRosa: Was this your first chair kind of thing?
Mr. McKay: No. I had tried many jury cases as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. After that, I
had been the principle trial lawyer many times in cases brought against the Pennsylvania
Railroad, as well as in quite a few other cases, some of which I mentioned earlier. So I went out
to Martinsburg. I was the only lawyer from my firm, but I was assisted by a Martinsburg lawyer
who had the fortuitous name of Clarence Martin. A lawyer from DuPont was with me and
helped a lot, but not by examining witnesses or arguing to the court.
The trial lasted about two-and-a-half weeks. We had a jury selected from farmers in the
area. The judge was Judge Boreman. He was a terrific judge. I got to know him very well. We
all stayed in the same little hotel. We would be having breakfast and there would be Judge
Boreman, a table away from us. We never approached him, of course. He was a very fine man.
He later was appointed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was an excellent judge.
Before the trial, I followed Judge Boreman around West Virginia to argue pretrial
motions. We had a number of local witnesses who did not want DuPont’s testing operations to
cease. DuPont employed a large number of people who would lose their jobs if the laboratory
was shut down. I remember I was at one of our witness’s home when one of the 50-pound test
shots went off. I nearly went up to the ceiling, it surprised me so. I thought “Oh my gosh! It’s
going to be awfd if the jury hears any of these shots.” I was very concerned. Just before the trial
was to begin, the plaintiffs’ lawyer asked the court to have a site visit so that the jury could hear
the shots. I argued that, “Well, your Honor, it really isn’t fair. The jury would have the wrong
perspective. They will be waiting for the shot and be very apprehensive and nervous.” I did not
prevail on that point. The judge was not impressed by my arguments. However, he denied the
request because it should have been made sooner so as to give the court time to arrange for a bus
to take the jury to the site of the explosives testing. The judge did not want to delay the start of
the trial. I breathed a big sigh of relief.
seismologist from Harvard. His name was Dr. L. Don Leet, the director of Harvard’s
seismograph station. He was one of the most prominent seismologists in the country. Before the
trial, we had him visit several of the homes in the area with his seismograph. DuPont would set
off a 10-pound shot, then a 25-pound shot, then a 50-pound shot. Dr. Leet’s seismograph
measured the sound. To my surprise, the 10-pound shot showed a very tiny wiggle on the chart,
the 25-pound shot a little bigger wiggle, and 50-pound shot a little bigger wiggle. None of the
wiggles was very large. Then he measured the sound of a person walking up the stairs in the
house. That showed a much higher wiggle on the chart. I was a little dubious, but he turned out
to be one of our strongest witnesses. We showed these seismographic charts to the jurors. They
seemed very impressed. I had another seismologist from DuPont testify. He was equally as
good. Some of our other witnesses included farmers who lived in the area. Clarence Martin
presented them as witnesses. Before the trial, Clarence had obtained signatures on statements
which said, among other things, that the shots did not disturb them and did not result in any
debris falling on their property. Every time these witnesses testified, our opponent would seem
to finish his cross-examination. He would walk toward his seat, then turn, and ask, “Oh, by the
way, how do you spell debris?” None of the witnesses knew how to spell debris. That bothered
me a little bit. I had asked Clarence to make the closing argument to the jury. Clarence was a
very quiet man. I was a little concerned that he might not be very persuasive. But I was wrong.
We had a very interesting trial. We retained a
After all of the evidence was in, we recessed until the next day. The DuPont lawyer and I looked
for Clarence so that we could give him some advice on his closing argument, but he disappeared.
We never saw Clarence until the next day, just before he was going to give his closing argument.
His argument was a huge surprise. He was like a Baptist preacher. I’ve never heard
anything like it. He practically had us out of our seats. He closed his argument by shouting,
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, our good people of West Virginia may not know how to spell
debris but, thank God, they know how to tell the truth.” It was something else. The jury went
out, and stayed out and stayed out. We were really white-knuckling it. Finally, the jury came in
with a verdict for DuPont. We learned later that a holdout had believed the testimony from the
plaintiffs’ witnesses that the shots had cracked the foundation of some of their homes, which we
thought we’d shown through expert testimony could never have happened. The juror finally was
persuaded to vote in our favor. That was the end of the case because the plaintiffs did not take an
Ms. DeRosa: You’ve talked about a couple of people at Covington. Dean Acheson went
on to be Secretary of State. Gerhard Gesell went on to be a judge. Was that common at that
time? How often did that sort of thing happen, and who are some of the personalities that you
knew that went on to do different things?
Mr. McKay: Well, there were quite a few that at least did different things temporarily
and then returned to the firm. John Douglas, who is now a retired partner, went to the Kennedy
administration as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division of the Justice
Department. I mentioned Burke Marshall earlier. He left the firm to become Assistant Attorney
General in charge of the Civil Rights Division in the Kennedy administration. John Jones
became a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Tax Division. Charlie Horsky is another
attorney who left Covington for a time to work with the government, He was from Montana and
was the salt of the earth. Everybody in Washington knew Charlie Horsky. Charlie was a senior
advisor to President Kennedy and later President Johnson, for District of Columbia affairs. He
was very active in civic affairs in the District of Columbia. A1 Moses was appointed
Ambassador to Romania by President Clinton. He later was put in charge of the mediation
between Turkey and Cyprus. A1 earlier had been appointed as special advisor to President Carter
for District of Columbia affairs. A1 is now a senior partner here. Gene Ludwig served for eight
years in the Clinton administration as Comptroller General. A newspaper profile stated he had
changed what was formerly a mundane, rather uninteresting United States Government
organization into a bully pulpit.
W. Graham Claytor was another firm lawyer who held important government positions.
He was a terrific guy. Graham clerked for Justice Brandeis. It is said that he had the highest
marks ever at Harvard Law School. I first saw him when I attended Submarine Chaser Training
Center. Graham was an instructor in anti-submarine warfare. After he left SCTC, Graham
commanded a destroyer escort, the USS Doyle. People who are still around and recall what was
going at that time will never forget when the USS Indianapolis was sunk a few weeks before the
war ended. There have been books, a movie, and a television program about the sinking of the
Indianapolis. The commanding officer’s last name was McVay. Coincidentally, I met his first
cousin during the war. Anyway, the Indianapolis was underway for the Philippines, transporting
atomic bomb parts. Captain McVay was supposed to zigzag at all times, but failed to do so at
night. By a stroke of fate, a Japanese submarine launched torpedoes which headed for the ship.
The Indianapolis blew up and went down in about 15 minutes. The ship had been maintaining
radio silence. It was not known for several days that these poor sailors were in shark-infested
waters, being eaten by sharks and dying and drowning. Finally the word came that the
Indianapolis was missing, and a May-day signal went out. Graham’s ship was headed away from
the scene at that time. He ordered a 180-degree turn and headed toward the scene. He ordered
that his searchlights be beamed skyward to let the poor struggling sailors know that help had
arrived, even though there might be Japanese submarines in the area. He took aboard 60 or 70 of
those poor sailors. Other rescue ships finally arrived, but about 800 sailors drowned or were
eaten by sharks.
Graham came back to the office after the war. Graham loved the sea and he loved trains.
The basement of his home in Georgetown was filled with electric trains and tracks. After
practicing law at Covington for several years, Graham was appointed Secretary of the Navy by
President Carter. Then he became Deputy Secretary of Defense. Soon after he returned to the
firm from that position, he became general counsel, and later president of the Southern Railroad.
After that, he became president of Amtrak. He remained as president of Amtrak until he was in
his 80s. There is a concourse in Union Station called the Claytor Concourse. If you go to where
you board the trains, you will see a bust of Graham in the concourse.
I shouldn’t overlook Bob Owen who was legal advisor to the Secretary of State during the
Carter administration. Bob argued the hostage case before the World Court. He was the legal
assistant to Richard Holbrooke during the Dayton peace talks and also when Holbrooke
represented the U.S. during the Bosnia and Kosovo problems. Bob was the presiding arbitrator
for the Brcko Arbitration Tribunal. Later on, he was appointed to be the head of the mediators
who are handling the Holocaust claims. His government service has been very impressive. He
has returned as a senior partner.
Ms. DeRosa: Was it, particularly in the earlier years, normal for there to be a revolving
door situation? Or was it a situation where the people who left for the government had been
practicing as lawyers and returned to practice law?
Mr. McKay: I think it’s the latter. I can’t think of any revolving door situation as that
term is usually used. Mr. Acheson had a great relationship with President Truman. It was
understandable why Truman would appoint him as Secretary of State when General Marshall
resigned. When Mr. Acheson left that position, he came back to the firm. But I don’t think that
was like the usual revolving door situation.
Ms. DeRosa: Maybe it’s the right time. We can stop here and the next time, I hope you
will agree to talk about the National Football League and your independent counsel experiences.
ORAL HISTORY OF
JAMES C. McKAY, ESQUIRE
THIRD INTERVIEW – October 16,2004
Ms. DeRosa: We’re starting with Jim McKay. It’s the 16Ihof October and our third
session. Jim, I thought maybe we would talk about NFL cases first. How did that come about
and what were those cases about?
Mr. McKay: All right, I’ll do that. The firm first began representing the National
Football League prior to the time that the American Football League merged with the NFL.
There had been two separate leagues. The AFL came along quite a few years after the NFL had
been well established. There was a tremendous amount of competition for players between the
AFL and the NFL. Lamar Hunt was one of the principle movers in forming the AFL.
Ms. DeRosa: He was a lawyer?
Mr. McKay: No. Lamar Hunt was the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and still is.
He’s one of the very wealthy Hunts from Texas. There was Jerry Phipps who was one of the
owners of the Denver Broncos. There were other AFL owners that I did not know until later.
The NFL commissioner at that time was Pete Rozelle, who was in his late 20s. Rozelle and the
NFL teams had a lot of problems with the competition between the AFL and the NFL,
particularly for quarterbacks. The AFL people were very clever. They would concentrate their
efforts on outstanding NFL quarterbacks. They offered those players large sums of money to
sign contracts with AFL clubs. And they were successful to the point where it became a
substantial problem for the NFL. Also, the AFL tried to obtain franchises in some of the cities in
which there were NFL franchises. When the NFL tried to block those efforts, the AFL sued the
NFL. Pete Rozelle selected as the NFL’s lawyer Gerhard Gesell, who, as you know, later
became a district court judge in the District of Columbia. Gesell was a partner at Covington &
Burling. I had had the good fortune of working with him in a number of trials prior to that time.
The AFL complaint was filed in the District of Columbia. The first court proceeding was
before Judge Holtzoff. He transferred it to the district court in Baltimore, where it was assigned
to be tried by Judge Roselle Thomsen. After I got to know Lamar Hunt, he told me that when he
heard the judge’s first name, he felt that the case was lost. Of course, he was joking. The case
went to trial in Baltimore and after a very lengthy trial, was won by the National Football League.
That lawsuit led to the merger of the AFL with the NFL.
Ms. DeRosa: What were they suing for?
Mr. McKay: It was an antitrust suit. The AFL argued that the NFL had illegal
monopolies over certain parts of the country and that the NFL had illegally blocked the entrance
of the AFL into certain cities. It was a restraint of trade and monopoly case. There was no jury.
I don’t know now why the AFL did not request a jury, but it was tried by Judge Thomsen. Judge
Thomsen decided in favor of the NFL. After that, merger discussions began. The two leagues
were formally merged in 1970. There were two conferences: the NFL conference and the AFL
The merger gave rise to some antitrust problems. My recollection is that the NFL
representatives went to Congress and were able to persuade Congress to pass a statute exempting
the merger from the antitrust laws. The NFL, unlike professional baseball, is not completely
exempt from the antitrust laws, but the merger was exempted. I was not involved with the NFL
at the time of the merger. I became involved when Gesell asked me to take over a case that he
had been asked by the league to handle. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but Gesell had become
impatient with the club owners. He described them to me as a bunch of children fighting in a
sandbox. He was getting a little jaded.
The case he asked me to handle involved a group of people who had tried to get an AFL
franchise prior to the merger, but had been rejected. They had applied for a franchise in the
District of Columbia. The only available stadium was the RFK Stadium. The Redskins had a
lease with the D.C. Armory Board allowing the team to play in RFK Stadium. The lease
contained a provision giving the Redskins the right to deny the use of the stadium by any other
professional football league. When that clause was invoked, the AFL refused to award the group
a franchise in the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was filed by a group of individuals, headed
by a man named Norman Hecht. Mr. Hecht worked for a bank in Washington. And several
others had joined with him to try to obtain an AFL franchise. They also joined him in the
Gesell called me to his office and asked me to take over the case. I was thrilled. Our
firm represented the league in this suit, and Bernard Nordlinger of King and Nordlinger
represented the Redskins. I had Paul Tagliabue as the number two lawyer on the case for the
NFL. He is now the NFL commissioner. He went through his first trial with me. The case was
assigned to Judge William B. Jones, who later became Chief Judge of our district court. It was a
jury trial. Our position was that the clause in the contract was not illegal because its invocation
constituted a reasonable restraint of trade. The action of the Redskins was reasonable under all
the circumstances and did not violate the Sherman Act.
very much, especially when the jury found in our favor.
We had a terrific trial and we enjoyed it
That was the first case that I had-
Ms. DeRosa: Do you remember when that was?
Mr. McKay: The complaint was filed sometime in 1966. The trial didn’t start until the
early 1970s. The delay was caused by the fact that we had obtained a summary judgment from
Judge Jones. However, the court of appeals reversed and remanded the case back for a trial on
the merits. Do you like anecdotes?
Ms. DeRosa: Absolutely.
Mr. McKay: The name of the plaintiffs lawyer was William Joseph H. Smith. He was
a very nice guy and a very good lawyer. We had a good relationship, which makes trying cases
more fim than they are if you have lawyers on the other side you don’t particularly like. Joe
called as an expert witness an eminent professor from the University of Pennsylvania. I can’t
remember his name. During his testimony, he gave his expert opinion as to why he believed the
contract clause constituted a restraint of trade and that its invocation by the Redskins damaged
the plaintiffs. There is a truism, which I don’t think is a truism at all, that a lawyer should never
ask a question on cross-examination to which he or she does not how the answer. I disagree.
Anyway, as the professor was testifylng, I thought to myself, “I wonder if he read the entire
contract,” which was at least 50 pages in length. The allegedly restrictive clause only took up
one or two pages. There were many other provisions in the contract that affected the Redskins. I
didn’t know whether he had read the entire contract or not. When I was nearly finished my
cross-examination, I asked, “By the way, doctor, have you read the entire contract?” He said,
“No.” Since trial lawyer should do some acting, a look of astonishment came over my face and I
asked in an amazed tone of voice, “You haven’t read the entire contract?” He said, “No.” I then
asked, “Well, what parts have you read?” He answered, “Well, I read only the restrictive clause
that Mr. Smith sent me.” Then I began asking questions, the first being, “Did you know that the
Redskins are required to stay in that Stadium for 30 years?” I went on from there, listing the
various provisions that affected the Redskins and asking him whether he was aware of them. His
answers were, “No, no, no.” That was one of the great fim points in the case. It’s one of those
situations that lawyers dream about, but seldom happen. My guess is that the professor never
made that mistake again. His dereliction was very helpful to us, I think. That was a high point in
Another interesting aspect was that we had Joe Foss as a witness. Joe Foss had been the
commissioner of the AFL. He referred to Hecht as a busybody who continuously pestered him to
obtain an AFL. Foss testified that the AFL would not have awarded Hecht’s group a franchise
even if they had been able to lease the stadium. Foss was one of the great heroes of World War
11. He was a Marine pilot who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor. I remember when I
put him on the stand, I asked, “Are you the Joe Foss that we’ve heard so much about?” He said,
“Well, yes.” I asked, “You received the Congressional Medal of Honor?” “That’s right.” The
judge and jury were very interested in that witness.
1 handled a number of other cases for the NFL. Three of them went to trial. Several were
disposed of on motions. One of the more interesting cases that did not involve a trial was a suit
filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the rule that blacked out a game on
television if the stadium was not sold out or nearly sold out. The Redskins were to play the
Cowboys on an upcoming Sunday. The stadium was not sold out. It was announced that the
game would not be shown on television. The plaintiffs lawyer and the lawyers for the NFL and
the Redskins were ordered by the court to appear on the Saturday preceding the game to argue
the validity of the blackout rule. The fact is that the rule was authorized by statute.
And so we all showed up in court on a Saturday morning. The plaintiffs lawyer huffed
and puffed as to what a terrible thing it was that no one in the D.C. area could watch the game on
television. My argument was that Congress had authorized the rule and it was up to Congress to
eliminate the rule. I remember one of the judges asking in an angry voice, “DO you mean to say
that I won’t be able to watch this game on my television at home?” I replied that he could not
and that a new statute would have to be enacted to change the rule. The court ruled in our favor.
It had no other choice.
Another important case I handled for the NFL was brought in the U.S. District Court in
Philadelphia by members of an organization known as the Mid-South Grizzlies, which had
applied for a franchise in Memphis. The plaintiffs claimed that the refusal by the NFL to award
the franchise constituted a violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. After a lot of
consideration by the NFL, the application had been denied. At that time, the league was not
interested in expanding. There was a great deal of discovery. The plaintiffs took a lot of
depositions, and we took depositions of the Mid-South Grizzlies organizers. We then filed a
motion for summary judgment, which, after oral argument, was granted. The judge was an avid
football fan, and his opinion reflected his interest. It was divided into sections, with the first
titled “The Plaintiffs’ Game Plan,” the next, “The Defensive Strategy,” followed by “The Rules
of the Game,” “The First Half,” “The Second Half,” and, finally, “Post Game Analysis.” The
plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Third Circuit. The appellate court affirmed the district
court’s decision. And so, there was no trial in that case.
Three other cases in which I was involved and which went to trial were the Joe Kapp case
which was tried in San Francisco, the Mackey case which was tried in Minneapolis, and the
Yazoo Smith case which was tied in the District of Columbia.
Joe Kapp had been a star quarterback at the University of California. He was drafted by
the Washington Redskins in the late 1950s. He refused to play for the Redskins, opting to join
the Canadian Football League, where he played for six or seven years. Meanwhile, the Redskins
kept Kapp on their reserve list, so that no other NFL team could negotiate with him under the
rules of the league. After his Canadian Football League contract expired, Kapp signed a contract
with Houston, one of the AFL teams. This was before the merger. However, it was determined
that the contract was invalid under the rules of the NFL, the AFL, and the Canadian Football
League. Kapp then signed a contract with Minneapolis in the NFL. After playing for two years,
Kapp decided he did not want to continue playing for Minneapolis. He was able to enter into an
agreement with the New England Patriots which would have paid him $600,000. That was a
high football salary in those days. However, Kapp refused to sign a player’s contract.
Commissioner Rozelle ruled that he could not play for the Patriots unless he signed the player’s
contract. And so, Kapp walked out of training camp and filed a lawsuit in San Francisco against
all of the NFL clubs and Commissioner Rozelle, claiming that the rules of the league had
restricted his ability to play for any team he wished to play with and that the rules violated the
antitrust laws. There were no free agency rules in those days.
By the time I was asked to take over the case, the district court in San Francisco had
issued a summary judgment against the defendants, holding that the defendants had violated the
antitrust laws. The only issue remaining was whether or not Kapp had been injured or damaged,
and, if so, the extent of his damages in dollars.
Ms. DeRosa: Do you remember why the case was in San Francisco?
Mr. McKay: The NFL could be sued in any city where there was a franchise or where
the league did business. Kapp, having attended the University of California, probably thought
that San Francisco was the most favorable venue for him. He also had an agent named Cook,
who lived in San Francisco. It was Mr. Cook who had advised Kapp to walk out of the Patriot’s
training camp, which was stupid advice. They hired the law firm of Brobeck, Phleger and
Hamson to represent Kapp, in particular, a lawyer named Moses Lasky.
And so, we started the trial with two strikes on us, the court having already ruled that the
defendants had violated the antitrust laws. The only issue left for trial was damages. Ham
Carothers, who was a partner in our firm and Pete Rozelle’s lawyer, asked me if I would try the
case. I said, of course, I would. And so, Paul Tagliabue and I, along with a lawyer named Ted
Voorhees, went out to San Francisco to try the case. Our firm represented Pete Rozelle and all of
the clubs in the league except the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco Giants. The owner of
the Oakland Raiders was constantly feuding with the rest of the clubs in the league. He wanted
another lawyer. And so he retained Joe Alioto, who had been Mayor of San Francisco up until a
couple of months before. Bill Willis of Sullivan & Cromwell represented the Patriots.
Covington & Burling represented all the other defendants. Bill and I were very concerned when
Joe Alioto was brought into the case about a week before the trial was to start. We were
concerned about coping with him, worrying that he might be a difficult prima donna. As things
turned out, he couldn’t have been more terrific, and couldn’t have been more fun to work with.
He had a Rolls Royce he drove around town and we often rode with him. He would pull up in
front of a hotel and say, “Watch the car for me, will you?” The doorman would say, “Okay, Joe,
I’ll take care of it.” Or we’d be riding along and cabs would pull up next to us at a red light, and
the drivers would shout, “We miss you, Joe.” Jumping ahead, during the trial whenever a
witness was to be cross-examined, Alioto would say, “Jim, why don’t you go first, and Bill, you
second, and I’ll be clean-up man.” He was always very constructive and helpful. It turned it out
to be a wonderful relationship.
And so we went to trial. We had some great witnesses. We had George Halas, known as
Poppa Bear, who founded the Chicago Bears. Other owner or managerial witnesses were Lamar
Hunt, Tex Schramm, Don Shula, and Art Modell, former owner of the Cleveland Browns and
now the owner of the Baltimore Ravens. We also had Jim Finks, who had played for the
Pittsburgh Steelers and had been general manager of the Minnesota club. Pete Rozelle was a
witness, of course. And we had a number of former players as witnesses. One of our witnesses
was John Madden, who had played for the Oakland Raiders and who now is a prominent
sportscaster on television. We also called Lou Groza, known as “The Toe,” who was a place
kicker for the Cleveland Browns. He’s in the Hall of Fame. There were other former great
players who testified for us. The players union actively supported the plaintiffs case, as it
always did back in those days.
The Kapp case was given a lot of publicity in the San Francisco newspapers and
television. A bunch of sports reporters came to court every day. They mingled with Joe Kapp
and his lawyers, as well as players who were in court as plaintiffs witnesses or observers. We
were mostly ignored by the reporters, which was fine with us. Joe Alioto did get some attention
from the press.
The trial lasted for three weeks. The jury was out for only about four hours. I knew we
had won when the jury announced it had a verdict in such a short period of time. The jury came
in with a verdict of zero damages for Kapp. It was a huge victory, particularly considering that
liability had been determined against us. After that, the plaintiffs lawyer filed a motion for a
new trial, which the judge denied. It was then appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the
The next case I tried for the NFL was the Mackey case. There was no jury in this case.
That was a suit brought by the players union. There were a number of individual plaintiffs, the
lead individual on the caption being John Mackey. The plaintiffs were challenging the legality of
the so-called Rozelle rule which they claimed unreasonably restricted the movement of players
from team to team. If Team A wanted to sign a player from Team B, Team A, under the rule,
would have to give Team B “compensation” in the form of another player or a draft choice, or
both. Team A could not sign player X unless Team A gave compensation to Team B. The union
and the players referred to the rule as the “ransom” rule.
February. As an aside, on the weekend we got there, the wind chill factor was 65 degrees below
zero. I thought I was in a white hell. It was incredible. The judge was Earl Larson. The
plaintiffs lawyer was named Ed Glennon. We learned, among other things, that Larson had been
a partner in Glennon’s firm and regularly played golf with the senior partner of that firm. Larson
should have recused himself from the case. Perhaps I’m building up my excuses for the fact that
Larson held against us after 55 days of trial. We had witnesses from all over the country. We
had many owners as witnesses, and quite a few famous former players, including Bart Starr. It
was fun to walk to the courthouse with Bart Starr at your side. We would be stopped every few
The trial started in Minneapolis in
minutes by fans, calling, “Hi Bart,” and shaking his hand. And so the Mackey case went on and
Ms. DeRosa: Can I just interrupt for a second? I don’t think you identified Mackey.
Who was he?
Mr. McKay: Mackey was a tremendous tight end for the Baltimore Colts. He was
number 88. It was called the Mackey case because his name was the first on the list of plaintiffs
in the caption of the case. Incidentally, practically the entire Minnesota team appeared in court
either as witnesses or to watch the proceedings. They were called the purple people eaters. I
remember that Alan Page, who had been a great player for the Minnesota Vikings, carried a
purse. Nobody made fun of him for that, I’ll tell you. And to jump ahead, Page went to law
school after his NFL career ended. He became a justice, and is today, a justice of the Supreme
Court of Minnesota. That is quite a story. Page was only one of dozens of witnesses for the
plaintiffs. All of them told the Judge how terribly restrictive the Rozelle rule was. We argued
that the rule was reasonable under the circumstances.
After five or six weeks in Minneapolis, Paul and I went to Washington to try the Yazoo
Smith case, which was a non-jury case before Judge Bryant. The Mackey case was recessed.
James McCoy (Yazoo) Smith was a first-round draft choice of the Redskins in 1968. During his
first season, while playing in a meaningless last game of the season against the Detroit Lions,
Smith unfortunately suffered a broken neck. His lawyer, Ken Mundy, filed a personal injury
complaint for damages, even though Smith was an employee of the Redskins and was covered
by the workman’s compensation laws. Then a lawyer named Stewart Johnson, who was an
antitrust lawyer, got involved and the complaint was amended to assert an antitrust claim alleging
that Smith’s ability to sign with any team he wished to sign with was illegally precluded by the
player’s draft. They alleged that the draft was an unlawful restraint of trade in violation of the
Sherman Act. At the time when Smith was drafted by the Redskins, there was no collective
bargaining agreement. Had there been a collective bargaining agreement which included the
draft, there would have been no basis for the claim. There is a labor exemption rule which
provides that a provision which ordinarily might violate the antitrust laws is exempt from those
laws if the provision is contained in a collective bargaining agreement. In this instance, there
was no collective bargaining agreement because there had been unrest between the union and the
owners. There may have been a strike.
Before the trial started, the case had gone up to the D.C. Circuit, where the court had held
that the personal injury claim should be dismissed because the claim should have been heard
under the workman’s compensation laws. That left the antitrust claim, which, as I said, went to
trial. The trial lasted two or three weeks. We had our usual great witnesses. The plaintiffs
brought in witnesses to testify as to how the draft restricted players from playing for the team
they wished to play with. Judge Bryant, to our surprise, found that the draft was a per se
violation of the antitrust laws, that is to say it didn’t matter whether it was “reasonable” or not.
The draft was as bad as price-fixing, as far as Judge Bryant was concerned.
We appealed and were able to persuade the District of Columbia Circuit to rule that the
draft was not a per se violation of the antitrust laws. However, the court of appeals ruled that the
draft was an unreasonable restraint of trade. And so, we lost that case. The Mackey case had
ended by the time the court of appeals issued its decision in the Yazoo Smith case. The next step
in the Yazoo Smith case was for Judge Bryant to determine the amount of damages. The issues
before the court at that point were the amount of damages and the amount of legal fees the
plaintiffs counsel should be awarded. Under the statute, the amount of damages was trebled and
the lawyers would be entitled to receive a reasonable fee. A lot of argument ensued. Judge
Bryant awarded Smith the amount of $4,000 in damages. That amount was trebled to $12,000.
That did not stop the plaintiffs lawyers from seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal
Judge Bryant was very angry with Smith’s lawyers. He was not about to award a
substantial amount of legal fees. We felt sorry for Smith. It may sound strange, but we did. So
we said to his lawyers, “Look, we’ll pay $50,000 if you promise that Yazoo Smith will get it.
We will pay a reasonable amount of attorneys fees.” And so the case was settled on that basis.
To get back to the Mackey case, after the Yazoo Smith trial, Paul and I had returned to
Minneapolis to complete the Mackey trial. By then it was June or July. It was 65 degrees below
wind chill when we had arrived in February. It was about 90 degrees with the humidity about
150 when we returned. It is the worst climate I have ever experienced. The trial ended and
Judge Larson took the case under advisement. Many months later he issued an opinion declaring
that the Rozelle Rule was a per se violation of the antitrust laws. The case was appealed to the
Eighth Circuit. That court held that the Rozelle rule should be tested under the rule of reason,
and went on to hold that the rule was an unreasonable restraint of trade under the circumstances
of the case.
A tremendous amount of time and money had been expended by the owners and the
unions in litigating these cases. There was a change in the leadership of the union. The players
and owners began to negotiate for labor peace, which finally was achieved.
The NFL cases were exciting. They got a lot of publicity, especially in the sports pages.
It was a very interesting part of my life. For a time, I continued to pitch in and help out with NFL
cases. For example, I took and defended a number of depositions. I was not lead counsel. I was
doing other things that I also enjoyed. I had a very good relationship with Paul Tagliabue. I
enjoyed meeting many prominent sports people. Frank Gifford was one of our main witnesses in
the Muckey case. He had been a great running back for the Giants and is in the Hall of Fame.
He later was on Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell and someone who played for the
Dallas Cowboys. Cosell called him Dandy Don.
Ms. DeRosa: Don Meredith.
Mr. McKay: Don Meredith. Right. So it was fun. We never used Cosell as a witness.
Ms. DeRosa: I wondered about that.
Mr. McKay: But we did use Frank Gifford and a number of other old-timers, like Gino
Marchetti. We also used as a witness the owner of the Baltimore Colts, Carroll Rosenbloom,
who later switched teams with the owner of the Los Angeles team. He was a very generous
man. He was generous to his players. He set Gino Marchetti and another player up in Gino’s,
which, as you may know, was a fast food operation like McDonalds. Those players became very
wealthy. Jack Kemp was a witness in the Muckey case. He had been a quarterback for the
Buffalo team of the AFL. Kemp also was the head of the AFL players union. Paul was going to
put him on the witness stand. We learned he was in Las Vegas, gambling. He told us by
telephone he would meet with us the afternoon before he would testify. However, he gambled all
night, then took an early morning plane to Minneapolis. Paul and I were only able to meet with
him for breakfast, after he had been up all night. He took the witness stand that afternoon. As it
turned out, he was a very good witness.
Ms. DeRosa: Who was this again?
Mr. McKay: Jack Kemp.
Ms. DeRosa: Oh, this was Jack Kemp?
Mr. McKay: Who, later-what did he do? Did he run for president?
Ms. DeRosa: He did, but I think he was in the House of Representatives.
Mr. McKay: Right, he was. I well remember that he showed up to testify after
gambling all night in Las Vegas. And so, representing the NFL was a great experience. As a
result of his working with the NFL people at our firm, Paul Tagliabue succeeded Ham Carothers
as Pete Rozelle’s lawyer. When Rozelle decided to retire, the question was, who was going to be
the next commissioner? Rozelle and Paul had become very close. He recommended that Paul be
appointed to replace him. There was one other man, Jim Finks, who was under serious
consideration for the job. Finks was a great guy. He and Paul were the finalists, so to speak.
Paul was selected to become the next commissioner of the NFL. That was in 1989. The firm
continues to have a good relationship with the NFL. We don’t do all their legal work, but we
handle a lot of their trial work and advisory work. The latest suit against the NFL was filed
recently by the Ohio State student, who was put on probation by Ohio State, and cannot play this
year. He has sued the league in an effort to get into the National Football League. The league
has a rule that a player must have completed three years of college in order to be eligible to enter
the NFL. This person claims that the rule constitutes a violation of the antitrust laws. My belief
is that the rule comes under the labor exemption to the antitrust laws, and that he will not prevail
in his law suit.
Ms. DeRosa: Perhaps at this point, you can talk about your independent counsel
Mr. McKay: I was appointed twice. 1’11 explain that if you’d like me to.
Ms. DeRosa: Why don’t you start talking about how that came about.
Mr. McKay: All right. Of course, I had heard about the independent counsel statute,
and knew that appointments had been made under the statute. But that was about it until
sometime in the spring of 1986. I was on the telephone, when my secretary handed me a note
saying that Judge McKenna was on my other line. Recently a friend of mine, Jim McKenna, had
been appointed as a circuit court judge of Montgomery County. I ended my conversation, and
switched to the other line and said, “Jim, how the hell are you? I’ve been thinking about you,
wondering how you are getting along.” A voice said, “Well I’m not so good now. I’m home
with an infected leg.” I then said, “I saw so-and-so the other day (naming someone I thought was
a mutual friend) and we wondered if you are staying out of trouble.” The strange voice said,
“Well, I guess so. But, I’m in bed now.” I thought, “This doesn’t sound like Jim McKenna.” I
then said, “I’m sorry, but are you a judge, or is your name Judge?” He said, “This is Judge
MacKinnon of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.” I began
to babble and stumble around. I told him I was sorry and started to explain my mistake. He
interrupted and said, “I’d like to talk to you. Can you come see me this evening at my home?” I
said, “Yes sir.” He gave me his address. I think it was out in Kensington. I hung up the phone
in kind of a daze. I had to talk to someone. I went to see John Douglas. John said, “He’s
probably thinking of appointing you as independent counsel to investigate Ted Olson.” I rushed
down to the library and read the independent counsel statute. That evening, I drove to Judge
MacKinnon’s home. I met him and his charming wife. Judge MacKinnon and I went to his
study. I had not actually met him before, but I had argued several cases in which he was one of
the presiding judges. It turned out that Judge MacKinnon was born and raised in Nova Scotia.
My father also was born and raised in Nova Scotia. I had heard that Judge MacKinnon was quite
a passionate Scotsman. One of the lawyers at Covington & Burling, who had clerked at the D.C.
Circuit court, told me that Judge MacKinnon often was heard whistling “Scotland the Brave,” as
he came down the corridor. We spent an hour talking about Scotland and Nova Scotia and
Pictou and River John, where he and my dad were both raised. It was an interesting coincidence.
He told me the MacKinnons originally came from Skye. Some years later, when my wife and I
visited Scotland, we went to the Isle of Skye and found the MacKinnon burial ground. I sent him
a postcard, showing the burial ground. We finally got around to business. He said, “I’d like you
to find out whether you would have a problem with your firm if you are appointed as independent
counsel to investigate Ted Olson for possible violations of criminal laws having to do with
conflicts of interest.” Mr. Olson had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President
Reagan. There had been news in the media about testimony that Mr. Olson and a couple of other
Department of Justice officials had given before Congressman Rodino’s committee about the
IrdContra matter. The issue was whether or not those individuals had told the truth. The
Rodino committee had issued a voluminous report, which had concluded that false testimony
may have been given by those officials. Congressman Rodino had requested that the independent
counsel panel appoint an independent counsel to investigate those issues. I told him I would be
very interested in the appointment, but would have to clear it with my law firm. After the firm
approved my taking the position, I was sworn in by Judge MacKinnon. After meeting with Judge
Webster, who was the Director of the FBI, I started to pull a staff together. I selected as my
deputy Alexia Morrison, who had just started practicing with Swidler & Berlin. She’d had
distinguished careers in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District and with the SEC. She was a
very able lawyer. Chuck Ruff recommended her to me. Several other lawyers also joined our
staff, as well as a couple of FBI agents and an administrator. Then the blow fell. Chuck
contacted me. He said there might be a problem because, prior to the issuance of the Rodino
report, Chuck had given unofficial advice to the Rodino committee. The committee was not a
paying client. He had been advising the committee on procedures relating to procedures
involved in the issuance of subpoenas, the handling of witnesses, and other matters relating to the
court system. Chuck was very apologetic. I contacted Mr. Olson’s attorney. Neither he nor Mr.
Olson had a problem. They would not object to my serving as independent counsel. I then met
with Judge MacKinnon. He said, “Look, Jim.” He called me Jim. I didn’t call him by his first
name. He said. “We’ve got to be like Caesar’s wife. We can’t take a chance on there being even
an appearance of a conflict.” I was very unhappy, but of course agreed with him. He telephoned
the other two panel members while I was in his office. I remember one of them said, “Well,
maybe we can give Mr. McKay the next appointment.” And so I resigned in late May of 1986,
about one month after I had been appointed. I suggested to Judge MacKinnon that the panel
appoint Alexia Morrison as my replacement. The panel agreed and she was appointed to conduct
the Ted Olson investigation. Before resigning, I had read the Rodino report. There were many
lawyers arguing that the statute was unconstitutional because they believed it violated the
separation of powers clause of the U.S. Constitution. I had done enough research to realize that
the constitutionality of the independent counsel statute would be challenged and had hired a
woman, who had retired from the general counsel’s office of the FAA, to research that issue.
Ms. DeRosa: And what was that woman’s name?
Mr. McKay: Her last name was Brown. It was Mrs. Brown. She was a Yale Law
School graduate. She was an excellent lawyer. She continued with Lex Momson until Lex’s
report was completed. The constitutionality of the statute was challenged. The case went to the
Supreme Court after the D.C. Circuit had ruled the statute was unconstitutional. The name of the
case is Morrison v. Olson. Lex argued the case in the Supreme Court. She won in a seven to one
decision, with Justice Scalia dissenting. That was something that I missed, but I don’t regret it
because in February of 1987, I was appointed as independent counsel to investigate Lyn
I again began to assemble a staff. I ended up with a terrific staff. It included Rob Weiner
from Arnold & Porter. He later was president of the D.C. Bar. He had clerked for Judge
Friendly on the Second Circuit and also for a Supreme Court Justice.
Ms. DeRosa: Marshall?
Mr. McKay: Justice Marshall. And then I was lucky enough to get Merrick Garland,
who also had clerked for Judge Friendly and for Justice Brennan. Merrick also was at Arnold &
Porter. He now is a D.C. Circuit court judge. I also had Steve Pollak, which was a huge break
for me. I remember sitting at my desk when the phone rang. It was Steve. We had worked
together at Covington on a number of cases. He said, “Look, I read in the paper this morning
about your appointment. If I can help you, please let me how.” I said, “Well, Steve, thanks, but
I don’t think the investigation will take much time.” I hung up. I immediately thought, “I’ve just
lost my mind.” I called him back immediately. I said “What’s the matter with me? Of course
I’d like to have you work with me.” As it turned out, he was my lawyer, so to speak. We had a
great relationship. He was very helpful. Two other partners from his firm were also enormously
helpful to us. Steve was with the firm of- Ms. DeRosa: Shea & Gardner?
Mr. McKay: Shea & Gardner. I had Thor Halvorson, who is a wonderful lawyer and a
partner at Covington. I had Carol Fortine. She had worked with me on a death-row case in
Mississippi. She became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C. after her independent counsel
experience. She now has a top position in the Department of Justice Inspector General’s Office.
I had Susan Bender, who was extremely helpful. She’s now an attorney for the World Bank. I
had a great group of people. We leased offices in the 1800 block of 1 8‘h Street. It was a dump. I
remember some of the tiles in the ceiling were broken or missing. We were very crowded. Our
staff included several FBI agents, an administrator, and secretarial assistance, in addition to the
attorneys. We then began to investigate whether or not Mr. Nofziger violated any conflict of
interest statutes when he had dealings with Wedtech, which was a manufacturer located in the
South Bronx. It was operated by Hispanics. There were laws which required the US.
Government to enter into non-competitive contracts with minority-owned companies. The
contract involved in our investigation was for the manufacture of small engines and tools for the
Department of the Army. I selected Lovida H. Coleman, Jr., as my deputy. Her father, William
Coleman, had been Secretary of Transportation in President Ford’s administration. Lovida did a
wonderful job, pulling our office together and getting us organized. I recall being interviewed by
a woman from the New York Times. I told her that Lovida Coleman was the heart and soul of our
investigation. We had the use of a regular grand jury. We gave them most of their work.
An investigation into Mr. Nofziger’s activities had been initiated by Mr. Giuliani, who was the
United States Attorney in Manhattan.
Ms. DeRosa: Just to interrupt you, do you mean Rudolph Giuliani?
Mr. McKay: Yes, Rudolph Giuliani.
Ms. DeRosa: Okay.
Mr. McKay: The first thing we did in connection with the Nofziger investigation was to
visit Giuliani’s office. I’d heard gloomy predictions that, “Oh, Giuliani’s not going to cooperate
with you. He’ll want to keep this investigation in his office.” It was the opposite. As soon as I
entered his office, he said, “Boy, do I have something for you guys. I’m going to give you my
entire file and I wish you the best of luck.” So we spent considerable time in New York, talking
to him and getting the background information on his investigation of Mr. Nofziger. His office
transferred the entire investigation to us. It couldn’t have been a more pleasant relationship. We
then began to interview potential witnesses. We had lots of meetings with the Secretary of the
Army because it was his department that had issued the contracts that Mr. Nofziger had been
embroiled with. The issue was whether Mr. Nofziger had dealings with the White House on
behalf of Wedtech within less than a year from leaving his position as a senior advisor to
President Reagan. If so, that activity would be in violation of federal conflict of interest statutes.
We had many meetings with William Weld, the Chief of the Criminal Division, and his
staff. Mr. Weld later became Governor of Massachusetts. Although some of the independent
counsels maintained they had great problems with the Justice Department, we had great
Shortly after our investigation of Mr. Nofziger started, we began having meetings with
officials of the Department of Justice on the question of whether our office should take over the
investigation of Mr. Meese, who also had had dealings with Wedtech in connection with the
government contract. The result was that our investigation was expanded in May of 1987 to
include Mr. Meese’s activities. With respect to our relationship with the Department of Justice
officials in the Meese investigation, it couldn’t have been more cordial and cooperative. I think
they were delighted to have an independent counsel investigate their boss. If I don’t forget, I can
tell you later about Weld’s views of Meese. In any case, all of the Department of Justice officials
were delighted not to have the Meese investigation on their backs and couldn’t have been more
We began to present our Nofiger case to the grand jury through witnesses and
documents. We subpoenaed many documents. We had many meetings with people at the
Defense Department who had been involved with the Wedtech contract. We would come back to
our office and regale each other about the sizes of the offices we had visited. The largest office
by far was Weinberger’s, who was Secretary of Defense. He had a major general in the Air
Force as his aide, sitting there with his two stars. I felt so sorry for that poor guy. He probably
would like to be flying airplanes, but he was stuck in that gigantic office.
After we were asked by the Department of Justice to expand our investigation to include
Mr. Meese’s activities, I needed a deputy for that investigation because Lovida was primarily
involved with Nofziger. We were preparing for trial in that case, having obtained a four-count
indictment from the grand jury against Nofziger. The grand jury also indicted Mark Bragg for
allegedly aiding and abetting Mr. Nofziger in his representation of Wedtech in its efforts to
obtain the small engine contract. All of the counts charged the defendants with violations of the
conflicts of interest statutes.
I asked Carol Elder Bruce to be my deputy in the Meese investigation. She had been in
the US. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia for about ten years. Chuck Ruff and
others highly recommended Carol, who had retired when her third child was born. She literally
weaned her new baby so that she could start with us in May of 1987. She did a tenific job,
doing everything that needed to be done to launch the investigation. It was a great help to me,
because, as I said, we were focusing on the Nofiger case. I had selected the trial team. In
addition to myself, there were Lovida Coleman, Memck Garland, and Thor Halvorson.
I wanted Lovida to take a prominent role in the trial and so I asked her to make the
opening statement. I parceled out witnesses, both on direct and cross-examination. I took the
key witnesses and planned to make the closing argument. Mr. Nofziger was represented by Larry
Barcella, who is a very able trial lawyer. Mr. Bragg was represented by Richard Ben-Veniste,
also very experienced. The trial started in January of 1988 before Judge Flannery. It was a jury
trial that lasted for about three weeks. It was very hard fought because we were up against two
very able lawyers. The trial ended with a jury verdict against Mr. Nofziger on three of the four
counts. Mr. Bragg was acquitted.
We had a number of discussions with Larry Barcella as to whether we would recommend
that the judge not impose a jail sentence. We said we would leave that decision up to the judge.
Judge Flannery sentenced Nofziger to serve 30 days. The conviction was appealed. I had one of
my staff, a lawyer named Richard Friedman, argue the appeal. He had clerked for Chief Justice
Warren. He was a very good appellate lawyer. We were reversed in a two to one opinion. It was
a terrible opinion. Judge MacKinnon was so angry that he made a number of very critical
remarks to me about the majority opinion. I agreed. Most lawyers who lose cases believe they
shouldn’t lose them, but in this case, the majority opinion was obviously a political opinion. A
ludicrous aspect of the appeal was that the ACLU filed an amicus brief in Nofziger’s behalf,
arguing that his civil rights had been violated somehow. That was incredible. My opinion of the
ACLU went to the bottom at that point.
We filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, but we didn’t have a chance.
The statute under which Mr. Nofziger had been convicted had been amended subsequently. Our
case was the only one that would ever arise under this particular statute. And so, the petition was
denied. Under the D.C. Circuit court’s ruling, we could have retried Nofziger on one of the four
counts. However, I decided that our point had been made. The trial and conviction should be a
deterrent to officials tempted to violate the conflict of interest laws, even though there had been a
reversal of the jury’s verdict.
In the meantime, we were actively working on the Meese case. As I said, the company
involved in the investigation was the Wedtech Corporation, a minority-owned company in the
South Bronx in New York. The company had obtained a non-competitive contract from the
Department of the Army to manufacture small engines under a Small Business Administration
pilot program which was designed to help minority-owned enterprises. The question was
whether Mr. Meese had used his influence with the United States Government within a year of
his having left his White House position to help the company obtain the contract. That was the
principal issue involved at the beginning of our investigation. However, as we continued our
investigation, it expanded to cover other issues, including an issue involving the
Telecommunications Act, which had been enacted into law. Mr. Meese owned stock in the Baby
Bell companies at a time he was supporting enactment of the Telecommunications Act. We were
investigating whether there was a conflict of interest. There was an issue as to whether Mr.
Meese had violated federal income tax statutes. There was an issue relating to the fact that Mr.
Meese’s wife had been given a job by the Bender Foundation at a time when the Benders were
trying to renew a lease on a building occupied by the Justice Department. There was an issue as
to whether Mr. Meese had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when he had dealings with
Prime Minister Peres of Israel relating to the proposed construction of an oil pipeline from
Kirkuk, Iraq to the Jordanian Port of Aqaba. The Iraqis were womed because the pipeline would
cross through Israel. They feared that the Israelis would destroy it.
The bottom line of the Meese investigation was that we believed a jury would reasonably
find beyond a reasonable doubt that Meese had violated certain criminal acts. But after many
discussions and much soul searching, I made the decision that we would not recommend that the
grand jury return an indictment. We informed Mr. Meese’s attorney that we would not
recommend prosecution. Mr. Meese immediately resigned, announcing to the public that he had
been vindicated. However, when our report was issued, Mr. Meese screamed and hollered that
our report was an outrage. Other supporters of Meese, Mr. Civiletti for one, raised the roof,
hollering that we should not have issued the report, that it was temble that we had expressed our
belief regarding his violations of felony statutes, and so on. There were a number of reasons why
I decided not to recommend prosecution. Mr. Meese had resigned. We felt that the point had
been made. None of his conduct involved venality. His handling of his tax affairs, although we
believed to be illegal, was the result more of carelessness than criminal intent. I felt we had
carried out our mandate under the independent counsel statute. The report was more than 800
pages in length. It explained everything. As I said, we were criticized by Meese’s friends for
issuing the report. However, the statute in effect at that time required us to explain the reasons
for the actions we took or did not take. All hell would have broken loose if we had simply
announced that we were not recommending prosecution. Neither Congress nor the public would
have stood for that. In any case, that ended the Meese investigation. And I’d like to say that our
two major investigations have been said by responsible people to have been among the most
professional and responsible independent counsel investigations that have been conducted. Both
of them were completed expeditiously and at reasonable costs to the taxpayers.
Unfortunately, the independent counsel statute was badly abused by several independent
counsels who believed even before they accepted their appointments that the statute was
unconstitutional. Nevertheless, they went haywire in their investigations, wasting millions of
dollars. Those people who had accepted independent counsel appointments even had the gall to
testify in Congress that the statute was unconstitutional, despite the fact that the Supreme Court
had held by a large majority that the statue was in fact constitutional. I felt, and I so testified
before a Congressional committee, that the statute should be amended to prevent the kind of
abuse imposed by some of the independent counsel and that it should not be allowed to expire.
We stuck to our guns in the Meese investigation. As an example, there was great sentiment in
our office that a certain individual should become a target of our investigation. I said repeatedly,
“Our mandate is to investigate Mr. Meese and we’re going to stick to that. I’m not going to
broaden the investigation.” That is exactly what those other independent counsels did, resulting
in the wrecking of reputations and lives of their victims. In view of those abuses, it was not
surprising that Congress rehsed to renew the statute. It had a sunset provision and died after five
years. It had been previously renewed three times, as I recall.
Another thing about the statute is that the ins hate it and the outs love it. It became a
political football. When Reagan was President, the Democrats loved the independent counsel
statute and the Republicans hated it. When Clinton was President, the Republicans loved it and
the Democrats hated it. It was too bad that an excellent idea and principle were wrecked by
politics. Now, as we sit here today, there is talk about appointing an independent prosecutor to
investigate leaks from the Bush administration. Human nature never changes. I think there will
come a time when it will be wished that there was an independent counsel statute, somewhat
modified from the way the original statute was written. Okay?
Ms. DeRosa: Okay.
Mr. McKay: There was a discussion among our staff, and there was some disagreement,
but I thinkMs. DeRosa: This is about whether- Mr. McKay: About whether to recommend
that the grand jury return an indictment against Mr. Meese. After we had talked it over, there
was no vigorous dissent. No one said this is the worst mistake we’ve made or anything like that.
It was pretty much of a consensus to not recommend prosecution. None of the grand jurors
questioned the decision.
Ms. DeRosa: About your knowledge of the independent counsel statute and how it has
been used, how common was it not to seek prosecution?
Mr. McKay: The majority of independent counsels did not recommend prosecution. I
testified a couple of times about that before Congressional committees. One of the committees
was chaired by the Representative from Massachusetts, who is Barney- Ms. DeRosa: Frank.
Mr. McKay: Barney Frank, one of the smartest men I have ever seen. At the start of the
hearing, the Justice Department attorneys marched in. I think there were six of them. One of
their representatives testified first. He told Mr. Frank how shameful and insulting it was to the
Department of Justice lawyers that they were not permitted to conduct these investigations. It
was really a laugh. I told Mr. Frank what I said earlier. I said it was totally incorrect to say that
the Justice Department felt that way. In fact, the Justice Department officials were delighted that
I was handling the Meese investigation. I had tremendous cooperation from Mr. Weld and other
Department of Justice officials. I named the people in the Public Integrity Section, and said how
helpful they had been, and complimented their professional approach. One of them is now the
head of OPR. They were great. I remember Barney Frank saying how refreshing it was to hear
names of people below the big shots being given credit for the work they did. In any case, we did
have great cooperation.
I should back up and tell you about the telephone call from Mr. Weld after we had made
the decision not to recommend prosecution, but before our report was made public. He asked to
meet with me privately in my home. I refused and told him I would meet in our office with other
people present. And so he came to our office with the number two official in the Department of
Justice. I can’t remember his name. I recall that he said it was like Alice in Wonderland at the
Justice Department. Black was white and white was black. That official was convinced of his
boss’s derelictions. Weld later testified in Congress that he would have recommended a 22-
count indictment against Mr. Meese for gratuities that he had received from his friend, Robert
Wallach. My position was that it’s one thing to talk big, but another thing to indict the Attorney
General of the United States. You would have a huge battle on your hands. Not that we were
afraid of huge battles, but the point was it was easy to make that kind of a statement and
something entirely different to prove their truth. We had looked carefully into the relationship
between Mr. Wallach and Mr. Meese. They were very close friends. But we never found any
substantial evidence that illegal gratuities had passed between Wallach and Meese. Mr. Weld
and the number two official were 100 percent of a different view. After we told the two officials
that we were not going to recommend prosecution, Mr. Weld resigned.
The investigation received an enormous amount of publicity. Our report also received a massive
amount of publicity. Some was unfavorable. Most of it was favorable. I recall in particular an
article in the New Yorker in August 1988. I think it was August 1 1. I still have it. The author
said he had stayed up all night reading the report. Quite frankly, it is very, very complimentary
about how even-handed and thorough we were, and concluded that justice was done. Editorials
from most newspapers, including the Washington Post, were favorable. I have a large file of
newspaper articles and editorials. I hope my children read through the file some day.
Ms. DeRosa: In the August 1 lIh article, maybe you said in ’88. Where was that?
Mr. McKay: In the New Yorker. I have it downstairs. I’m sure I could find it. So, we
felt very good. Our two major investigations were relatively inexpensive. We set up shop from
scratch. We had to hire the entire staff. Our total cost of both investigations was around $3
million. I think the government got its money’s worth from these investigations, which included
a lengthy trial and appeals to the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court. We came out looking
pretty good compared with some of the other independent counsels.
I will say that there are substantial reasons why Judge Walsh’s investigation cost many
millions of dollars. Terrible roadblocks were thrown up by the government. I would like to
express my resentment with respect to the first George Bush’s pardoning of the officials indicted
by Judge Walsh. It was incredible that he took that action, I have no doubt that they would have
been convicted. I will always believe that President Reagan knew full well what was going on.
How could he not have known?
Ms. DeRosa: I think that we’ve concluded. Thank you Mr. McKay for taking these
hours to talk through this.
Mr. McKay: Okay. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed it.
Oral History of James C. McKay
Acheson, Dean, 52, 55,67, 70
AFL. See American Football League
Agriculture Department, U.S., 2, 3, 5, 32
Aiken, Billy, 16
Alioto, Joseph, 78-79
American Can Company, 61
American Civil Liberties Union. See ACLU
American Football League (AFL), 71-73, 75, 77
antitrust laws, 57, 73, 76, 81-82
Arnold & Porter, 89
Austem, Thomas, 63
Baltimore Colts, 81
Barcella, Larry, 93
Bartlett, Robert, 39
Bender, Susan, 90
Bender Foundation, 95
Ben-Veniste, Richard, 93
Bizerte, Tunisia, 4546, 48, 5 1
blackout rule, 75-76
Blue Anchor Company, 30
Bonus March of 1932,18-20
Boreman, Herbert S., 65
Boston Red Sox, 12
Bragg, Mark, 92-93
Brandeis, Louis, 68
Brcko Arbitration Tribunal, 70
Brennan, William J., 89
Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, 78
Bruce, Carol Elder, 93
Bryant, William B., 81-83
Burling, Edward, Jr., 62
Bush, George H. W., 100
Bush, George W., 97
Canadian Football League, 77
Camegie Steel Corporation, 7
Carothers, Ham, 78, 85
Carter, James E., 68,69
Casablanca, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46
Chalk, 0. Roy, 17
Chauncey, Charles, 4
Churchill, Winston, 37
Civiletti, Benjamin R., 95
Claytor, W. Graham, 68-69
Cleary, Gottlieb, Friendly & Cox, 57
Clinton, William J., 68, 97
Coleman, Lovida H., Jr., 90-91, 92, 93
Coleman, William, 90
Come11 University, 2, 4, 5, 7, 18, 22
Cosell, Howard, 84
Covington & Burling, 3, 4, 55-56
antitrust cases, 56-57, 58-60
Hecht case, 73-75
lawyers, 67-68, 69-70
National Football League representation, 71-73, 78
Kapp case, 76-80
Mackey case, 77,80-81, 82, 83, 84
other NFL cases, 75-76, 85-86
Smith case, 77, 81-83
Covington, Burling, Rublee, Acheson & Shorb. See Covington & Burling
Creelman, James Russell, 2 1
Creelman, John Foster, 20-22
Creelman, Margaret, 20-22
Creighton, James Edwin, 2, 5, 7,22-23
Cronin, Joe, 12
Curtis, Gram, 2,4, 7
COX, Hugh B., 57-58,59,61,62
Dallas Cowboys, 75
Defense Department, 92
Dewey, Ballantine, 59
Diamond Walnut Company, 3 I
Dickens, Charles, 9
Douglas, John, 67, 86
Doyle, USS, 68
Doyle, George, 39, 4344
Draper, Warren, 14
Duco finishes, 56-57
Duke Ellington School of Fine Arts, 1, 13
DuPont, Irene, 59
DuPont, Pierre, 59
women’s, 7, 33
Eisenhower, Dwight D., 19
Ellison, Newell, 62
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 6-7
Fay, George Morris, 54
Fegan, Hugh J., 32,33, 54
Finks, Jim, 79, 85
Flannery, Thomas, 93
Ford, Gerald, 90
Fortenay, Jean Charles De ‘?in du, 42-43
Fortine, Carol, 90
Foss, Joseph, 75
France, 4647,48,49, 50
Frank, Barney, 98
Friedman, Richard, 93-94
Friendly, Henry J., 57, 89
Garland, Merrick B., 89, 93
General Motors, 56, 58-60
Georgetown Law Review, 33
Georgetown University Law Center, 32-34
Gesell, Gerhard A. (“Gerry”), 52, 54-55, 56, 61, 62,63,67
Gifford, Frank, 84
Giuliani, Rudolph, 91
Glen Echo Park, 14, 17
Glennon, Ed, 80
Glidden, 56, 57
Great Depression, 18-20,28,29, 31
Griffith, Calvin, 11
Griffith, Clark, 11-12
Griffith, Mildred, 1 1, 12
Griffth, Thelma, 11, 12
as NFL lawyer, 72-73
Groza, Lou (“The Toe”), 79
Halas, George (“Poppa Bear”), 79
Halvorson, Thor, 90, 93
Harlan, John, 59
Hams, Don, 62-63
Harris, Stanley R. (“Bucky”), 13
Harris, Stanley S., 13
Haynes, Joe, 12
Hecht, Norman, 73, 75
Hiram Walker & Sons, 61
Hiroshima, Japan, 50-51
Hogan & Hartson, 58
Holbrooke, Richard, 69
Holland, Jerome H. (“Brud”), 18
Holtzoff, Alexander, 72
Hoover, Herbert, 5, 19
Horsky, Charles A., 68
Hunt, Lamar, 71, 72, 79
independent counsels, 96-97,99-100
Indianapolis, USS, 68-69
International League, 11
Italy, 46, 48
Johnson, Lyndon B., 57
Johnson, Stewart, 81
Johnson, Walter, 12
Jones, John, 68
Jones, William B., 73, 74
Justice Department, U.S., 56-57, 91-92,98
Kapp, Joe, 76-80
Kemp, Jack, 84-85
Kennedy, John F., 57
Kinetic Chemicals, 60
landing craft infantry (LCI), 4647,48
Larson, Earl, 80, 83
Lasky, Moses, 78
Leet, L. Don, 66
Lend-Lease Program, 40
Louisell, David, 5 1-52
Ludwig, Gene, 68
MacArthur, Douglas, 19, 37
Mackey, John, 80
MacKinnon, George E., 86, 87, 88, 94
Madden, John, 79
Manhattan Produce Yards, 27-28
Marchetti, Gino, 84
Marshall, Burke, 57, 67-68
Marshall, George C., 70
Marshall, Thurgood, 89
Martin, Clarence, 65, 66-67
McKay, Andrew William, 1,2, 5-6, 7-8,9,20, 24,25,28
McKay, Curtis Andrew, 1, 8,9-10,15-16,23,34
McKay, James Creighton – Personal
aunt (paternal), 7
banjo playing, 15-16
baseball interests, 11-13
birth, 1, 8
brother, 1, 8, 9-10,15-16, 23, 34
Columbia Junior High School, 1, 18
Cornel1 University, 2, 18
Cascadia Hall, 22, 23
College of Agriculture, 22-24, 26, 28
Kappa Sigma, 23,24
summer jobs, 26-28
creative writing, 4, 41
“Hold Your Fire, It’s Kitteq”41-42
“The Storm,” 4041
dairy farm work, 20-21
father, 1,2, 5-6, 7-8,9,20, 24, 25,28
Georgetown University Law Center, 3, 32-34, 51, 52-53
Gordon Junior High School, 1
grandfather (maternal), 2, 4, 7
grandmother (maternal), 6
great grandfather (maternal), 2, 4, 6-7
great uncle (paternal), 2, 5, 7, 22-23
Henry Pope School, 1, 17
mother, 1, 2,4, 5-6, 7, 8, 14, 18,20, 21
Pearl Harbor memories, 36-37
politics, 8, 24
Porter and Bonnie muck farm, 26-27
Railroad Perishable Inspection Agency, 27-28
reading habits, 9
scarlet fever, 22
sister, 1, 9, 10,23
Takoma Park School, 1, 11
U.S. Naval Reserve
ensign, 3, 30, 34, 36, 38-39
executive officer of SC-507,44
executive officer of SC-1335,3943
lieutenant commander of USS PC-1596 (effective), 44-50
Local Defense School, 38
Pacific orders, 49
Submarine Chaser Training Center (SCTC), 38-39,44,68
cadet corps, 13-14
Western High School, 1-2, 13, 15, 17
wife, 39, 51, 52
McKay, James Creighton – Professional
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, 4, 33, 53-55, 58, 65
bar exam, 53
California Fruit Exchange dealer service representative, 2,29-3 1
California Walnut Growers Association dealer service representative, 2, 3 I
Covington, Burling, Rublee, Acheson & Shorb
DuPont cases, 56-57,58-60,64-67
General Electric cases, 60-61
General Motors case, 58-60
Hecht case, 73-75
Kapp case, 76-80
law clerk, 3, 34, 52
Mackeycase, 77, 80-81, 82, 83, 84
other NFL cases, 75-76, 85-86
Pennsylvania Railroad personal injury cases, 58, 59,60,61,65
senior counsel, 4
Smith case, 77, 81-83
Department of Agriculture assistant marketing specialist, 2, 3, 32, 33, 36, 51-52
Independent Counsel, 4
case costs, 99-100
Justice Department relationship, 91-92, 98
Meese investigation, 92, 9497, 98-99
Nofziger investigation, 89-94
Olson investigation, 87-89
job search, 63
pro bono work, 4
Professional Responsibility Advisory Office legal advisor, 4
McKay, Margaret Curtis, 1,2,4, 5-6, 7, 8,9, 14, 18,20,21,22
McKay, Martha, 1,9, 10,23
McKay, Mary Anne Hunter, 39, 5 1,52
McKay, Robert, 9
McKenna, J. James, 86
McVay, Charles B., 111, 68-69
Meese, Edwin, 111, 92, 94-97, 98-99
Meredith, Don, 84
Mid-South Grizzlies, 76
Modell, Arthur B., 79
Moon, Donald P., 46
Moore, Dick, 52
Morrison, Alexia, 88, 89
Moses, Alfred H., 68
Mundy, R. Kenneth, 81
National Football League (NFL),71-73, 77-78
Kapp case, 76-80
Mackey case, 77,80-81,82, 83, 84
other NFL cases, 75-76, 85-86
Smith case, 77, 81-83
Naylor, Allison, 14
New England Patriots, 77, 78
New York Giants, 12
NFL. See National Football League
Nofziger, Lyn, 89-94
Nordlinger, Bernard, 73
Oakland Raiders, 78
O’Brian, John Lord, 55-56
Olson, Theodore B., 86-89
Orlando, Florida, 25-26
Owen, Roberts B., 69-70
Page, Alan, 81
Parke-Davis & Co., 61
Patton, George, 19
Pearl Harbor, 3, 34, 36-37
Pennsylvania Railroad, 58, 59, 60
Peres, Shimon, 95
Phipps, Jerry, 71
Piper & Marbury, 60-6 1
Pittsburgh Pirates, 12-13
Pollak, Stephen, 89-90
Potomac River Laboratory, 64, 65-67
Prince of Wales, 37
Rasmussen, Marius P., 28
Reagan, Ronald, 87,9 1,97, 100
Rodino, Peter W., 87, 88
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 24
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 8,20, 37,49-50
Rosenbloom, Carroll, 84
Rozelle, Pete, 71, 72, 77, 78, 79, 85
Rozelle Rule, 80, 8 1, 83
Ruff, Charles (“Chuck”), 88,93
San Francisco Giants, 78
Scalia, Antonin, 89
Schramm, Texas E., 79
Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA), 49-50
Shackford, Charles, 2,4,6-7
Shea & Gardner, 90
Shula, Don, 79
Sidney, Austin, 59
Sloan, Alfred P., 59
Smith, James McCoy (“Yazoo”), 81-83
Smith, William Joseph H., 74, 75
Starr, Bart, 80-81
streetcars, 16-1 7
See also McKay, James C. – Personal-U.S. Naval Reserve, lieutenant commander
Sullivan & Cromwell, 78
Supreme Court, US., 89, 94,96
Sylvania Electric Co., 63
Tagliabue, Paul, 73,78, 81, 83, 84, 85
Taylor, Bill, 49
Thomsen, Roszel C., 72
Truman, Harry S., 50,70
Underhill, USS, 51
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 75, 82
US. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 83
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 65
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 80
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 57
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, 4
Vandergrift, Alexander A. 34
VE Day, 48%49,50
Voorhees, Theodore, 78
Wainwright, Jonathan M., 37
Wallace, Henry A,, 2, 32
Wallach, Robert, 99
Walsh, Lawrence E., 100
Walter Reed Hospital, 12
Wamke, Paul, 62-63
Warren, Earl, 94
Washington, D.C., 16-18
Washington Redskins, 73-75, 77, 81-82
Washington Senators, 11, 12-13
Webster, William H., 88
Wedtech Corp., 90,91,92,93,94
Weinberger, Caspar, 92
Weiner, Robert N., 89
Weld, William, 91, 92, 98-99
Westwood, Howard, 53, 54,61-62
Willis, William E., 78, 79
Wilson, Woodrow, 8
World Series, 12-13
World War I, 8
World War 11, 3, 36-38,45-51
British involvement, 47,48
German involvement, 48,49
Japan bombings, 50-5 1
Normandy invasion, 46
southern France invasion, 4647
VE Day, 4849,50
War Production Board, 56
Oral History of James C. McKav
Table of Cases and Statutes
o Hecht v. Pro-Football, Inc., 444 F.2d 93 1 (D.C. Cir. 197 l), 73-75
o Mackey v. National Football League, 543 F.2d 606 (8Ih Cir. 1976), 77,80-81,82,83,
o Mid-South Grizzlies v. National Football League, 550 F. Supp. 558 (E.D. Pa. 1982),
aff’d, 720 F.2d 772 (3d Cir. 1983), 76
o Morrison v. Olson, 487 US. 654 (1988), 89
o Smith v. Pro-Football, 420 F. Supp. 738 (D.D.C. 1976), 77,81-83
o United States v. E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co., 353 US. 586 (1957), 58-60
o United States v. Nofiiger, 878 F.2d 442 (D.C. Cir. 1989), 89-94
o Ethics in Government Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-521,92 Stat. 1824 (Oct. 26, 1978),
o Fair Trade Act (“Consumer Goods Pricing Act of 1975”), Pub. L. No. 94-145, 89
Stat. 801 (Dec. 12, 1975), 61
o Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, Pub. L. No. 95-213,91 Stat. 1494 (Dec. 19,
o Marketing Agreement Act of 1936,Z
o Robinson-Patman Anti-Discrimination Act, ch. 592,49 Stat. 1526 (June 19, 1936), 61
o Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 15 U.S.C. 0 1 etseq., 57,73, 76,82
o Telecommunications Act, 95
RESUME OF JAMES C. MCKAY
Jim McKay was born in South Pasadena, California. Except for the periods when
he was in college and in the United States Navy, he has been a resident of the District of
Columbia metropolitan area. He is a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm of
Covington & Burling.
He attended several grammar schools in Washington, D.C., and also attended
Gordon Junior High School and Western High School in that city. He graduated from the
Agriculture College at Cornell University in 1938 with a BS degree. After working for
several years in various agricultural jobs, including that of Assistant Marketing Specialist,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, he sewed for four years as a resewe officer on active duty
with the United States Navy during World War II. His sewice included sea duty in the
Atlantic as executive officer of two submarine chasers. From June of 1944 until the end of
World War II he was the commanding offcer of a 175-foot patrol craft, the USS PC 1596,
operating in the Mediterranean theatre. He resigned his commission after attaining the
rank of lieutenant commander.
While employed as a law clerk by the Covington fm, Jim attended night classes at
the Georgetown University Law Center, receiving an LLB in 1947. He received an
honorary LLD from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1989. He was an Assistant
United States Attorney in the District of Columbia in the late 1940s. As an independent
counsel from 1987 to 1990, he conducted the investigations of Lyn Notkiger, a senior
advisor to President Reagan, and Edwin Meese, the Attorney General of the United States
during the Reagan administration.
For most of his legal career, Jim has been a trial lawyer at Covington & Burling,
first as an associate and later as a partner in that firm. He participated in many trials and
appellate oral arguments, involving civil and criminal cases, in a number of jurisdictions in
the United States. For the past eight years, he has represented veterans on a pro bono basis
before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He also has represented
parties in adoption, child abuse and neglect, and custody proceedings in the Superior Court
of the District of Columbia. For a period of one year in 2001 and 2002, he was a special
government employee of the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a Legal Advisor with
the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office.
Jim was Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of the voluntary
Bar Association of the District of Columbia, as well as a member of numerous committees
of that Association. More recently, he served for six years as a member of the Board On
Professional Responsibility of the D.C. Bar. Prior to that, he served as Chair of a Hearing
Committee of the Board.
He has sewed since the early 1970s as a court-appointed trustee of the George
Preston Marshall Trust, and as president of the George Preston Marshall Foundation, a
charitable organization which, over the years, has made many millions of dollars of grants
to organizations concerned with the health, education and welfare of children in the
District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
Jim resides with his wife, Mary Anne McKay, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. They
have three grown children and three grandchildren.
Mary B. DeRosa
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), 2002 – Present
CSlS is a non-partisan, not-for-profit research institute (think tank). Areas of
special interest include national security, intelligence, civil liberties and privacy,
and homeland security.
Special Assistant to the President and Legal Adviser, 2000 – Jan 2001
Deputy Legal Adviser, 1997 – 2000
National Security Council, White House
Provided legal advice to the President, the National Security Advisor, the
Deputy National Security Advisors, and the White House staff on national
security legal issues, including intelligence, law enforcement, terrorism,
immigration, sanctions, human rights, war crimes, and law of armed
conflict, as well as ethics, personnel, litigation, and fiscal law matters.
Special Counsel to the General Counsel
Department of Defense, 1995 – 1997
Assisted the General Counsel in handling litigation, congressional
investigations, legislative matters, sensitive personnel matters, and special
projects involving, for example, the structure of the Department’s
investigative capability, information security, and terrorism.
Attorney, Advisory Board on the Investigative Capability of the Department
Department of Defense, 1994
Advisory Board’s mandate was to assess all aspects of Department of
Defense criminal and administrative investigations and to report its
findings and recommendations to the Secretary of Defense and Congress.
Associate, Washington, DC and Los Angeles offices
Arnold & Porter, 1986 – 1993
Adjunct Professor, Research and Writing
George Washington University National Law Center, 1989 -1 990
Law Clerk, Chambers of the Honorable Richard J. Cardamone
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1984 – 1985
George Washington University National Law Center
JD (with high honors) 1984
Notes Editor, George Washington Law Review
Order of the Coif
University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences,
BA (with honors) 1981