The following interview was conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. Interviewee is Mr. Daniel W.
O’Donoghue, Jr. Interviewers are Daniel Gribbon and Michael Socarras. Interview took place at
Mr. O’Dori6ghue’s home on Wednesday, March 13, 1996, at 10:30 in the morning.
Mr. O’Donoghue: So far so good.
Mr. Gribbon: Dan if you’ll just start in and tell us when and where you were born
and what you recall of your early life.
Mr. O’Donoghue: All right. I was born the oldest child of father and mother,
Daniel W: O’Donoghue and Agatha Mahoney from Portsmouth, Virginia. Of course, I don’t
remember anything about my early years. Following me was my sister Virginia, born several
years later and then they had my sister Eleanor who is still living and is married to Dr. Ste,·en
Mr. Gribbbn: What was the date of your birth?
Mr. O’Donoghue: December 18, 1906. I’ll be 90 this year. So, I am still in the
80s. But, one of my earliest recollections is, I don’t know how. much I remember, but I was told,
I know I was there, and I guess I was about five or six and my sister was. four. There were two
younger children that were born by then. My mother and father had a cook and they had this
nurse for us which was not unusual in a middle income family because good colored help “·as
available. I don’t like to use that term in any denigrating way. Madelene was our nurse. a hig,
plump, good-natured, intelligent Negro with a way of jollying people, the postman, anybody. they
were all crazy about her. She’d say the right thing. So one day, when I was about fo·e or six and
my sister four, she decided to take us for a Jong walk. She would often do that. We lived on
l 704- I 6th Street, the A venue of the Presidents.
So, she took us on a walk and decided to go all the way to the White House. I am telling
this just to show you how small Washington was. There was this one policeman on duty and this
little telephone booth, cubicle, and she got to talking to him and jollying him along. She said,
these are lawyer O’Donoghue’s children and I’d just like to go into the White House for a few
minutes. Well, she kidded him along and he said go ahead Madelene, and so in we went and she
went to the West Wing. She just let us in. There was some guard inside and she told him that
the friendly guard outside told me I could come in here. So, we went in there and suddenly the
elevator came down and out stepped President Wilson and he said “Well, who are these two little
red-headed children?” And Madelene spoke up, “Mr. President, these are lawyer O’Donoghue’s
children.” He said, “Oh, I think I’ve heard of him.” \?1ell, he had not, of course. Father was a
local lawyer and he had nothing to do with the federal government. So, he talked to us, and said
now if you would excuse me, and he disappeared about his business. Of course, father and
mother were shocked when we came ?ome ?d heard how brazen she was. Anyhow, that’s one
of the earliest, I guess, tells you how really small Washington was. Now it’s a fortress down
The other thing that indicates what a small and intimate scale it operated, my father was
appointed by Hoover to be a federal judge here i_n our local court.
Mr. Gribben: What was about the date of that time, ’32?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I think I can give it to you. It was about … I am trying to
think, I just lost my time frame but I’ll come back to it.
Mr. Gribbon: He was appointed by Hoover?
Mr. O;Donoghue: Oh, yes. Well, that just gives it to you, it was shortly before
Hoover went out and Roosevelt came in. The federal judges at that time, even on the District
Court, were invited to the judicial reception that the White House held every year and that
included the judges’ families.
So my little sister and I and father and mother all went there. And then when Roosevelt
was elected, I was never engaged in politics at all but again, showing how intimate and how local
things were, I think it was Judge Proctor, who was one of the local judges, was appointed to
handle the local reception of Roosevelt. There was no national thing to handle the inauguration.
So it was all very informal and done by Washingtonians and Melvin Grosvenor was a friend of
mine, he was the son of the president of the National Geographic so we played golf together and
later when he was president of the National Geographic. I would go and have lunch ,vith him.
He Was called upon to set up a reception committee under Proctor. Proctor had other things he
had to do too, of course. So, Melvin asked me to serve. As you may recall the inaugural, they
co-opted all the principal hotels for the Pr?sident’s inaugural ball and I _was in charge of the
Mayflower. Mrs. Roosevelt came in and I had to sit there in the President’s box and entertain her
for awhile and she brought her. daughter-in-law along, Mrs. Dall. And she was a younger woman
and.so I danced with her, we danced at the ball. Again, showing how small things were. I will
say, Mrs. Roosevelt_ was one of the most gracious persons. She was homely, of course, but she
really had a smile·and a way. She made an effort and she made it a pleasure for me to sit down.
It was about an hour before she was taken to another hotel.
Mr. Gribbon: What about your education?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I had gone to public schools. Public schools were very good
then. There was a public school on our street. We lived at l 704-16th Street. Just two or three
blocks away was Adams Public School and that’s where I went to the first six grades. We had
good teachers. The traffic was about zero, but father was afraid of us being in an accident. So he
liked that idea rather than going farther to some other school. We walked, of course, Adams
School was just around the block. I got a good education. After that, I went to Georgetown
Prep. I boarded. Father couldn’t afford to drive me out there. They didn’t have buses then, but
they came in later. I boarded for four years at Georgetown Prep. No, I think I skipped a year,
three years. I got a fine education there. We took Latin and Greek. Greek was required. And
then I went on to Georgetown College. I boarded for the first two years then I became a day hop
and the reason I did that was I didn’t find the courses very hard. You could sit there and absorb
what the teachers said. I always found this worked. You had your text and if you listened in
class, made a few notes and saw the particular angle the teacher had, the point that was original
with him, and I would make a few notes and hand it back to him, it would always appear in the
exam .. I made 95, 98 and all that.
Mr. Gribben: Were these Jesuits who were teaching?
Mr. UDonoghue: Yes, scholastics. We had on? wonderful teacher who was a
Jesuit, Father Chetwood. He was English in origin. I don’t know whether he was born in
England, but he was a very urbane, educated, wonderful, great teacher and really inspirational. I
got along with him pretty well. I don’t say I was his favorite, but I was one of the two leading in
our marks, and he did me the compliment of saying, “Daniel, I would like you to have the
experience of meeting an older person who is really a blue stocking. She’s my aunt.” So, he took
me to a place in Georgetown. I met this delightful old woman. We talked. He fed her several
questions. He said, “Who are you going to vote for this coming election?” and she said, “I can’t
vote for either one of them. Robert, you know I am a Whig.” I thought that was wonderful. But
anyhow, I got along fine with Father Chetwood. He was a real inspiration to me. There were
other good·teachers too. In the first year we had a German. He was really a tough teutonic sort
of teacher. He really made everything hard. We had an opening class of about 150 students. He
flunked out over half of them at the mid-year, and the Jesuits had to come along and reverse it
some. I didn’t like him, but they had a provincial Greek exam and I did very well and this Greek
guy was one of the first ten. My four years there were very pleasant. Two first years boarding
and then on the third year I hadn’t found it so hard and father was a great one for moving along.
When he was born, they used to skip. If a boy did very well they would move them to another
grade. So he took it up with Father Creedom who was the president and a great friend of my
dad’s. They arranged for John Laughlin, who was a few points ahead of me, and we were one
and two in the class. We were skipped to. the next year ahead, which I don’t think was a good
idea_ because the class you get into sort of resents it a little, not really overtly. I was young for my
class anyhow and they were going to proms ·and all that, and I felt self-conscious about girls.
These older boys seemed to be so sophisticated. But, I could keep up intellectually with them. I
graduated from college at the age of twenty.
Mr. Gribbon: After three years?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, I took the full four years there but what I haven’t told you
yet is at the end of the second year of college, I went down and signed up at the law school. The
law school had four years of evening classes. I enrolled. I didn’t ask permission, I just continued
on in college and they didn’t know I was going to the law school and the law school didn’t know I
was going to college.· So, for those last two years, I took the two years at the college where I
made good marks, and I think in Georgetown Law School I was second.
Mr. Gribbon: The night school?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes. I got my A.B. when I was 20, and I got my law degree
when I was 22. I think really, I am glad I took the four years of law school, because those boys
were working, and they were serious and they had some better teachers in the night school than
they had in the day school. They had some leading members of the bar.
Mr. Gribbon: Who were they?
Mr. O’Donoghue: We had Frank Hogan who had taught several years before that
but he got so busy, so successful he stopped. We had John Laskey who was a distinguished
lawyer in his own right I should say, I am going to interpolate right here that one of the big
differences in practicing law in those days, there· were not firms, there were very rarely firms.
Th?re might be a firm with two persons; two lawyers, but the large firm with specialties and so
on was unknown and the leading lawyers were individuals, and John Laskey was one of them.
He prosecuted Albert Fall and Doheny, all by himself. Bill Leahy, the leading trial lawyer just
had one person, well. two persons, he had Bill Hughes with him who was entirely opposite, who
was so schol.arly and would handle the appellate cases very well. Bill himself was a terrific trial
lawyer. But, he didn’t expand. There’s where Frank Hogan would always show his genius, after
he had more cases than he could handle, he got Nelson Hartson who was a great tax lawyer.
That’s the first time you ever had one firm with two specialties like that. Frank was a trial lawyer
and a business getter, and Nelson Hartson was a wonderful tax lawyer. So, that’s the beginning
of that firm.
Mr. Gribbon: What kind of a firm, if any, did your father have? Did he practice
on his own?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, he practiced on his own. At best, he had two younger
lawyers with him and that’s the way I did too. I practiced by myself for awhile and then my
cousin Ross O’Donoghue, you probably know him, Ross was very scholarly, not much of a
business getter, but really a fine lawyer, and then I had Tony Fisher, we had a third young lawyer
who’s very good too. So, my practice was essentially three people with myself bringing in the
business and handling the important cases.
Mr. Gribbon: Did you go to work for your father?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, I … yes, one year father and I were in partnership. Then he
was appointed to the bench which was a break in a sense. George Hamilton’s father was
considerably older than·my father \Vas. George said, “Daniel you don’t know how lucky you are,
my father insists on running things and he is now 70 and here your father is gone on the court.”
George’s father was Mr. Catholic lawyer. He was representative of the Archdiocese,
Dean of Georgetown Law School and several others …_ B ut, he was_ getting up in years, and
George Hamilton Jr. was still Jr. George was i-eaily a great guy, I knew him ·very well. We were
both on the Union Trust executive committee and so on. But, George Jr. who I thought had this
really big practice envied me.
Mr. Gribbon: You got us up to law school where you graduated.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, I’ve graduated, I have my two degrees and then I took … I
didn’t want to start practicing right away. I was just 22 and I had been out West once and I fell in
love with the West. Ride horseback everyday, fly fishing on the east slopes of the Rockies. I
don’t know of any place more beautiful. First time I had been out from under my father’s roof. I
remember taking the B & 0 Railroad out there, completely my own boss. I am going out there, I
don’t have any work to do, college or anything else, law school, and I just had a ball out there. I
just fell in love with it, and I never got over it. Then I went out and took a master’s degree in law
at the University of Southern California. I had a round-trip ticket and I told father, “I have this
round-trip ticket and I can postpone until next year coming back. So, why not let me take a
course at the University of Southern California? By the way, I should say that I had been burning
the candle on both ends. I don’t mean I had a drinking problem. But, we’d go to all the places
that were open during prohibition. We would go out and get very high, not when you had work
to do. We danced with ?eautiful girls, the debutantes, at the Chevy Chase Club, I’d invite them
out there. So, I really developed a lot of sinus trouble. That was my weak point. So, I would
have these awful cases of grippe in the winter. So, father agreed with me that I could spend the
winter and avoid something like that. So, I went to the University of Southern California for an
LL.M. and those good parents of mine supported me all that time.
I got a very modest home with a little porch on it and did my own cooking. Walked to
school. By the way, I was walking to school and suddenly this bird would come and hit me right
in the back of my head. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, well this is an accident, this bird’s going
crazy, but it ,was a big Spanish mockingbird, a little different than our mockingbird, a little
bigger, but it happened. I Jumped, people looked around.and I finally discovered it was my red
hair, I had bright red hair, really bright and it angered this bird. I heard one other person that had
had that experience. I didn’t get the flu or anything and my sinus trouble cleared up. It did me
good. Then coming back, I think I had gotten some sort of stomach trouble. I think there was
something bad with the water there for awhile and I was sick. So, I told my father that I had lost
a little weight and I h·ad. fd like to spend another summer on the ranch and I said it would do me
good. He said fine and I went to this ranch in Wyoming this time, right at the foot of the Grand
Tetons, Jackson Hole. I climbed up almost to the top.
You couldn’t get to the top unless you were a professional, what do they call them, those
… picks and ropes, but I got up to the level of about 12,000 feet. You can just look forever and
you’re looking east and the ground slopes away so you see farther. You see the horizon this high
and I felt like sending a telegram home. I conquered it. I had a grand time there. Then when it
got cold, I told father I would like to get down to New Mexico. I said that I know once I come
back I’m never going to be able to get to places like this again. So, he said all right. So, I went·
down to Santa Fe, it always appealed to me when I heard of it and I ?ot on a ranch that was
reasonably way up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Again, it was very modest but I had my
own horse. At one time, there was this widow and she wanted to take a trip higher up so we
went with a cowboy and a pack horse and made this trip up to head waters, right at head waters
where you could step across the Pecos. The term Pecos just sort of has a ring that signifies the
Rockies at their best. So we Went up there and then it was cold as the dickens. We had to sleep
under a big tarp, warm our feet at the fire, so we had a one ·night stand coming back, but I did get
that far up in. the Pecos.
Mr. Gribbon: Had Willa Cather written her book about the Archbishop at that
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, I read that and had fallen in love with it because of that
book. I’m glad you mentioned it. By the way, an awfully good biography of Billy the Kid was
there at the ranch and I tossed it into my bag as we were going and I was reading that by fire light
way up at 11,000 feet.
Mr. Gribbon: I don’t see how you ever got back practicing law.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I don’t know, but I was realistic. My dear father was
supportingine, and this was in 1930 and things were rough, and so I came back and I went in
with him practicing law and then he was appointed to the bench and then I did get that start. His
practice had slipped some, ’29 was a bad time.
Mr. Gribbon: What was his practice?
Mr. O’Donoghue: It was an old fashioned general practice, but more civil than
criminal law. He had given up criminal law. He had several cases. He won one case, the Riggs
Bank case where Flather and Glover, the two chief executives of Riggs Bank were indicted and
Frank Hogan represented the president and father represented the vice president. And they both
succeeded and they were carried out of the courthouse on the shoulders of Riggs Bank officers
Mr. Gribbon: Didn’t the President testify at that trial?
Mr. O’Donoghue: There were two Presidents to testify. Roosevelt and Taft, the
only time that’s ever happened, and father told me this, “When Roosevelt finished and as he
walked out ·1;ie shook hands with the Riggs executives and said now I know you gentlemen did
the right thing.” Those were the two character witnesses.
Mr. Gribbon: Who was the one that your father represented?
Mr. O’Donoghue: He represented the vice president, Glover, he and Flather were
the two top men. One Frank Hogan represented and father represented the other. He was really
considered almost like Frank Hogan but he never expanded. He just continued practicing for
himself. Frank Hogan really inaugurated the Big Firm. As I look back the idea of getting a tax
lawyer and building a firm, that was unknown.
Mr. Gribbon: About what date was that?
Mr. O’Donoghue: That would be 1930, around there, 1929. He started doing that
before that, I suppose. Father was a member of Blue Ridge Rod and Gun Club and I went up
there several times and Frank Hogan was up there and he never played poker or bridge, or
anything like that. The others were sort of more good fellows, but he was the one that really got
the idea of a firm and bringing in a tax lawyer and then expanding from there. So, when you talk
about the early days, I think that’s one of the biggest differences, looking back, that there were
more single, individual lawyers, they knew nothing about a big firm or any firms. Fi1ms would
_be two or three lawyers. Bill Leahy and young Jimmy Reilly. Bill Leahy was a marvelous
lawyer, probably better than Frank Hogan,_ I think. _He was a superb t?ial lawyer but he never
expanded. Frank Hogan was the one person who really saw what a modern law firm would be.
Now I don’t know when Covington started expanding, you would know that.
Mr. Gribbon: Well, it started in 1919, expanding, they were not big, they really
weren’t very big until about the tiine ’35, ’36.
. Mr. O’Donoghue: Judge Covington was on our executive committee Union Trust,
I knew him well, one of the nicest guys that ever lived. He was on the executive committee and
the board of the Union Trust. I had been on the board and I succeeded him on the executive
committee. It was nice to be on that committee, not the board, because you really didn’t learn
much there, but, we were on the executive committee, just a group of five and it was really a
helpful experience to me.
Mr. Gribbon: Where was your father’s office?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Union Trust, where I was.
Mr. Gribbon: You just stayed right in the same quarters.
Mr. O’Donoghue: We had a little suite at the end of a corridor and at the end of
the corridor.was the elevator, industrial elevator, you might say. Father had the use of that
corridor and had books along it and didn’t pay anything for it and every now and then you would
have to move aside for some elevator traffic and you always had to keep your door shut. It was a
nice office and we had a corridor but the end corridor where I had my entrance door, we kept that
as a bigger room using the corridor as part of that room. It made a very impressive entrance,
wide. We always had one secretary there, private secretary, next to my office, between my
associate and myself. So, a very economical arrangement, but yet, very impressive.
Mr. Gribbon: Do vou remember anvthine about vour father’s aooointment. what ., .,; …., .,; l. l. .
Mr. O’Donogque: Yes, I can tell you that, but he didn’t try for it at all, John
Flannery recommended him. John was close to the Solicitor Gen?ral’s office. I don’t know
whether you knew it, but he represented traditionally, the justices of the Supreme Court and did
all their wills. He was a fine Catholic. I took one of his daughters out for awhile.
Mr. Gribbon: Did you.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yeah, he had two very attractive daughters. One of them, well,
no, I’d better not, but she had an unhappy marriage. The man was impotent and then I had to
handle the dissolution and I was very flattered. Forget I told you, they’re all dead now, but it was
very embarrassing and they wanted an annulment and I handled the annulment and …
Mr. Gribbon: A civil annulment or one with the church?
Mr.-O’bonoghue: The civil annulment.
Mr. Gribbon: That came first.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I remember Walter Bastian. I had to have her testify and it
embarrassed him terribly and I had to do it because I wanted this to be the record for the church
annulment and therefore I wanted a good record because the church is very tough on that, they
will not let a person annul something just on some charge that he wasn’t performing or something
Mr. Gribbon: I’m not sure that’s true anymore, Dan. It used to be true.
Mr. O’Donoghue: . Well, it was true when I was doing it, so I was asking some
questions about, this is just between the two _of us, about what efforts did you make to stimulate
or something like that and the judge said Mr. O’Donoghue, do we have to go over this? I said I
think we do, Your Honor, because I want this record to serve as a complete answer to the church
annulment. I don’t want to put my client through this again, so he said, all right …
Mr, Gribbon: This was Walter B<1stian?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, he was very sensitive, he didn’t like to talk about things
Mr. Gribbon: I am sure he didn’t.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Anyhow, that worked out, John Flannery·was my contact, he
sat with me there. I handled the whole case but he was a very good lawyer, by the way, but, it
was flattering to me to have John Flannery on a case like that involving one of his two daughters.
The other daughter was happily married. They lived down the street from us. And by the way.
Spencer Gordon lived right next to us on California Street.
Mr. Gribbon: You lived on California?
Mr’. O’Donoghue: Yeah, right next to Spencer Gordon. Then my office was right
in the Union Trust Building, so fve always felt close to Covington.
Mr. Gribbon: Some of your clients …
• · · Mr. O’Donoghue: One of my earlier clients that stuck with me the whole time. I
had a number of cases for plaintiffs in which insurance companies were representing the
defendant and the Great American was one of them. Finally, they came to me. I had them my
whole professional career, Great American Indemnity Company. They had two affiliates, excuse
me, Royal Crown which was English, was still insured, big projects here. So, I had a few
Mr. Gribben: Did you handle personal injury cases …
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes. So, that was sort of a rent payer. Most of them are settled
on the basis of almost a regular formula. I forget what brought Providence Hospital to me but
they came to me very early and they were a client the whole time and they produced other cases,
too. So, that was a valuable client.
Mr. Gribben: Were they sued by patients·?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, patients. Anything could happen in a hospital. I had
several case? in which doctors were dissatisfied with the hospital and one which really worried
me. Two elderly doctors had been there-a long ti?e and one was getting blind and the other had
terrible arthritis. They were in the x-ray department. The one that had sight would direct the
other one who had his hands to tum the knobs. I didn’t like that a bit. They were old-time
doctors and they were loved by friends, Catholics, and the D.C. Medical Association. I told the
sister who ran the hospital, “We’ve got to stop this, you’re going to be sued.” I still worried more
and more about that; ihey were getting old too. The sister said we can’t tell them Mr.
O’Donoghue, if you feel they should be fired you have to do it. I didn’t want to do it because they
were friends of friends of mine. But I realized I had to do it, and I did, and they were shocked. It
was a sad thing to do. One doctor actually told me, he said, Dan, I heard you fired those two.
How could you do that, and it was awful to him. They hadn’t realized they were all getting old.
The Providence Hospital was a good client. By the way, they were the first general hospital in
the city. How it came about, I never got a chance to research it completely, but there was pretty
good tradition that during the Civil War Lincoln needed more nurses in the hospital here and they
looked around and they found the Sisters of St. Joseph in Emmitsburg. These young ladies
trained as nurses so they were invited down during the Civil War to handle all kinds of cases. A
special Act of Congress. That’s a great distinction: At Georgetown commencement, they always
read the great charter passed by Congress. They had a special charter. Providence had the same
thing. We had to broaden it, and I didn’t want to give that up. I think I got an Act of Congress
amending it rather than re-incorporating under the gen?ral incorporation law. That’s what others
had to do. The old original charter was defective; it didn’t have· enough powers in it. The
Congress had passed the law that any corporation like thatcould be re-incorporated under the
D.C. General Corporation Act. I thought, you don’t want to give up that distinction of a charter
that .goes back, signed by President Lincoln. I got a special Act of Congress to broaden the
Mr. Gribbon: How did you get that through?
Mr. O’Donoghue: John McCormick helped me. I made that case on the merits
too. I had to testify several times.
Mr. Gribbon: Did you know McCormick?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I think I met him.
Mr. Gribbon: He wasn’t the Speaker?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, he was the Speaker.
Mr. Gribbon: He can provide a lot of help.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Senator Pastore was a big help too.
Mr. Gribbon: Was he?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yeah. I appeared before Congress a number of times. -I was a
member ofthe Hospital Council. I don’t know if you knew Joseph Himes. He was the one who
really brought them all together. The hospitals each were going their o\vn way, and they really
needed him. So, he formed a Council._ I was on the hoard in legal mauers. So, that was an
Mr. Gribbon: Yes, think of some more.
Mr. O’Dono ghue: That reminds me. we_ had a member of the Barristers who went
to an island in the South Pacific and he came bac? and gave a very wonderful talk to the
Barristers and when he finished, I said that was fr1scinating, tell us “Samoa”. I can’t resist the pun.
Let’s get back to this. I had an interesting case in 1937, I think it was. My client was a
member of the family lhat handled Steinway pianos and the elder sister was a great pianist and
they had a store on, the best music store in the city, G Street and 11th. I used to go there to buy
records. Polly’s mother [Mrs. O’Donoghucl lived here all her life. She was a Dyer from
Georgetown. She was a great friend of Elfrieda Droop who’d come over here. She was born in
Germany, I think, and married Karl Droop who was of German extraction and they suffered
during the war with Germany, there was some bitterness about some Germans. It was too bad
but Polly’s mother befriended her and liked her very much, and she sort of sponsored her and
introduced·her to Washington society. Polly’s mother was loved and was an old Washingtonian
and her husband, Polly’s father, was distinguished in more ways than one. He was President of
the D.C. Medical Society. He was the leading pediatrician here. He studied in Vienna for
awhile. He was Dean of Georgetown Medical School. So, the friendship and the sponsorship in
Washington society by Mrs. Foote, Polly’s mother, meant a great deal to Elfrieda Droop. It
wasn’t that either one was trying to advance the interests of the other. They were very congenial
and they were close friends, very close friends. Elfrieda Droop had close relatives in Germany to
whom she vvas devoted. During the war with Germany, she got sick, got cancer, and she wanted
to leave the property, she had no children. Karl Droop, her husband was dead so I was her
lawyer. This is where I got a little bit on the international side. She got very ill of cancer, and it
looked like she wouldn’t live very long, so I didn’t have !ong to figure this out. She said she
definitely wanted her property to go ultimately to these German relatives who I think were maybe
first cousins or something like that. So, I knew, the doctor told me that, or somebody told me
that she did not have long to live. She wanted me to draw a will and she still wanted these
Germans to have it. So, I had that problem.
Mr. Gribbon: Was this during the war?
Mr. O’Donoghue: This was during the war, oh yes. The government started
seizing everything. During the First World War, you know, we were more civil then, property
rights were better respected. The Alien Property Custodian seized things but they were all turned
back and something was set up. I know one lawyer who just specialized in that, it was very easy,
made a lot of money out of it. The word got out that he could get your property back and it was
no problem doing it, just who. But, in the Second World War, I was hoping that would happen
but it didti.T They had a property custodian but there was not going to be restitution generally. I
had the problem of trying to get this considerable sum to my client’s, relatives …
Mr. Gribbon: These were assets located in the United States?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes …
Mr. Gribbon: Owned by the Germans now?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, they were owned by this U.S. citizen, her husband, who
had a big music store here. I think her husband had been an American citizen, maybe his father,
too, but Elfrieda had these close r?lativcs in Germany and \Vantcd everything to go to them. So, I
was confronted with that. I decided that the only way to do it to keep it from being seized was to
create a trust and make the primary beneficiaries the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Methodist
Home for the Aged and the Salvation Army.
Mr. Gribbon: How about B’nai Brith?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Ah, no. Well, maybe I should have done that because it
happened later that the Alien Property Custodian was David Bazelon. But she wouldn’t han?
done it. She was a German. Anyhow, I made them the primary beneficiaries under the condition
subsequent, that if 20 years from her death a treaty of peace had been entered between the
German Reich and the United States whereby property can be freely transferred to German
citizens, then this trust shall end on the condition subsequent, not preceding. and shall go to my
cousins, so and so, and I named them. I didn’t know that it would work, but I thought, well this is
the best that can be done. I gave it a lot of thought.
Mr. Gribben: That was ingenious.
Mr. O’Donoghue: She was a close friend of my dear mother-in-law who was the
nicest mother-in-law a man ever had and this was her closest friend. So, I gave a lot of thought
to it and the drafting of it was a little touchy and maybe I could show it to you. Anyhow, that
was … I didn’t have long to do it either, she died shortly after that. That was in December, I
think, and she died in January. So, then when she did die, of course, we probated the will here.
She was a U.S. citizen and I walked down to the Registrar of Wills. They hadn’t seen anything
quite like that. We started paying the money to the Little Sisters of the Poor and Elderly, and the
condition subsequent was there. It was probated along with the will. So, when peace was finally
declared I was the executor. I don’t think I even had a trust company. I had to use my own
judgment because I wanted to be guided by what I knew my client really wanted. So, I don’t like
to do that with big estates. I generally like a trust company as a co-trustee. I undertook the
wJ-}ole thing and I went to the Alien Property <:;:ustodian and.told them this is what the testator
wanted and you have nothing to seize here because this is just a … ·oh,” I think I went through
that before peace occurred and I told them that the sub.ject of this condition is subsequent that I
felt was legal. It does not take effect until there’s peace and when there’s peace there’s no right
for you to seize anything or to hold it. And, darn if I didn’t succeed with them. I was still going
to take them to court if they decided against me. I think I could have had a good chance of
winning. Anyhow, it all worked out.
The custodian gave up. The property went to the German citizens. I told them when I
wrote them, I said-please don’t feel you have to get a lawyer. I can handle this and I’ll see that
you’re going to get it. Dam if they didn’t get a lawyer. I don’t know how they learned about him.
But, anyhow, they fired him before I … because I made it clear, they came over here, they sent
someone over here. What I had to do to get the thing moving. They don’t trust that, they wanted
to come over here and they didn’t have any money. So, I put the whole thing into a bill in equity
saying, “Look these are the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries and I, as the executor and
trustee think they should be here, but they don’t have the money to come over here. I want to get
some money for them so that they could come here and be satisfied. I want to get the temporary
allowance on account.” 1 got several thousand dollars, enough to bring themover here.
Mr. Gribbon: What judge gave you that?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I think it might have been, oh, I probably picked the judge
pretty carefully. Who was it? I don’t know if it was Judge Adkins or if it was some judge who
thought well of me, I think.
I think I’ve finished with Elfrieda Droop.
Providence Hospital, as I said before, a hospital generates some amount of legal work,
. sometimes litigation and so on. They were my client over many, many years. When the Hospital
Center was ?reated by Congress it took Emergency, Garfield, and I think Children’s Hospital.
One new hospital created by a special Act of ?ongress and it sort of left Providence out in the
cold, but we didn!t want that. Those three hospitals complemented one another. Providence was
the oldest hospital here, had a devoted staff and the sisters running it who supported it. They
took the top sisters from St. Josephs, the biggest order, next to the Holy Cross, whom I
represented here, by the way, too, locally. There was no reason to join the Hospital Center. The
hospital certainly got these big grants and the hospitals really needed it. Providence was the
oldest hospital here, it shouldn’t go down the drain. So, I sort of sponsored, with the help of John
McCormick, getting some grants to Providence Hospital.
Mr. Gribbon: What ultimately happened to Providence?
Mr. O’Donoghue: It’s still operating. It’s a leading hospital. I can show you some
of the brochures, it’s got some top people there.
Mr. Gribbon: I thought it had been gobbled up like the other hospitals.
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, it hasn’t, that’s the great thing about it. And they have a
very devoted staff. They serve a purpose. They always had an old relationship with Congress.
The congressmen who had alcoholic problems would go the?e to recover, it’s a tradition almost.
The sisters would maintain their anonymity and there \Vas just this unspoken relationship.
Mr. Gribben: How big of an office did you have, how many people?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I never had a big office. I was sort of alone. I had Ross
[O’Do?oghue’s cousin] as a partner. He made a very good record as the head of the civil division
on the local court here in the District Court. Then I had Tony Fisher.
Mr. Gribbon: Was Tony with you?
Mr. O’Dohoghue: Yeah, he was with rhe for a quite awhile.
Mr. Gribbon, Tony went on to be clerk of the Court of Appeals.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I bet he did a good job.
Mr. Gribbon: He’s no longer there.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, where is he now?
Mr. Gribbon: He’s practicing with Jake Stein.
Mr.. O’Donoghue: Oh, is he really.
Mr. Gribbon: I don’t know whether he’s practicing very much, but he is with Jake
Mr. O’Donoghue: He’s a good lawyer. Jake ought to use him a good bit. I know
Jake very well. I didn’t know that. Jake’s a great guy.
Mr. Gribbon: Yes, he’s a fine lawyer. You were able to do this basically by
Mr. O’Donoghue: Ross was a big help and Ross worked very hard for me. You
know, I would handle peaks, sometimes I wouldn’t and then, if the peak went down I would
handle that. I kept Ross pretty busy and Tony Fisher. For awhile I was just by myself and then
Ross was with me and then he went to the lJ.S. Attorney’s office, civil division and came back to
me. We sort of felt our way along.
Mr. Gribbon: Did you do a lot of estate work and wills?
Mr.O’Donoghue: Yes, estate work and wills. General practice too. Let me tell
· you one or two interesting cases. ·1 talked about going back. I had a case that grew out of the fact
that the young man, the son of the Ambassador from Panama was working in a bank here. His
father, don’t know if you knew it, but the Ambassador of Panama was almost a fixture here, was
. more important than the President of Panama. He was the dean of the diplomatic corps at this
time. I had been practicing about IO or 15 years, something like that. This young man worked in
Mr. Gribbon: What was his name?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I think it was Calvo. I really, you know, my memory fails me
on that, I am not sure· what it was. He embezzled some money and when it came out he was so
guilty and feeling remorseful. He tried to commit suicide. He went into his bathroom, they had
gas light then, and turned on the gas and then he passed out. Fortunately his head fell right close
to where tlie door was and there was a crack, so he got just enough air to stay alive, so he was
rescued. Then he went back to Panama, of course. He developed TB. So he got interested in
tuberculosis. He was cured and he got to be a real great specialist in it, not a doctor, I don’t think
he ever got an M.D. but he was recognized as a real authority. He wanted to come to this country
to do his final studies. We were still the top in research and everything. When he was indicted
for this misappropriation of funds, Judge Pine, and since he was the son of the dean of the
diplomatic corps, he sentenced him, instead of prison or anything like that, to perpetual exile
from this country: Have you ever heard of that?
I don’t think it ever happened before. So, that was a problem. And, then when he got to
be a big TB authority and wanted to come bac? here to study, of course, there was the perpetual
exile. He hired this big New York law firm and they dealt with the immigration authorities and
said it should be waived in view of his great accomplishment. Immigration authorities said this
is a federal charge; he could be held in contempt. So, they gave up on it. Then, somebody told
him about me and he came to me. So, I thought, well, I gave it some thought and I thought, well,
the answer seems to me to. be a Presidential pardon. So, I looke? up the law, it just wipes it out
as if it never existed. So, I sort of wrestled it around, found that the Department of Justice had a
pardon attorney. Nice Irishman, graduated from Georgetown. Then, in order to emphasize the
importance of this matter, Polly and I needed a little trip so we took a trip to Panama. The Great
White Line. We went down there and saw him … by the way, Panama is just jungle down at the
Puerto Limon where you come in and then you go up this narrow gauge railroad up to Panama
City which is highlands and is perfectly beautiful, the climate is perfect, it’s just that big contrast.
But, we met him, a nice guy, nice as he could be. So, I felt that if I said I knew him and talked to
his neighbors and all that, I would have much more effect in helping him. I don’t think I
deducted much of the cost of going down there. But, I did, I wouldn’t have gone there except for
that. So, I came back, full of his case as a witness really, what he was doing for TB and all that.
So, I got the pardon attorney and he got interested in it and I was a witness. You know, I knew
him, so he finally agreed with me and recommended pardon to the President. So, no problem, he
came right in. Had a very fine stay at the Rochester Clinic (maybe) where he was welcomed as
an authority and went back and did a lot of good in his country.
Mr. Socarras: Well, isn’t that great.
Mr. Gribben: Did you represent him when he was indicted?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Let’s see now, wait a second. I am not sure. But, you know,
there’s not much you can d_ o ·about that. He was …
Mr. Gribben: I never heard of a sentence of perpetual exile.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I wasn’t going, listen, nobody w·as going to contradict a federal
judge, and I ?asn’t going to try to upset that. I did go to Judge Pine and tell him, and he agreed it
was fine. I d_id that when I had everything lined up with the pardon ·attorney.
Mr. Socarras: In those early years of your practice, how did you bill your clients?
Was it by the hour?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, I was flexible. Sometimes, if it were worth much more
than an hour. I didn’thave any firm rule, I just tried to be fair.
Mr. Gribbon: Did you keep time?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes I kept the timesheets, here it is right here, here are
these things, timesheets. I really, every hour of the day, half an hour, say, Providence Hospital.
These are invaluable, really, I mean, I see sometimes you have to go back and I would if
necessary. I just put just the brief hint as to what the case was about. But, I have them, see them
Mr. Gribbon: That’s your life.
Mr. O’Donoghue: That’s right. Well, I didn’t do it at first. I had those very early
days prior in the 1930s and 40s, I didn’t do that.
Mr. Gribbon: Were you engaged in any major will contests?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, we had several. We had one, it was very local, I don’t
think it would have much interest to you, but there was an old guy that owned a good bit of
property in Georgetown who got to be a? alcoholic and he _would g9 ori his drunks and he had
these friends living up on the canal and they would let him drink and sleep ic off. He died
leaving th?m his property. He had some niec;es and they came to me and Fred Stohlman so we
jointly took it. We had a·real will contest that lasted three weeks. We finally supported the will
against his nieces: Won the case:
Mr. Gribbon: Did Fred Stohlman represent the nieces?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, we both were together. Fred asked me to come into the
case. He felt he wasn’t too keen. I had to go to New York. There was a doctor that handled such
matters and there was a lot of technical problems as to just what his mental condition was.
Mr. Gribbon: What were they charging, that he was incompetent to make a will?
Mr: O’Donoghue: Yes.
Mr. Gribbon: Who were the lawyers on the other side, do you remember?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Gosh, I can see him now but I can’t think of his name. I had
another.case that came very close to home. You know Bill Foote?
Mr. Gribbon: Yes.
Mr. O’Donoghue: . . . wonderful doctor. He recommended that a patient of his
get contact lens. It didn’t work out so well. The guy lost his sight and these contact lens people
didn’t have much insurance so they sued Bill for recommending an incompetent contact lens
person. Bill came to me. You shouldn’t sue him because he went out to California and found a
case of someone like it. He knew, but he had a hard time proving it, that the man had a
congenital, physical disease in that eye that really caused the blindness, but it was a close
question. The lawyer on the other side thought he had an open and shut case and he sued for a
terrific amount. I got Harry Welch, because I thought Bill should have somebody very good.
Harry was a damn good lawyer, I think one of the best trial lawyers in the city. Of course, I
wanted the best, so I got Harry interested. The big trouble with Harry was he wasn’t inclined to
prepare much. I got him to set aside several Sundays to spend nothing but going over this case.
There were <!- lot of technicalities that I won’t go into, and it could go either way. I did that and I
really coached and worked on Harry Welch and he was supe-rb when we got into court. So, we
really finally won; the opposing lawyer still doesn’t know how he lost the case. He was so
confident. But, Bill was his own best witness. He had other doctors and he had a lot of
literature. But, we won the case and it was really quite a victory. That’s not long ago. Jack
Arness represented the lens company but played a very minor role in the trial.
A short time ago Jack told me, he said, Dan, you remember that famous case. He said I
always look back at that case and I think it was the greatest victory I ever achieved. Well, it
wasn’t, but it was Bill Foote that did it and Harry Welch carried the ball. I helped some, I helped
with instructions and helped to keep Harry Welch keyed up …
Mr. Gribbon: You made him work?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yeah. It was really a great case but I thought it was so cute of
Jack Arness. He said I look back, I have had a lot of cases, but that was my greatest victory.
Now, let’s see, where are we now. I don’t want to take up too much time.
Mr. Gribbon: It’s only quarter of twelve. The case for your father in the Supreme
Court was pretty early in your career?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes, it was very early. Now, I don’t know what you want,
that’s all in the books, the Supreme Court …
Mr. Gribbon: Tell us how it came up and what part you had …
Mr. O’Donoghue: Well, I can tell you this …
Mr. Gribbon: Mike, here has dragged out and has a copy of the opinion_ …[ 28_9
Mr. O’Donoghue: Well, that’s fine.
Mr: Gribbon: I notice that George Hamilton is on the brief here with you.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, that’s right, George ff Hamilton, Sr.
Mr. Gribbon: Oh, I see …
Mr. O’Dohoghue: Well, he was the dean of the bar, really.
Mr. Gribbon: George E. Hamilton. Then John Davis. You had Flannery, too.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes, we got the best, this was not just father’s case, this was
a test case for the whole court.
Mr. Gribbon: Did the whole court get behind him?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes, he was chosen, you know why he was chosen?
Mr. Gribbon: No.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Because he could say more honestly than some of them that he
had sacrificed, made a big financial sacrifice to take this job which only paid $10,000 a year then.
The judges had all agreed. The other judges had been there some time, some of them were
probably glad to get that $10,000.
Mr. Gribbon: Did the judges get together and decide to bring this lawsuit?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes, it affected them all, it was an Act of Congress that did
it. Reduced all federal employees by 10% and the judges, of course, have this constitutional
provision that their compensation should not be diminished during their period of service and so
it looked like a clear case, but it wasn’t.
Mr. Gribbon: There was a big dissent.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, there was a dissent. I remember, what was the name of
the Solicitor General? I think i_t was the only case, I don’t know if it was the only case he
appeared bu! …
Mr. Gribbon: Thatcher, I think it was …
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, it wasn’t Thatcher it was another guy.
Mr. Gribbon: Erwin Griswold, I know, was on the brief.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, he was on the brief, but the guy that argued was terrible.
Mr. Gribbon: Solicitor General Thatcher with whom Scott, Reeder, Griswold and
Brian Holland were on the brief.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Who? Would you say those again.
Mr. Gribbon: Solicitor General Thatcher with whom Messrs. William W. Scott,
Robert P. Reeder, Erwin Griswold and H. Brian Holland were on the brief.
Mr. O’Donoghue: I don’t remember the exact name of the guy, I don’t think he
even had a morning coat of his own. It was way down here, it didn’t fit him and he rented the
whole thing. He was awful, perfectly awful.
Mr. Gribbon: It wasn’t Griswold was it?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, no, no. I had several cases the Supreme Court was
interested in. Let me just see. Let’s get back to that. I was right here … have we finished that
aspect of it now?
Mr. Gribbon: I was interested to learn that the whole court sort of got behind this.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes, you know, $10,000 isn’t very much and they were all,
· some of them were hurting, of course, father was making about_ – money was_ a lot more
important, worth a lot more then -·but I had his old fee book and he was making $25,000,
– $27,000, $37,000, and sums like that, so it really was a sacrifice for him. I don’t think many of
the others could say that. He was the most recent appointee.
Mr. Gribbon: I see. Was there a trial?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, it was handled in the Court of Claims. I was on the briefs
but I didn’t actually argue it. It was a very interesting case to me because I had a personal interest
in my father’s financial welfare.
Mr. Gribbon: Well, that’s quite an important case for the judges here.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, it really was, believe me. You know, this is just
something. I never expected and it wasn’t that important either. I worked awfully hard getting
John W. Davis ready, working on the brief and then there were the judges at the Supreme Court,
a hearing they got interested in. They got off on the question of D.C. What were the origins of
the District of Columbia and how whether it was a federal constitutional court or a federal
legislative court, you see. They raised some questions going in the early history. Justin, what’s
that lawyer’s name, I can’t think of it right now. He had seen that aspect of it and had gone and
written a very good brief. So, I could just put that in. I signed my name to it, he is the one who
really deserves credit for it. And .then they didn’t even treat it in the opinion.
Mr. Gribbon: Well, that so often happens.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Gribbon: How did you go about selecting Davis to make the argument; were
you involved in that?
Mr. O’Donoghue:· Yes. I thoμght, well, he was considered the outstanding
attorney in Supreme Court cases. And we wanted the best and of course. I think any lawyer
would have been delighted to have that distinction to represent in federal court, the whole court.
Never any question about that. I was just very lucky they did it as a compliment to me haying my
name at the end of the brief. But, it was a fascinating case. Now let us see whether I have any
other cases here.
In representing Providence Hospital as I told you. the other hospitals were combined in
the Washington Hospital Center, Providence Hospital had always been paid for care of the
indigent. I was on the Hospital Council years ago when we got that written into the law that any
indigent was paid, I think something like three-fourths of the full charge or whatever it was, and
Providence Hospital treated many indigents, but they’d have to have this passed by Congress.
Now, some southern congressman, I think a guy named Bill Bowman …
Mr. Gribbon: Alabama.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Alabama.
I think it was he, if it wasn’t it was some other very narrow and prejudiced southern
Mr. Gribbon: Pitchfork Ben Tilman …
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yeah, it might have been. I think it was Bill Bowman.
Anyhow, he appeared in opposition to the appropriations for Providence and he raised the point
that this was aiding religion and.he really was, this came from his heart. He said, you know, I
had to go into Providence Hospital once to visit a friend of mine and what was there on the wall
but a crucifix. It was a crucifix, a symbol. We almost- laughed him out of court. But, he and
some others did oppose it.
Mr. Gribbon: Actually, they might get somewhere with it today.
Mr. O’Donoghue:· Yes. It was debated in Congress. !think it was in the Senate
as to whether this was a breach of the church and state wall. I was out in the cloak room and
helping them on that issue. I fed them answers as they came up as these charges were made. It
was very interesting talking to them. I brought this up, I used this, I said, look, just to sort of sum
it up, you say that what the Congress_ is trying to do here is really to answer need. Should we
consider the need or the creed. And they adopted that, it was great.
Messrs. Gribbon and Socarras: Great!
Mr.- O’Donoghue: Well, you’ve got to make some contribution, I thought about it
enough. It was another case I had that was sort of interesting in a way. It was a Long Beach
Federal Savings and Loan Company that, I forget the exact way, but, the Federal Savings and
Loan would appoint, would all get together and appoint somebody who then had a position with
the Federal Savings and Loan administrator. I forget what the government organization was, but
it didn’t supervise, it sort of represented the interest in Washington of these Federal Savings and
Loans. And, Long Beach had the temerity to oppose somebody whom the administrator in
Washington wanted a guy named Fahey. It was an outrageous thing. He started, or somebody
started,.a rumor that the Long Beach S & L was having solvency problems and there was a nm on
the bank. It was terrible. It was engineered by this guy Fahey and they came to me as a local
lawyer and they had some good lawyers out there. California lawyers are funny, they are really
pushy. But, I liked him, very fat guy, but very jolly. They got me as their Washington lawyer
and of course, it was an outrageous thing and we worked pretty hard on it. They would come on
very strong. More lawyers … and I would have to entertain them, I took them to the Chevy
Chase Club and so on.
Mr. Gribbon: Were you iil court?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I am not sure we got to the point of court. We were filing
answers and so on. I think the Department of.Justice or some lawyers representing Fahey were
against us. I remember, I see one thing here, preparing an answer to the counsel for Fahey. So, I
worked on that and we finally got them to withdraw. No, it did go to court. I think it went to the
Supreme Court and we either won it in the court or they finally gave up. I forget which it was. It
was a long time ago. I wasn’t the sole lawyer in it, I was sort of the Washington counsel. These
California lawyers-, my secretary said, oh, I don’t want to see them again, they were so, they were
always talking about themselves, she couldn’t stand them.
I represented the Roosevelt Hotel for a long time. It really came because my father had
represented” them I think when it was built, and he represented the Globe Indemnity Company
and they were on the building bond. There were some defaults and the bonding company had to
take it over. They were sort of getting in shape to sell it and then it would come back, and that
was that. I represented the Roosevelt Hotel and this Jewish couple from New York bought it,
very nice but they were looking out for themselves. They wanted me right there on it. And, there
was still the full debt going back to the time the building was still owned by the Globe Indemnity
Company. I was in that off and on for quite awhile. One time when we thought we had settled,
we’d all get a good sale. The guy they sent down here to handle it for the Globe, a guy named
Rankin, very distinguished guy and a good lawyer, but he was an alcoholic. At least, when he
came down here he was drunk the whole time, I’d have to deal with him. The final sale came up,
the final successfμl sale. Other sales were ma?e but they didn’t get enough money and they had
to take it back. As ·a matter of fact, my father represented· the Roosevelt before me in that. He
played poker with George E. Hamilton and Dr. .Ruffin and a group, very distinguished. They
would say, father told me this, he’d say, Dan, your chips look a little low, it’s about time to sell
the Roosevelt again.
Mr. Gribbon: When did your father die?
Mr. O’Donoghue: He died in 19 … he died at the age of 72, isn’t that awful, I
Mr. Gribben: Still on the court when he died?
Mr? O’Donoghue: No, he had retired for a number of years. He didn’t take early
retirement, he sat until about, he was 72. He continued on for two years afterwards, but his
health hadn’t been good. Some justices just hang on just for the prestige, but he didn’t do that, he
was a great·father.
Mr. Gribben: Did you ever have any judicial chances or aspirations?
Mr. O’Donoghue: No, I really didn’t. I subscribed to Ed Bennett Williams’s view
that while I’m able to hit the ball and play in the outfield, why should I become an umpire?
That’s what he said. I like the independence of it. I think it irritated father to have to come to
meetings of all the judges. He didn’t mind it, but to have to do it every day. I think he liked the
independent court. He had a chance to go into the Court of Appeals but he didn’t want to do it,
he liked it right there on the District Court. I think father was sent out some sort of feeler that
they’d like to see him there, father didn’t want to.
Mr. Gribben: Who are some of the lawyers that you dealt with over the years?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Lots of different ones, gee . .I had one or two cases against Bill
Leahy. I think he was the best trial lawyer, he was better than Frank Hogan, but he never built up
. a firm. The only one he had ·with him was Bill Hughes. Bill was a fine lawyer, not a trial l,awyer
like Bill Lea?y, but that firm didn’t expand. Those were two fine lawyers, splendid. Bill Leahy,
as I said, was probably one of the finest. I forget how I was connected with one or two cases,
literally, where I had to be in court when he tried them and he was superb. Bill Hughes was just
as good a counterpart and he was a good appeals lawyer but they never expanded. And you
know, it was Frank Hogan who really thought of that, I think. When you asked me what law was
like in the early days, the big difference, I think, looking back, was this, we had some splendid
lawyers here, but most of them were just individual practitioners. Any partnership was just two
or three at the most and most outstanding lawyers in the early days were individual practitioners,
just like my father and John Laskey. Even though Leahy only had Jimmy Reilly, except for
Hughes.- Jimmy Reilly was no substitute, he couldn’t step in and take Bill Leahy’s part.
Mr. Gribben: James Francis Reilly, is that the one you’re speaking about?
Mr. O’Donoghue: That’s the one I’m thinking of.
Mr. Gribbon: I didn’t ever know he was with Leahy.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, he was, but he was not up to replacing Leahy on an
important case. As I said, Bill Leahy was superb, but like so many of the fine lawyers we had
then, he never had any ambition to create a firm.
Mr. Gribbon:· Was the bar pretty close at that time, did you all know each other
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes, very well. The members of the Lawyers Club, they
were the c?eam of th? crop. If you wiped out the La\\’.yers Club you wouldn’t have mai:iy good
lawyers left. I don’t say that in a ·pejorative way.
Mr. Gribben: You were active in the Lawyers Club for quite awhile, weren’t you?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, fairly active. I think I was vice president The president
died and so I had to be president for awhile.
Mr. Gribbon: What about the judges, were there any notable judges, good or bad?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Oh, yes. I didn’t think Holtzoff was much good. He irritated
everybody. He was a hack. He was appointed judge as a political favor. He was awful. I tried
some cases before him, awful. But most of the judges were very good, I think. Proctor, Adkins
and … well there they are right up there. Go by and just take a look.
Mr. Gribbon: Test my recollection so I don’t skip anything.
Mr. Donoghue: Henry Schweinhaut there was a fine lawyer. He was with the
Department of Justice. He was a very close friend of mine.
No, I didn’t get into any of those national concerns. But, Henry was a close friend and he
was a little nervous. He had a drinking problem later on. But, he was a superb judge when he
was sober. Most of the time.
Here’s Dave Pine, here’s old Goldsborough, here’s my dear father. Here’s Matt McGuire.
He maintained a relationship and friendship with people at the Department of Justice. He had a
good bit to do with appointing other judges. But, he was a great guy, a friend of mine. Here’s
Letts. He was appointed the same time ao;; my dad and the two were very fine judges. Here’s
Jesse Adkins. He taught at Georgetown Law School, really good professor and a good judge.
Here’s Bo Laws. Made a good chief justice. Here’s Bailey. He was the one who, he was like an
old lady, but fine judge, had a hi?h querulous voice. He would never raise his voice,
“Mr. O’Donoghue I rule against it.” “Beg your pardon, Your Honor, what did you say?” “Mr.
O;Donoghue, I rule against it.” He would never raise his voice a bit. You didn’t know what he
was saying hp.If the time: Here’s Proctor again. You know Bailey liked to drive fast. He came
from a place in Tennessee, 750 miles and he’d drive down at·one time and make record time.
You know, an elderly man.
Mr. Gribbon: His daughter was an attorney at the Department of Justice.
Mr. O’Donoghue: She was.
Mr. Gribbon: I tried a number of cases against her.
Mr? O’Donoghue: Really. Were you ever at the Department of Justice?
Mr. Gribbon: No, we were against them.
So, you felt pretty highly about the judges on a whole?
Mr. O’Donoghue: I did and I think my father was elderly when he was appointed
to the, … I mean he stayed there for some time, but he was a superb lawyer when he first went
on there. He was not well in the last several years. I thought Proctor was an awfully good judge.
Jessie Adkins was smart. I think Pine and Proctor, my father and Matt McGuire, they were a
pretty good bunch.
You know I taught at Georgetown Law School for nine years.
Mr. Gribben: Oh, did you?
Mr. O’Donoghue: … in the evening school.
Mr. Socarras: What subject?
Mr. O’Donoghue: Equity, including trusts·, so, it was a pretty important subject. I
think I had to teach tbat”three times? week, fr(?m 5:00 to 7:00. Then, later I had to slow up
because my practice was taking-all of my time. I represented several surety companies, Hartford,
Great Indemnity and some others.
I appeared in Congress for Providence, I think I represented the Hospital Council. I
helped to form that. Joe Himes was really the leading part. i-Ie was the chairman of the board of
Garfield. Then Garfield was consolidatedwith·Emergency and one other hospital, that was the
biggest hospital here. But, we worked together and I joined in helping to found the Hospital
Association here. I was present at the first meeting.
Mr. Gribben: Well, why don’t we suspend now and you can think about it a little bit.
We’ll have the transcript made up and you can take a look at that.
Mr. O’Donoghue: Yes, I’d like to do that.
The following interview was conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the