Dwight Murray, Esq. Oral HistoryDavid McCarthy2022-04-26T15:49:51-04:00
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DWIGHT D. MURRAY, ESQUIRE
Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
Oral History Project United States Courts
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit
District of Columbia Circuit
DWIGHT D. MURRAY, ESQUIRE
Interviews conducted by Eugene Granof, Esquire
January 11 and 18, February 8, March 22, April 18, May 14 and July 12, 2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. i
Oral History Agreements
Dwight D. Murray, Esquire ………………………………………………………………………….. iii
Eugene B. Granof, Esquire ……………………………………………………………………………..v
Oral History Transcripts of Interviews
January 11, 2018 ……………………………………………………………………………………………1
January 18, 2018 ………………………………………………………………………………………….19
February 8, 2018 ………………………………………………………………………………………….62
March 22, 2018 ………………………………………………………………………………………….101
April 18, 2018 ……………………………………………………………………………………………139
May 15, 2018 …………………………………………………………………………………………….174
July 2, 2018……………………………………………………………………………………………….206
Index …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. A-1
Table of Cases and Statutes …………………………………………………………………………………B-1
Dwight D. Murray, Esquire ………………………………………………………………………C-1
Eugene B. Granof, Esquire ……………………………………………………………………… D-1
The following pages record interviews conducted on the dates indicated. The interviews were
recorded digitally or on cassette tape, and the interviewee and the interviewer have been afforded
an opportunity to review and edit the transcript.
The contents hereof and all literary rights pertaining hereto are governed by, and are subject to,
the Oral History Agreements included herewith.
© 2020 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 of the judges of the Courts of the District of Columbia
Circuit and lawyers, court staff, and others who played important roles in the history of the
Circuit. The Project began in 1991. Oral history interviews are conducted by volunteer
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the subject of the history and the interviewer have had an opportunity to review and edit the
Indexed transcripts of the oral histories and related documents are available in the
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With the permission of the person being interviewed, oral histories are also available on
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interviews, as well as electronic versions of the transcripts, are in the custody of the Society.
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
January 11, 2018
This is the first interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Mr. Granof: Maybe we could start at the beginning, talk about your early life and perhaps start
with when were you born and where were you born.
Mr. Murray: I was born on June 20, 1944 in New Orleans, Louisiana at Charity Hospital. The
hospital provided medical services primarily for the poor in New Orleans. It no
longer exists. My father’s name was Robert Walthall Murray and my mother’s
name was Bernice Cagnolatti Murray. Both of them were natives of New Orleans.
When I was born, little did anyone know that history was going to repeat itself.
My father was at sea during World War II when I was born; therefore, he did not
see me until I was six months old. I was his first born. When my first child,
Michele, was born, I did not see her until she was six months old because I was in
Anyway, I grew up in an area of New Orleans called the Seventh Ward. This is a
section of New Orleans near the Ninth Ward that became famous during Katrina.
The entire neighborhood where I was raised was wiped out by Katrina. I attended
a Catholic grammar school in New Orleans called Corpus Christi. I went there
from 1st to 8th grade, and then went to high school.
Mr. Granof: Corpus Christi was the name of the grammar school?
Mr. Murray: Yes, it was the same grammar school that my parents went to when they were
kids. It was a very old school run by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. The
nuns were very dedicated and great educators. Every one of my teachers was a
nun from the Blessed Sacrament Order which was dedicated to educating African
Americans in the South and Native American Indians in the Southwest. Although
we had great teachers, the school was very old. There was only one large
bathroom for the boys who attended that school and that bathroom was located
outside next to the playground that was mostly dirt and asphalt. That’s how old
the school was.
The high school I went to was called St. Augustine’s High School. This was an
all-male Catholic school. It was run by priests from the Society of St. Joseph, or
the Josephites. The Josephite fathers were also great educators and were a big
positive influence in my life, as well as many of the other young black men who
attended that high school. Several future doctors, lawyers, judges and mayors
graduated from St. Augustine. All these schools were within walking distance of
my house. I attended St. Augustine’s High School for four years. During the
summer before my senior year in high school I was selected to represent my high
school in what was called “Bayou Boys’ State.” Bayou Boys’ State was an
outreach program that selected high school seniors from all over the state of
Louisiana and gave them an opportunity to set up a State Government on the
campus of Southern University. While participating in the “Bayou Boys’ State”
program, I was elected to the position of State’s Attorney and selected to
participate in a mock trial. I did pretty well during the mock trial representing the
State and was strongly encouraged by the counselor/supervisor who oversaw the
mock trial to go to law school. The experience at “Bayou Boys’ State” planted a
seed to pursue a legal career. Once I saw my goal, I had a lot of thinking to do
about how I was going to achieve it. Therefore, I began thinking more seriously
about the legal profession during my last year in high school and began to
research the path to becoming a lawyer and how much it was going to cost. I
began to focus more on my grades to build a good academic record for college.
On high school graduation day, I was given a perfect attendance certificate. I had
no idea that I did not miss a day of high school for four years.
The college I went to was Xavier University located in New Orleans. Xavier is a
historically black college. Although I received scholarship offers to attend other
colleges, I could not afford to go even with the help of partial scholarships. So, I
attended Xavier that charged tuition that I could afford with the money I earned
from a part-time job. Plus, Xavier is where I met my wife, Elodie. I had a job
while going to school and all my money went towards my tuition. I didn’t go on a
date for over a year. But at the end of my first year, I was awarded a partial
scholarship for history. It was a small scholarship, but it was a godsend. I started
dating my then to be wife shortly after receiving the history scholarship and
thought I was one of the luckiest guys in the world. During the summer before my
last year in college, I was selected to participate in an internship with the U.S.
State Department in Washington, D.C. That too was a tremendous experience
since it was the first time I traveled on a train and the first time I visited the
nation’s capital. Knowing that I needed good grades to get into a good law school,
I focused on my grades in my last year of college and got mostly “A’s,” except
for advanced German. I graduated from Xavier University in 1968 with a B.A. in
History and a minor in Economics. Although I got accepted into Georgetown
University Law Center, I joined the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School with
the intent of becoming a Marine Corps Officer. The following month, June 8,
1968, I got married.
Mr. Granof: Okay. Maybe I can stop you and just ask you a couple questions going back. You
say your parents were native New Orleanians. How far can you trace them back?
Mr. Murray: My brother tried. My mother’s family had been in that area, I don’t know how
long, over a hundred years. My father’s family is a little bit more difficult to trace
because part of the family came from Choctaw Indian tribes, so some of them
were raised on a reservation, and some of them were on plantations. I was never
interested in that. I asked my father about that a long time ago. I said, “Did
anyone ever do a trace of the family tree?” He said, “You don’t have a tree, you
have a bush.” That was my father’s joke. He said your relatives are not going to
do anything for you, you have to do things for yourself. So, I lost interest in doing
that, but my brother was able to trace the family tree back several hundred years.
Mr. Granof: Oh, that’s interesting.
Mr. Murray: He traced it back, and I never asked him how far back, I never asked him about
who the relatives were. I really wasn’t interested, quite frankly, no, I wasn’t.
Mr. Granof: You were probably more forward looking.
Mr. Murray: Yes. Because in essence my father made a joke, but what he said was correct. You
know, it’s what you do for yourself, not where you come from; you have to make
your own path in this world. I took his advice to heart. However, I do respect the
comfort and satisfaction people feel when they find out more about their
Mr. Granof: And so, you have one brother?
Mr. Murray: I have one brother, right. He’s younger, about three years younger than I am.
Mr. Granof: Is he a lawyer also?
Mr. Murray: No. My brother never went to college. I was the first one in my family to go to
college, the first one in my family to go to law school. There were others after me,
on my dad’s side, that went to college, but I was the first one that went to law
Mr. Granof: So, there were just the two of you. A younger brother, three years younger.
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: What did your parents do? Was your mother a homemaker? Did she work?
Mr. Murray: My mother was a homemaker, then went to work as a secretary to one of the vicepresidents at Southern University in New Orleans. She went to work after my
brother and I were in high school. I should also mention that my mother’s family
had a roofing contracting business in New Orleans that was almost a hundred
years old. But when her uncles who ran the business died, the business sort of fell
apart because there weren’t any sons or daughters to take it over. My dad was in
construction, and then he was in the Merchant Marines for several years,
especially during World War II. After I was born and after he finished his
deployment in the Merchant Marines, he came back and got a job in construction.
So, my dad worked construction from 1946-47 until about 1964, when he got
injured on a job. And when he got injured on a job, he couldn’t do that work
anymore. He got a job with the Army Corps of Engineers, and he retired from
Mr. Granof: All of the people I’ve interviewed have all been successful, and one of the
characteristics is that they seem to have had very strong, stable families, and I
wondered if that fits your situation as well.
Mr. Murray: Well, my family was stable, but my dad worked all the time. I mean he worked
almost 6-1/2, 7 days a week. Christmas holidays. We never went on vacation. I
didn’t know what a vacation was. I knew what the word meant, but never went on
vacation until we moved up to D.C. and I started practicing law. I noticed that in
August everybody was gone. I said, where is everybody? They’re on vacation,
people would say. Where do people go on vacation? The beach. My parents,
especially my father, worked very hard. Since money was precious, my family did
not spend money on things we did not need.
Mr. Granof: But why do you think he worked that hard? Was it a drive to ensure the family
Mr. Murray: Yes, that was it. Because in construction, if you don’t work you don’t get paid. If
the weather’s bad and you didn’t work, you don’t get paid. If the jobs don’t come,
if you don’t get the bid on the job, you don’t get paid. A person could always tell
when money was tight by the type of food that was served at dinner by my mother
during the week. If you ate the same thing, beans and rice, beans and rice, beans
and rice, you knew that money was tight. The family never complained about it,
but you could tell after you got a little older.
Mr. Granof: Was that red beans and rice?
Mr. Murray: Red beans and rice. That’s right. And even to this day, my family, when we go to
a New Orleans cuisine place, my kids like to order red beans and rice. I don’t
order it because I had enough of it when I was a kid. Grits is the same thing. My
wife likes grits. I said, “Look, I had grits every day for breakfast, every single
day, from first grade through high school.” I said you get tired of grits after a
while. Some people like grits, and I understand that, I don’t criticize that. And if I
have to eat it, I’ll eat it. But if I had a choice, I would choose something else.
Mr. Granof: So, money was maybe not always tight, but certainly at times it must have been
Mr. Murray: At times money was very tight, yes. Money was never wasted on things that were
Mr. Granof: What was your childhood like? Did you have a lot of friends? Were you an
Mr. Murray: I played street ball, pickup games in basketball. I was pretty good athletically, but
I wasn’t big enough to play high school football. I didn’t weigh enough to play
high school football. I was fast enough, but I didn’t weigh enough. I focused on
my academics because I felt that if I was going to provide for my family, I had to
get a good education and a good job. To get a good job, you have to have good
grades. To have good grades, you have to study.
Mr. Granof: Was this sort of self-determined, or were your parents kind of drivers of that or
supportive of that?
Mr. Murray: Well, supporters, but not drivers, because neither of my parents went to college.
And when I said I wanted to go to college, they didn’t fight it, but you know they
didn’t encourage it strongly.
Mr. Granof: Because they were not familiar with it?
Mr. Murray: They were not familiar with it. They looked at it as a cost matter. But I worked
my way through college. The driving force was that I joined the Boy Scouts when
I was about 11.
Mr. Granof: How did you manage to do that? Was that just an organization that you knew
Mr. Murray: Well, I always wanted to join the Boy Scouts. I had to wait until I was old
enough. My mother had a friend whose son quit the Boy Scouts. So she made a
deal to purchase that equipment at a reduced price. Therefore, all the equipment I
got was used. I felt very lucky. My mother was able to purchase equipment, a
pack, a uniform, and whatnot from her friend. I enjoyed the Scouts so much I
became a patrol leader, and then a Senior Patrol Leader. In my patrol, there were
two guys who were from well-to-do families. One was the son of a doctor. The
other guy was the son of a man who ran an insurance company. I knew that their
fathers were very smart, but so was my father. The only thing that allowed my
two friends’ fathers to have good, well-paying jobs was education. You see, my
father had to quit school to support his family. He had six sisters and a brother.
When my dad’s father died, my dad had not completed high school. Supporting
his family came first. Therefore, he did what he had to do and what many men in
his position would have done during those times. This was in the 1930’s, during
the Great Depression. So, realizing this, I thought to myself that if the way to a
better life is through education, then that was going to be my goal. I wasn’t
focused on sports or anything like that. I enjoyed sports. I enjoyed playing them.
But education was the key to a better life.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting. Two things. One is your observation that your father was
Mr. Murray. Yes. Both my parents were smart.
Mr. Granof: And you knew that as a kid?
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. If my mother were born in this age, she would be running a company.
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about that.
Mr. Granof: Why did you think that?
Mr. Murray: Well, because she was a great organizer, she was a leader. She had her own club
of friends, she ran that club, and she was president of that club for 10, 20 years.
People looked up to her; she was well respected. When I was in high school, she
went back to work. She became an executive secretary at a college, and she
commanded the respect of just about everybody in that college. So, she was a
Mr. Granof: And your dad?
Mr. Murray: My dad had similar qualities. His best quality was that he was one hard working
individual. I mean he didn’t shy from hard work. When you work construction
during the day, come home, and then do your own private construction jobs at
night, that’s hard work. When you do it seven days a week, that’s hard.
Mr. Granof: Did he have a particular specialty?
Mr. Murray: He was a tile setter. That was his specialty.
Mr. Granof: What’s interesting to me is they transmitted values to you, even if they didn’t
articulate them. But, certainly, you took away values of importance, you wanted
to be someone, and you saw education as a key.
Mr. Murray: You had to watch and learn. You can learn a lot from watching other people if
you know what to look for. The thing that separated most of the people I grew up
with was economics. The school I went to, rich and poor went to that school, rich
and poor, very rich in black society and the very poor in black society, because
tuition was very low and it was a Catholic school.
Mr. Granof: You basically had a Catholic education?
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: Why?
Mr. Murray: Well, my parents were Catholic. And it was better than the public schools. I owe a
lot to the nuns and the priests who taught us because they didn’t fight over salary,
they didn’t have any labor disputes, they devoted their lives to education, and we
were the beneficiaries of that dedication.
Mr. Granof: I want to ask you later about Catholic school education. But before I get to that,
New Orleans was a segregated city in the time you were growing up, certainly
from 1944 and probably well past the Civil Rights Act of 1963.
Mr. Murray: Very segregated. Yes.
Mr. Granof: How did that affect you?
Mr. Murray: It affected me in a way that I noticed the inequality. When I was very young, like
5 or 6 years old, I thought white people were special because they were able to go
to very nice places I couldn’t go. I would ask my parents can we go to this
particular place or that particular place and they would say no, those places are for
white people. For example, New Orleans had an amusement park called
Pontchartrain Beach. Pontchartrain Beach was right on the lakefront. When we
went for a ride in the family car, we would always drive towards the lakefront. As
you approached the lakefront, you can see this beautiful roller coaster that rose
high in the sky. When I was a kid, I really wanted to go on that roller coaster ride.
My parents told me “you can’t go there.” Why? Because it’s for white folks.
That’s right. And you don’t understand, and you don’t comprehend, and so I
thought there was a difference, and I didn’t know why. And then when I was
about 6 or 7 years old, I was in the back seat of a car, and I remember this
happening like it was yesterday. This incident was seared into my memory.
Anyway, we were driving down the street. I wasn’t with my parents at the time, I
was with some other person. We were driving down the street, and this elderly
black lady, who obviously had a difficult time walking, was taking her time
walking across the street, and this white cop called her a name because she was
taking too much time, and I thought that’s not right, that’s not right. That,
probably more than most incidents, showed me that just because you’re white,
you’re not special, because it was wrong for the cop to treat someone like that.
And then when I was a senior in high school, I got involved in the civil rights
movement, and we did some kneeling demonstrations, sit-in demonstrations,
counter demonstration, but I have to admit I didn’t have the courage that some of
the other demonstrators had because they were more mission oriented. Someone
spits on me, I want to knock their block off, but you can’t. You can’t do that if the
demonstration is supposed to be peaceful.
Mr. Granof: Well, it was dangerous.
Mr. Murray: It was dangerous, but that was my instinct. You know, if you get attacked, attack
back, fight back. That’s the way I grew up. And a guy, it was me and another guy
in my high school class, he took us aside and he said, “You don’t have the right
attitude, you want to fight back but we’re not about violence.” I said, “I’m not
about violence either, but if someone’s going to spit on me, they better be
prepared to fight.” The guy said, “No, you can’t do it,” and it took me awhile to
understand what he was saying. He was absolutely right. I wasn’t cut out for that.
But I paid attention to the civil rights movement, and what I saw is that progress
was made not on the streets, not at the lunch counters or in the kneeling
demonstrations at the churches, all of which I participated in, but the progress in
the civil rights movement was made in the courtroom. And that’s what first
attracted me to the law.
Mr. Granof: When I was interviewing Judge Henry Kennedy, and he grew up in Columbia,
South Carolina, and so I asked him about that. He said that he knew that
segregation was there, but he also said, “I had my friends and my relatives, and
we went to the movies, and so life was not, on an individual basis, terrible.” It
wasn’t bad because he had his own circle. I wonder if you had the same
Mr. Murray: Not necessarily. I understand what he’s talking about, but I ventured out,
especially with the Boy Scouts, because I used to plan all the hiking for our merit
badges, and we would have to hike through white neighborhoods, towards the
Mr. Granof: And was this an all-black troop because you were segregated?
Mr. Murray: Yes, all black Boy Scout troop, but walking through white neighborhoods, we
were always attacked verbally. Oh, yes, every single time, every single time. So, I
can understand what Judge Kennedy said, because if you stay within your
conclave, you’re not going to get attacked, but if you venture out of the conclave,
you will get attacked. I would ride my bicycle just all over the city, and I would
go through Central City Park, and I got shot at several times.
Mr. Granof: Really? You got shot at?
Mr. Murray: Yes. Shot at several times in City Park by teenagers riding around in their
Mr. Granof: With BB guns or real bullets?
Mr. Murray: No, real bullets. Pow. You could hear it. You can tell the difference between a BB
gun, and they were pistols. I was maybe a block or so away, so you’re not going
to hit anybody with a pistol unless you’re a crack shot at that distance, especially
a moving target. They were doing it for the fun and to scare me. I was 11 years
old, 12 years old, on a bicycle, and there was a car full of young teenagers. Yes. I
understand what Judge Kennedy was saying, but if you ventured out like I did you
would find out that there are some hostile people out there. Nevertheless, I
continued to venture out. I even returned on my bicycle to City Park where I got
Mr. Granof: But apparently that did not stop you from doing it again.
Mr. Murray: Oh, no. That was the difference. I ventured out. And Judge Kennedy didn’t. I’m
not saying he never ventured out, but he was comfortable.
Mr. Granof: I’m not sure that was his description of his own life there.
Mr. Murray: I enjoyed taking risks, and sometimes you paid consequences for those risks, but I
did not let the dictates of the society keep me hemmed in, so to speak.
Mr. Granof: I begin to see the root makings of a trial lawyer. I’m curious about that because
those kinds of qualities are often those embodied in success.
Mr. Murray: That and the Marine Corps. In the Marine Corps, you know, you face challenges
and the more challenges you overcome successfully, the more confidence you
build up, I had a lot of confidence, but the Marine Corps really helped along the
Mr. Granof: But the Boy Scouts were a big part of your life?
Mr. Murray: The Boy Scouts was a big part because it was the first time I left home for about a
week, you know, for summer camp, and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed camping out, I
Mr. Granof: Where did they take you?
Mr. Murray: When you see the pictures of a Boy Scout summer camp, the camp we had was
nothing like that. It was in the middle of a swamp. And it was tick infested,
mosquito infested, alligator infested, snake infested camp site. But to me it was an
adventure, and I liked it.
Mr. Granof: So, you had a very positive experience as a child?
Mr. Murray: Yes, but across the river there was a white Boy Scout camp that had canoes, and
that had a lot of other advantages that we didn’t have, but I enjoyed my
experiences. I enjoyed it because I learned a lot, and there was the camaraderie to
experience in the kind of environment. It was a lot of fun. Yes, the Boy Scouts
was a big contributing factor, a positive contributing factor in my life. There’s no
doubt about that.
Mr. Granof: And you had friends?
Mr. Murray: Right. The same guys I went to school with. You got to remember you go to the
same school from 1st grade to 8th grade. You know these guys, and these were the
same guys that were in my Boy Scout troop. Some were older, some were
younger, some were my age. All the guys who were my age were in my class, my
classroom, and they stayed in my class. The classes were divided in grammar
school — elementary school — starting at the 6th grade, into a fast group and the
slower group. I was lucky enough to be in the fast group, so I got to know all
Mr. Granof: But you were smart?
Mr. Murray: I lived in the neighborhood, and it was dominated by the slow group. Now many
of the guys in my neighborhood were smart. But they were not motivated towards
doing well in school. When I look back, I shake my head because I realized there
was a lot of wasted talent in my neighborhood. So I knew both sides, and I could
communicate with both sides. I knew the thugs, I was good friends with the thugs,
and good friends with the goody-two-shoes, too.
Mr. Granof: Was this an all-male school or was its co-ed?
Mr. Murray: The elementary school was co-ed; the high school was all male.
Mr. Granof: I’ve talked with people who have had a Catholic school education, and when they
talk to each other, they talk about the nuns and the priests.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. The discipline that they instilled in kids. I hear stories about what goes
on in a classroom today, how the kids are disruptive; that never, ever happened in
a Catholic school when I was coming up. The nuns issued corporal punishment. I
can’t tell you how many times I got hit by rulers, knuckles, back of the hand, that
kind of stuff, and then when you go to high school, the punishment is elevated
because you got men, priests, administering the punishment with thick leather
straps, and I mean unlike the razor straps, I mean like a half an inch thick; you
can’t even bend them, they’re so thick. Then there are the paddles, wooden
paddles, punches, punches in the chest, or the stomach or something like that, and
it kept these young boys in line.
Now I’ll tell you a quick story, so you can understand, and don’t get the
impression that it was abusive. I was practicing law in this city and had a case
with a guy that knew my vice-principal in high school, Father Joseph Verrett. He
said he knew Father Joe Verrett and could arrange a lunch. I asked where Father
Verrett was located. He said he’s at a retired priests’ home in Baltimore. I called
Father Verrett. I said, “Who’s with you at the home?” and he named just about
every teacher I had in high school. I said, “Let’s go to lunch.” So I met all of them
at this really nice restaurant in Baltimore. I hadn’t seen these priests in, let’s see, it
had to be 20, almost 30 years. They still remembered me. They remembered
almost everybody in my class, and they told me a story that still sticks. They said
there was a mother of a student who came to the school to complain that her son
was disciplined, and while the mother was complaining, the principal, took out a
checkbook, wrote out a check for the tuition that the mother paid, and said
“Here’s your tuition back, take you son with you when you leave.” And that was
it. The bishop, the archbishop of New Orleans, tried to get the school to stop the
corporal punishment, and the students, the parents, all objected. The school was
special because it did not come under the control of the Archdiocese. The key
take-away here is that no one complained about the discipline. It was always
measured, always appropriate, and always immediate and expected.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting.
Mr. Murray: Everybody was taught discipline. They were taught respect; they were taught that
there was a certain order in life that you had to follow. I’m talking about tough
guys, I’m talking about soft guys, I’m talking about the whole gamut. Almost
everybody towed the mark. Some guys didn’t do it, but it was a very small
minority. You didn’t see people walk the corridors in the high school because the
teachers came to your classroom. You didn’t go to different classrooms, except
for chemistry or physics. But it was not unusual to hear a whole class get what we
call “the paddle.” You know if somebody misbehaves in a class during an activity
period when you’re supposed to be studying, and the person does not give
themselves up, the whole class got it. One whack on the butt.
Mr. Granof: In hearing you talk about it, I sense that your experience on the whole was
positive, and you felt it worked.
Mr. Murray: It worked. It was a necessary set of conditions that produced the desired result.
And I thought it was positive. I thought it was a positive experience. Because I
came from a disciplined home, I was used to discipline. My parents would tell
you if my son gets out of line, you put him back in line, you have my permission
to do what you think is necessary. I realize that not everyone believes in this
approach. But it worked in my high school. St. Augustine produced presidential
scholars, students who graduated and got admitted to Ivy League colleges, as well
as state championships in football and basketball.
Mr. Granof: This concludes the first interview.
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
January 18, 2018
This is the second interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, January 18, 2018.
Mr. Granof: Where we left off last time was you were talking about discipline at your
elementary school, and you were about to give an example in which you had
Mr. Murray: Yes. I remember it well. It was in elementary school. I was kept in detention,
which meant I got home late. My mother asked me why was I late, and I
explained to her I was kept in detention, and I got a spanking from my mother,
and then I was warned that when my father got home, the same type of
punishment was going to be administered to me, and sure as shootin’, that
happened. But the interesting thing was that both my parents were required to go
to the convent and talk to the nun that kept me in detention. I don’t remember
what I did to be kept in detention. Maybe I was talking in line, or maybe I was
doing something I wasn’t supposed to do, because there was strict discipline in
school, but in any event, after talking with the nun and after going home, I got
another spanking. So that for that one offense, I got three spankings.
I got punished three times for the same offense. I think that was double jeopardy.
Whenever I think about the three spankings for the same offense, I have to smile.
The elementary school, like I said, had grades from first to eighth grade.
Mr. Granof: And this was male and female?
Mr. Murray: Male and female school. You weren’t allowed to talk in line, and you weren’t
allowed to get out of line. The students marched everywhere from the playground
to the classrooms, and if you misbehaved or if you talked when you weren’t
supposed to talk, you were kept in detention. So, I think my detention was for
something like that, because it was so minor, I couldn’t remember what I did. But,
in any event, it was a strict discipline school. I remember during the lunch recess,
once the bell rang all students in the yard would have to stop, freeze in their
position, and then walk to their assigned place in line, just like the military; and
then from that position, whether you were in 1st grade or 8th grade, you would
march to your classroom to the tune of one of John Philip Sousa’s marching
songs. It was quite impressive. What was impressive was how the nuns were able
to maintain control of approximately 600 to 700 students and move them all
efficiently from point A to point B. And that’s the way it was for eight years in
grammar school. So that’s why when I went to the high school, which was just as
disciplined, it was an easy transition for me.
Mr. Granof: And that was all male?
Mr. Murray: It was all male. St. Augustine’s High School in New Orleans.
Mr. Granof: And they didn’t have nuns teaching?
Mr. Murray: It was mostly priests and a few laymen, but the majority of my teachers were
priests. I had maybe two or three lay teachers in my entire four years. Most of
them were priests, and one of my homeroom teachers was Father Philip Berrigan.
You know, the priest who developed a reputation as an anti-war activist, which I
thought was the result of his exposure to the Korean War. The rumor was that he
got shot during the Korean War, and he went into the priesthood after he was
discharged from the Army, and that’s when he became a priest. I met Father
Berrigan years later at Georgetown Law School, my first year. Maybe eight years
had transpired between the time I had him as my homeroom teacher, graduated
from high school, went to college, went in the Marine Corps, served my time in
Vietnam, got into law school, first year law school. He was a guest speaker at the
law school, because he had become a famous anti-war protester. I walked up to
him and introduced myself, reminded him who I was. He said you look familiar,
and he said, “What have you been doing?” I told him I had graduated from
college, went in the Marine Corps, went to Vietnam, and it was like I turned him
completely off. And I was surprised at that. I respected Father Berrigan’s right to
protest the war, but he did not return the respect for what I had done. I was
Mr. Granof: You would think he would be at least sympathetic.
Mr. Murray: Well, understanding.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: But at the very minimum, not judgmental, at the very minimum. And I said to
myself, well everybody’s entitled to his own opinion. You know he gave up what
he believed in to fight against the war in Vietnam, and here I was a former student
of his participating in a way that he fought strongly against. So, I rationalize why
he wasn’t too enamored to see an old school student, a student that he taught at
one point in time. He was a very good teacher, by the way. I rationalized why he
wasn’t excited to see me at that time.
Mr. Granof: But, still, you didn’t exactly sign up to go to Vietnam, or maybe you did?
Mr. Murray: Well, put it this way. When you joined the Marine Corps in the 1960’s, late
1960’s, you stood a 95% chance of going to Vietnam. There’s no doubt about it.
So, I knew when I went in the Marine Corps, Vietnam was where I would
probably wind up.
Mr. Granof: As opposed to being anti-war, a conscientious objector?
Mr. Murray: If I was a conscientious objector, I could have joined the National Guard, I could
have gone in the Air Force, I could have joined the Navy, I could have done a lot
of different things, but I wasn’t brought up that way. I thought serving your
country was an important duty that every citizen had. It doesn’t matter how you
serve your country, but you must serve. My brother-in-law joined the Peace Corps
and went to Africa. I respected him for that. But I believed that if your country
was at war, which it was at the time, then you had a duty to answer the call. Just
like the Greatest Generation did in World War II. Now I completely understand
that not everyone feels that way, and I respect their feelings. But I knew I would
not be at peace with myself if I avoided the Marine Corps and if I avoided
Mr. Granof: I guess I was trying to figure out Berrigan’s antipathy to someone so young who
basically said, “Well, I went to Vietnam, I served,” and yet he held it against you.
Mr. Murray: Yes, well, because he was against the war. I think he would have respected me
more if I had gone to Canada, but I wouldn’t have respected myself.
Mr. Granof: Right. I understand that.
Mr. Murray: What I did was participate in an event that was against his essence, his being. He
was anti-war, and here I was, a warrior. So, he passed judgment on me, which I
thought was wrong, but I understood because he was committed to his anti-war
Mr. Granof: I think you were more understanding than I would have been.
Mr. Murray: It really didn’t bother me because as I figured at the time, I would probably never
see him again, and I never did. You know it was unfortunate that he had to give
up the priesthood, that he became so involved in the anti-war movement that
everything he believed in took second place, and that’s almost fanaticism. And I
just felt sorry for him quite frankly. I felt sorry for him.
Mr. Granof: We’ll get to more of that later when you get to your service in the Marine Corps.
But in high school where Berrigan was one of the priests, were the priests mostly
Mr. Murray: All except two, but the majority of the priests were white.
Mr. Granof: But this was not a white school.
Mr. Murray: This was entirely African American, black school. Right. All boys.
Mr. Granof: And that does say something about the Church. These priests were — I think at
one point you told me — they were really good teachers.
Mr. Murray: They were excellent teachers. That school, I mean if you did any research on St.
Augustine High School in New Orleans, it has an excellent reputation. We had
numerous presidential scholars. All the top schools, Ivy League schools, came
down to recruit from our school. You know if they wanted black students who
could meet their academic standards, that’s the school they came to in the South,
because it had a rigorous academic environment and the teachers were excellent
across the board. I didn’t have one weak teacher the entire time I was there. They
were all strong, they were all dedicated, and they were all knowledgeable about
their respective subject matters.
Mr. Granof: And did they challenge you?
Mr. Murray: I had homework, I had homework at least four to six hours a night for four years.
Four straight years. Four to six hours a night. Yes, they challenged me.
Mr. Granof: So how would you characterize your education at the high school?
Mr. Murray: I thought it was excellent. I thought my education at the high school level
prepared me for any college that I would have gone to, because the English, the
math, the history, even our civics teacher, who was also the principal, he required
every student to subscribe to Time magazine. We were tested on Time magazine,
any article in Time magazine, every week. So, we had to read it from cover to
cover — the art section, the social service section, the Middle East section. At that
time Nasser was big in the United Arab Republic, Israel, everything that was
going on in the Middle East, we read out of Time magazine. We kept current.
And one of my best friends, the one I went through grammar school and
high school with, he continued his subscription to Time magazine until the day he
died. Unfortunately, he died of pancreatic cancer. But he was close to 66, so from
the time he was 13 years old until he was 66 years old when he died, he kept a
subscription to Time magazine mainly because of the influence that St. Augustin
had on him. I kept my subscription to Time magazine until I was in my 30’s.
Mr. Granof: Other than the work, which was challenging, how about any other interests in
Mr. Murray: Mostly it was academic, because it was all time consuming. I didn’t volunteer for
sports. I worked after school. Sometimes I did janitorial work, and one summer I
painted the entire outdoor basketball court. We had about 16 basketball courts.
We didn’t have a gym. We practiced football at a local playground about two
blocks from the school. Our basketball courts were all outdoors, all asphalt, and
we had about 20 basketball, 18 basketball, something like that – the whole yard
was just basketball courts. And I painted the lines on every basketball court one
summer in the hot sun.
Mr. Granof: What else did you work at? You had other jobs?
Mr. Murray: I had a paper route. A huge paper route. It was big enough to finance my way
through college, and I did some work as a waiter. I waited tables, mostly banquet
Mr. Granof: Was that a steady job?
Mr. Murray: No. I got on a list, and the head waiter called when he needed extra people, and
one time he called me. I did such a good job, he would call me back whenever
they needed help.
Mr. Granof: So, it was an on-demand sort of job? And your paper route, that was a daily thing?
So, what time did you have to get up to do this?
Mr. Murray: About three o’clock, 3:00 o’clock in the morning.
Mr. Granof: So, when did you sleep? I think at one point you said you were a night owl.
Mr. Murray: Well, I slept, I went to bed around 11:30 or 12:00 o’clock, got up around 3:00,
took me a couple of hours to do the papers, got home around 5:00, I slept again
until maybe 7:00, and then got ready for school. As a result, I could never go to
the library because if I sat down and the area was quiet for about five minutes, I
would doze off. I could never study in the library.
Mr. Granof: I think at one point you told me you were a night owl because you lived opposite
Mr. Murray: I had to stay up late because the bar across the street played the jukebox very
loudly, and it went off around 11:00 o’clock, so sometimes if I had a test, I would
study before the music got too loud, and then I would take a break, take a little
nap, get up after 11:00 when the music was off and then study some more. Then I
would take another nap, get up to go deliver papers, and then come back. That’s
how it went for several years.
Mr. Granof: Never missed a day?
Mr. Murray: Even when we had a hurricane in ’65, I had to wade through water up to my
waist, everybody got their paper, they got it late, but they got their paper.
Mr. Granof: Maybe a little wet?
Mr. Murray: No, no. All the papers were dry. I kept all the papers dry, but I was wet, I’ll tell
Mr. Granof: Now that’s devotion. The school you were at, I mean you came from a family that
Mr. Murray: Right. Hard working family.
Mr. Granof: But in terms of the class structure of the school, how would you describe it?
Mr. Murray: When you say class structure?
Mr. Granof: I mean wealthy, poor, mixed.
Mr. Murray: Most of the kids were poor. When I say poor, I’m talking about blue collar, lower
middle class, or very poor. In fact, I was in the A group – they had A group, B
group, C group, D group – I was in the A group for the four years I was there.
Mr. Granof: When you say A group?
Mr. Murray: High achievers. One of the guys that sat next to me, he had two pairs of pants.
One pair he wore in the wintertime, and one pair he wore when the weather got
warm. That was it. Same two pairs of pants for four years. And they were very
threadbare. That guy retired as an appellate judge in New Orleans. So, you know,
it shows you the products that this school produced.
Another graduate of the school became a neurosurgeon. We had two
graduates of the school who became mayor of the city. A lot of our students who
graduated from this high school got into politics, practiced law, practiced
medicine, you name it, they did it. So, it was a very good school that produced a
lot of good citizens.
Mr. Granof: But the discipline, as in elementary school, was tough, wasn’t it?
Mr. Murray: Yes. It was physical. You either got paddled, you got punched, not in the face, but
like in the chest, or in the stomach, not hard, because you had grown men
administering punishment to young kids, young boys in essence, but you knew
not to step out of line. You developed a respect for authority, and I carry that to
Mr. Granof: But overall, that structure, that model of education seemed to work pretty well, at
least for this group of people?
Mr. Murray: It was excellent. Nobody complained about it. Nobody complained. In fact, I
remember telling you the story that many years later, when I was practicing law in
D.C., I ran across a guy who knew of Father Verrett, who was the Vice Principal
of my high school. Father Verrett was black. As I told you in our previous
interview, I went to see Father Rhett, who was living in Baltimore at this
retirement community along with many of the Josephite priests who taught at my
high school. When I contacted Father Verrett and asked him who were the other
teachers at the retirement community, he named Father McManus – Father
McManus was my math teacher — Father Gardner was my biology teacher,
science teacher, and two other priests I can’t think of right now. And I said to
Father Verrett, “Well if you’re available for lunch, let’s have lunch at this nice
restaurant in Baltimore.”
When they came in, I recognized all of them. And they recognized me,
especially Father McManus. Father Eugene McManus from Brooklyn was the
only white president of the Urban League in New Orleans back in the 60’s. And if
you knew Father McManus, no matter how you felt about race, you did not test
him, because he was a weightlifter. If you wanted to select a model of him, you
would think of Mr. Clean, because he had a very short haircut, big chest, bulging
muscles, big biceps, big forearms. He was short and compact. But Father Mac had
intense blue eyes, and he was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He taught us algebra,
trigonometry, calculus, all the of the math sciences.
Mr. Granof: To me, it says something about these priests. Except for one or two, they were not
black, and yet they demanded and expected excellence from these black students
who were not — most of whom were not — from wealthy families at a time when
New Orleans was segregated. I mean it really does say something positive about
the attitude of the Catholic Church at that time.
Mr. Murray: It did, to some extent. And every one of those priests, every one of the adult
teachers, and all of our teachers were male, every one of them called every
student “Mister” — Mr. Murray, Mr. Lee, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Granof: And that wasn’t true at the time in New Orleans, was it? You were likely to be
Mr. Murray: Right. The teachers treated you with respect. Just to show you how important that
respect is to an individual, when I graduated from college I volunteered to teach.
Looking for part-time work, I got this job teaching some underprivileged kids.
Well, they were not really kids because they were all high school age at this
summer school. And I would go down the row, and I would call each one
“Mister” or “Miss.” Mister So and So, Miss So and So, and one student stopped
me, and he said, “That’s the first time anyone ever called me ‘Mister’.” And
here’s a kid that’s about 19, 20 years old, no one’s ever called him “Mister”
before. I thought that was a shame, but we were taught respect, not only respect
for our teachers, respect for authority, but also respect for each other. When I
showed the students that respect, I didn’t have any problems in my class. I was
just a little bit older than they were, and these were some tough kids, these were
tough kids, but you know I commanded respect in the classroom from day one,
and you couldn’t lay your hands on them. You couldn’t do the strict discipline
because this wasn’t a Catholic school. And it was an enjoyable and memorable
Mr. Granof: I think at one point you said that while most of the kids were poor in your high
school, there were some from — there was an upper class of black society in New
Mr. Murray: At that time, if you were upper class, if your parents were professionals, whether
they were doctors, lawyers, dentists, or whatever, or businessmen, that’s where
you sent your kid.
Mr. Granof: Because of the fine education.
Mr. Murray: Yes. If you had a son, that’s where you sent your kid. I don’t care if you lived on
the other side of the city, your son would take the bus, public transportation to go
to that school because that school had an excellent reputation, and you knew your
son would stand a good chance of getting into a good college.
Mr. Granof: And you knew some of these kids and hung out with them?
Mr. Murray: Some of those kids were in my Boy Scout troop that I told you about. We went to
the same grammar school, from 1st grade to 8th grade. Yes. They were doctors’
sons, insurance agents’ sons, dentists’ sons, businessmen’s sons. Yes.
Mr. Granof: I think at one time you told me you went to a cotillion.
Mr. Murray: Yes. A young lady that I knew asked me to take her, be her escort to this cotillion,
and I went there. I was in the receiving line, and what I did not like about it was
that people had a tendency to label you by who your parents were. So, the people
ahead of me in the receiving line were sons and daughters of educators, doctors,
lawyers. When they got to me, “Murray, who are you?” And I didn’t like that.
Mr. Granof: I can understand that. You told me in one of our discussions that you had a
positive experience participating in Boys State. Tell me about that.
Mr. Murray: Boys State is an organization; I think every state has it. In Louisiana it was called
Bayou Boys State schools. Louisiana is famous for its bayous. And what happens,
young boys from various parts of the State of Louisiana would go down to this
university, at that time it was Southern University, which was an all-black
university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and we would set up a mock state. We
would elect a governor, people would run for governor, people would run for
legislators from various parts of the state. I was put up, although I didn’t run
because I didn’t like politics, I was put up as the state’s attorney. I didn’t even
campaign, and I won.
So, during that week the people who ran the program wanted to conduct a
mock trial because the rumor was that somebody was caught smoking marijuana.
Before they turned them over to the police, they were going to try him in the
Bayou Boys State Court to see if he was guilty or not, before they turned him
over. We didn’t know that this was made up, but I was selected to be the
prosecutor, and I did a good job.
Mr. Granof: Did you get a conviction?
Mr. Murray: I got a conviction, and the guy that ran the program, who was a teacher at the law
school, I remember him being very excited about my performance and he said I
should seriously think about the law as a profession. And I thought about it, but it
wasn’t a serious thought at the time, but the seed was planted.
Mr. Granof: You were a senior in high school?
Mr. Murray: I was a senior in high school. And quite frankly, I felt good doing that job in the
mock trial. Things sort of came naturally to me. Even the elements of crossexamination. I would ask leading questions, and I was hard to trip up. I didn’t lose
my cool, and evidently this faculty advisor was very impressed with my
performance and really, really encouraged me; he grabbed me and said, “You’ve
got to think about going into law, you’ll waste your talents if you don’t.” I knew
he was being complimentary. I appreciated the compliments, but law school was
expensive, you know. It was tough enough getting enough money to go to college.
Mr. Granof: Yes. You had to think about college.
Mr. Murray: Law school on top of that. So, I said, “Okay, I’ll think about it.” The more I
thought about it, the more I thought, yes, if I developed a talent, or exhibited a
talent for the legal profession, I have always been interested in history, I said, I’ll
give it a shot, I’ll think about it more seriously.
Mr. Granof: You still had to think about college?
Mr. Murray: Still had to think about college. Well, I got into several colleges.
Mr. Granof: How did you decide to go to college? Had anyone in your family gone to college?
Mr. Murray: No. I was the first one.
Mr. Granof: And where did your parents stand on this?
Mr. Murray: They had more of a wait and see attitude. Because it was a cost, you know. I paid
most of it myself, 95% of it.
Mr. Granof: How did you decide that you wanted to go to college? In your high school class,
what percentage of the kids went to college?
Mr. Murray: In my high school class, I would say, in my grade, the A group, I would say about
95% went to college. The C group, the D group, no. The A and B group, most of
them went to college.
Mr. Granof: So, your peers at least went to college?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And did that have an impact on you as well?
Mr. Murray: Well, what the school taught you was confidence that you could meet any
academic challenge. So college wasn’t something to be feared, college was
something to make plans to do, and the kids I went to school with, they didn’t
come from wealthy backgrounds, but they found ways to get the finances
together, whether they borrowed the money or whether they worked for it in the
summertime like I did, or they worked during the year. They did it.
Mr. Granof: Is there some point at which you said, say, between 1st and 8th grade or in high
school, “I’m going to college”?
Mr. Murray: Yes. When I was in the Boy Scouts, I had two of the richest kids in class in my
patrol. I was a patrol leader, and I noticed that the difference between their
economic status and my economic status, or my family’s economic status, was
education. Both of my parents were smart. My mother especially. And my dad did
not finish high school because his father died when he was in his early teens, and
he had to quit school to go to work. Eventually, when he was 60, he got his GED.
But I knew and recognized that if you want a better life and if you don’t want to
work as hard as my dad did, because sometimes he would come home with his
hands bleeding — you know he was in construction, he was a tile setter — the thing
that separated the economic status was education. I knew that education was a
key to a better job. And a better job was a key to a better life. A better life was a
key to providing better things for your family, opportunities for your family, and
it all hinged on education. So, I decided that if I wanted to make something of
myself and provide for my family, I needed an education, and college was it.
Mr. Granof: How old were you when you sort of came to this realization?
Mr. Murray: I was 12, 11, 12, something like that. I was still in grammar school.
Mr. Granof: That was pretty early on.
Mr. Murray: I was still in grammar school because I was still in the Boy Scouts, still active in
the Boy Scouts. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was
right, a correct analysis of the situation. If you wanted to do well in life, you
needed an education, and education became paramount. When that was your goal
you start establishing things to reach that goal, which meant that if you want to go
to college, you had to do well in high school. If you wanted to do well in high
school, you had to work to get good grades. So, all of those steps went into
supporting that ultimate goal of getting into college.
Mr. Granof: Your father, I think it’s amazing that he decided at 60 to get his GED, but how
about your mom? Did she work? You told me she was a homemaker.
Mr. Murray: My mother was a homemaker until we were in high school and then she went to
work for a university. I guess you would call her a secretary back then, but she
was an executive secretary. She worked for one of the deans or vice presidents of
the university, and she was very, very good, because you would hear compliments
whenever I would go to her school, I heard compliments about my mother: “I
don’t know what I’d do without your mother.”
Mr. Granof: You certainly had a model for a work ethic from your family.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. My parents were hard working people. The whole family, both sides of
the family. My mother’s uncles had their own business, the roofing business,
carpentry business. In Louisiana, this gets back into history now. During slavery,
most of the whites were farmers, so a lot of your builders were the slaves. After
the Emancipation, they still had those skills, and what happened was that the
former slaves, ex-slaves, would teach the whites how to do brick laying, how to
do masonry work. This wasn’t true across the board, because they had stone
masons that came from Europe, but it was for a lot of the slaves. The slaves built
Mr. Granof: Yes, they were carpenters, they had all sorts of skills.
Mr. Murray: That’s right. And they had people out in the fields, but they had people who were
builders too. And slaves built the White House.
Mr. Granof: The planters weren’t about to get their hands dirty.
Mr. Murray: Because planting was their business. That’s how they made their money. In the
1880’s, when you started having guilds and labor unions, once a white person
would learn the trade, then they would organize a union or guild that would keep
the blacks out. So even though the black skilled workers had the skills, they
couldn’t get the jobs without the card, the union card, or the guild card, or being a
member of the guild. One part of my family, electricians, plumbers, they couldn’t
get electrical contracts because they weren’t part of the electrical union, the
IBEW, because they didn’t allow blacks. And that was the way of discrimination
that a lot of people didn’t recognize, and it kept blacks back, and held them back,
for a long time, until the Civil Rights Act.
I’ll tell you a story. I told you I was active in civil rights and voter
registration, sit-ins, kneel-ins, and whatnot, and I took my father down to the
voter registration to get him to register to vote.
Mr. Granof: What year was this?
Mr. Murray: It must have been early 60’s, ’62, ’63, something like that. Because I worked
with voter registration, I knew the tricks.
Mr. Granof: I mean this was before the Civil Rights Act?
Mr. Murray: Yes, before the Civil Rights Act. Yes. And I knew that they would get you to read
a portion of the Louisiana Constitution that was a paragraph that went on for two
pages. And they would get you to interpret that. So, I knew that trick. I passed the
voter’s test, but my dad didn’t. And let me tell you, he hid it, but I could tell he
was hurt, he was very hurt by that. Because he thought it was his education that he
didn’t pass, but it was a trick that he didn’t know how to overcome even though I
spent some time with him. He was reading every word instead of capturing the
essence of what the paragraph was trying to say. You don’t read every word.
Mr. Granof: Well, yes, that was essentially a test designed to exclude.
Mr. Murray: Yes, to exclude black people from becoming registered voters.
Mr. Granof: Sure.
Mr. Murray: Anyway, I know that hurt his feelings, and I tried to make him feel better, but
that’s why he waited so long to go back, because that was a slap in his face, and it
was a humiliating experience for him.
Mr. Granof: Well, I can understand.
Mr. Murray: And his son passed, and he didn’t. But that’s the way the South was back then.
And you learned to cope with that, you learned to overcome that. Like the Marine
Corps tells you, you improvise, adapt, and overcome.
Mr. Granof: And since we’re on that, I mean you grew up at a time when New Orleans was in
the South itself, Jim Crow.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: So, what was your experience like, how were you treated? I think you told me
previously about several incidents.
Mr. Murray: I got shot at.
Mr. Granof: You talked about that before, but it’s interesting enough to be worth repeating
even at the risk of some duplication.
Mr. Murray: I used to ride my bike all over the city when I was a kid, many times I would be
riding my bike alone. I called it searching for adventure time. Anyway, one time I
was riding in Central Park, and Central Park was primarily for white people. I was
riding my bike, because it was a nice park, and I enjoyed riding my bike, and it
was a long way from home, quite frankly. You know, if you were to drive there, it
would take you maybe 20, 30 minutes, so here I was on my bicycle by myself and
I just happened to be there at the wrong time when they had some white thugs
with a gun. The good thing is that it was a pistol and they were a distance away.
Mr. Granof: And they weren’t great shots?
Mr. Murray: And they weren’t great shots. That was a good thing. But I put some distance in
between me and them because I could go to a place on my bike they couldn’t go
in their car, and I made it out of the park safely, as you can see. But in getting a
Hiking Merit badge we had to hike through predominantly white neighborhoods,
to go to the lakefront, Pontchartrain Lake, and every single time we were verbally
assaulted. Not physically attacked, because we would have fought back, but we
had no easy time of it. Put it that way. And to get your Hiking Merit badge you
had to hike, I don’t know, 50 to 75, a hundred miles, I forget what the number
was, which meant that we had to go back to the same route every weekend, every
weekend, to fulfill that obligation to get the Hiking Merit badge. And since I was
a patrol leader, I was concerned about putting these guys in harm’s way, but we
made it. We all got the Hiking Merit badge in spite of all the harassment from
some of the local folks.
And then being denied the opportunity to go places where you want to go.
And the interesting thing is, when I came to this city – Washington, D.C. — and I
started practicing law, and people found out that I was from New Orleans, they’d
say “Oh, my favorite city, did you ever go to this restaurant, did you ever go to
this restaurant?” I would respond that I wasn’t allowed to go to restaurants, so the
answer is no, I’ve never been to that restaurant. But since then, when I’ve gone
back to New Orleans, yes, I went to some of these restaurants. Quite frankly, my
family cooked just as well and prepared meals just as well as what was served in
some of the finest restaurants. I mean we had some pretty good cooks in our
Mr. Granof: You were lucky.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: Let me talk about your family. I think you said you have a brother.
Mr. Murray: Yes. My brother is in Gulfport, Mississippi. That’s where he lives now.
Mr. Granof: And you described a trip you took to Mississippi before your brother went there.
Mr. Murray: We were visiting my uncle who lives in Pass Christian, Mississippi. And he lives
about, I don’t know, a mile and a half from the Gulf of Mexico, the beautiful
sandy beaches along that stretch of the Gulf. One day we went fishing. It was a
hot summer day. We didn’t have any water bottles or anything like that, so all of
us were thirsty, and we decided to go to this gas station and get something to
drink. And the manager of the gas station said there’s a hose around the back, and
there was a water cooler right there. So, most of the guys went around the back,
but my brother went to the water cooler, and he started to drink water.
Mr. Granof: How old was he then?
Mr. Murray: He was 7, 8 years old, and this manager kicked us out of the gas station, yelled
and screamed at us, called us all kinds of names and whatnot, told us to get away
from there. I said I’m not going to tell my dad, because if I tell my dad, that might
escalate things, and you don’t want that to happen, so we just kept it quiet. But
when my brother told me he was going to move to Mississippi, I reminded him,
and he remembered it. I said why would you move back to that place, and he said
because it’s changed. And it has changed. The whole South has changed. The
whole South is different than it was back in the 50’s and the 60’s, the early 60’s.
So, you know, he’s happy, he’s happy down there.
Mr. Granof: He didn’t go to college, though.
Mr. Murray: No.
Mr. Granof: By the way, did he go to St. Augustine’s High School?
Mr. Murray: He went to St. Augustine, but he didn’t like the academic challenge, so he
dropped out of that school. Well, not dropped out; he didn’t re-register, he went to
a public school instead.
Mr. Granof: How did you get involved with civil rights protests?
Mr. Murray: I never thought how I got involved, but I was interested, and someone — I was in
high school at the time. Someone said there was going to be a meeting and I said
well I think I’m going to go to this meeting and find out what it’s about. So, I
went to the meeting, found out, participated in some sit-in demonstrations, some
kneel-in demonstrations at Catholic churches, and some other demonstrations.
But the last demonstration I participated in was a kneel-in, coming out of church
and people yelling and screaming at you, and spitting at you, and evidently me
and this guy that I told you had two pairs of pants, we didn’t react the way we
were supposed to react. But when somebody spits at you, I was taught differently.
I was taught to fight back. Don’t let anybody spit, don’t let anybody disrespect
you. And the leader of our group saw this, and he took us both aside, and he said,
“I don’t think you have the right temperament for this.” And I said, “Well, if you
think we’re going to let somebody spit on us, you’re crazy.” He was right, I didn’t
have the right temperament. And I was stupid at the time. I was young and foolish
because I didn’t keep my mind on the bigger goal. What I was thinking about was
the personal insult, and not the larger goal. So, I said you’re right, you know,
because I would not jeopardize the goal of the group. Because if somebody hit
me, I’m going to fight back, I’ll defend myself. He said, “Well, that’s not the
purpose of this group. We believe in non-violence.” I understood the concept, but
I didn’t embrace it, and that was the problem. I knew that I would create a
problem if I continued, and if a button was pressed at the wrong time and the
wrong place, I would react in a violent way. I said, “You’re right.”
But I watched, and what I learned from watching was that the serious
battles were done on the street, but the war was won in the courtrooms. That was
another thing that further attracted me to the law, because no matter how many
times the people got arrested, the laws needed to be changed. You bring attention
to the frailty, the illegality of the law of segregation, but you win the battle, you
win the war in the courtroom, and that’s eventually what happened. The South
wasn’t going to legislate that. The change had to come from the federal
government. It had to take place in a courtroom first, and that was Brown v. Board
of Education. But that was 1954, and still in 1962 the schools were segregated. It
wasn’t until Little Rock, when people were pushing the envelope. Brown was
decided and that was the law of the land, and the president had to enforce the law.
Mr. Granof: In the South it was J. Skelly Wright.
Mr. Murray: J. Skelly Wright was brought up to D.C. because his life was threatened down
South. He was a good judge. Strong judge.
Mr. Granof: Very strong.
Mr. Murray: The Catholic Church has a lot to be ashamed about, but they have a lot to be
proud about too, because there were priests and nuns in these demonstrations, in
these marches, just as well as anybody else, just as well as the Baptist ministers —
Father Berrigan, Father McManus, all these priests who were my teachers in high
school. They all participated in the civil rights movement. The archbishop,
Archbishop Rummel, was forced into desegregating the schools. But once he
made up his mind, he didn’t back down.
There were two people who were Catholics, and I remember this, because
I’m not very good at names, but I remember these names, because I was interested
to see how they would be treated. One was an ordinary citizen, a woman by the
name of Mrs. Gilliot (pronounced gill-yacht) who was a very vocal protester
against school desegregation, and the other one was Leander Perez, who was a big
businessman from Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana. Perez made a fortune in oil
and gas, natural gas, on federal land, by the way. Both of them were Catholics and
both were avid protesters against school desegregation, particularly the Catholic
schools. The Catholic schools were where the crème de la crème of the white
society sent their kids. They didn’t want their kids going to schools with black
kids, so they protested the desegregation of the Catholic schools. And Archbishop
Rummel excommunicated both of them. And I said to myself, I wonder how this
is going to play out. The problem was Leander Perez bought his way back in to
the Church, and this poor woman, who was just a middle-class housewife, who I
guess was a Catholic, a relatively good Catholic in her own mind, she didn’t get
back in. And I thought that was unjust. I didn’t like what they stood for, but I
didn’t think the treatment was just by the Catholic Church.
Additionally, there was this Catholic Church on my paper route, that I
delivered papers to, and one Saturday when I was collecting, I saw this priest in
the yard and this black kid jumped the fence to get a ball that went in the yard.
The priest came running out cursing at this black kid to get out of his yard, called
him all kinds of names and — I was shocked — from a Catholic priest. So, every
Sunday, they had a Sunday paper. The Times Picayune was a very thick paper.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: I used to be able to throw this huge, thick, Sunday paper over the second story
banister. I could take that paper and throw it flat so it wouldn’t open. It would go
over that banister and bam! It would sound like a bomb went off. So that woke
everybody up, because when it hit, it hit that porch with a loud bang. I never
threw the paper over the banister like that before until I saw that priest call that
young boy a name. I said, “I’ll fix them.” But I never saw them because they
mailed their payments in, which was always good. I didn’t like that priest after
Mr. Granof: I guess to some extent they reflected society.
Mr. Murray: Yes. I mean they’re people, but you would think if they were devotees of the
Bible, if they were followers of Christ — I never saw Christ discriminate against
anybody, and I never saw any example of discrimination that was followed by
Christ in his 33 short years on this earth. No matter how they were raised and
what they were taught when they were young, at some point in time they had to
question those teachings, and at some point, in time they had to realize that those
teachings were wrong. This guy didn’t. The racial bigotry was too ingrained. And
I never really understood that until many years later when I saw an episode of
Archie Bunker. What Archie Bunker said when his son-in-law asked him why he
was prejudiced, Archie Bunker said, “When the man you respect, the man who
puts a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on your table, who taught
you how to play baseball, when he tells you that black people are inferior, who
am I to say that he’s wrong.” And I understood it right away. A simple example
like that. You’re taught those beliefs. But at some point, in time, one should ask
one’s self if what was learned as a child about hating people because of the color
of their skin is wrong. I mean it does not make sense to ignore life’s experiences
where you meet people of other races who are good people. To ignore those types
of experiences is mind-blowing to me. I just do not understand. You might dislike
someone because you don’t like the way he laughs, you don’t like their beliefs,
you don’t like the way they talk, but you wouldn’t condemn a whole race just
because of the color of their skin. One should make one’s own independent
judgment based on your experience with that individual and the content of that
After that Archie Bunker episode, I said to myself, now I understand. You
know, people are taught hatred. Well, if they’re taught that, they can unlearn it,
and what you see now when you go down South, well it’s not so bad. Black
people are not the devils that white people were taught they were. They’re just
like us. I think people have more of an accepting nature because a lot of that
teaching racial hatred has died down, or had diminished, or the people who
believed that have gone their separate ways. That doesn’t mean it’s gone forever
because that teaching still persists, and you will always have the 10 percent no
matter where you go in the country. What I’ve learned is that, unfortunately, one
of the tragic traits of the human race is that there are people who think they’re
better than others, no matter where you come from. If you come from northern
Europe, you think you think you’re better than southern Europe. If you’re a
German Jew, you think you’re better than Russian Jews. Because I’ve represented
both, and I can tell you.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: And if you’re a light skinned Black American; you think you’re better than the
dark skinned Black American. If you’re Irish, you think you’re better than Italian.
It’s this belief which I still have a hard time with, of some people thinking that
they’re better than other people based on some non-logical, emotionally based
belief system. That’s still hard for me to understand. To this day, I have a hard
time understanding that. To this very day. I used to dislike Republicans because
when Republicans ran for office in the South, they were more segregationist than
Mr. Granof: Well, that was the Nixon strategy.
Mr. Murray: You were always choosing between the lesser of two evils. It wasn’t until I came
up here and I was exposed, because I didn’t know any Republicans in New
Orleans except the people on TV who were running for office who never got
elected, because there was always a Democratic primary and the Republicans
were always going up against a surefire winner. It wasn’t until I came up here
when I saw that Republicans are people who believe in smaller government, low
taxes, etc., etc., and I had this discussion with one of my former partners. I said
when I was growing up, Republicans to me were worse than the people who got
elected to office, because they ran on a platform that was more segregationist than
the segregationist platform. You had no other reasonable choice but to vote for the
Democrat if you were black. It was always the lesser of two evils, and it wasn’t
until much later on that I realized — because that’s what I was taught — that belief
was wrong. So, I changed. I get into these discussions with some of my
Republican friends: “Dwight, you should be a Republican. Lincoln was a
Mr. Granof: I guess you’re not a Republican.
Mr. Murray: No, I am not a Republican. But I will tell you, I do vote more as a Democrat, but I
voted against Democratic nominees for president on occasion. For example, I
voted for John Anderson. I tend to vote for people who I thought are more in love
with the country than they are with a political party. And those were the type of
people that I supported. I never voted for McGovern, I never voted for Clinton,
Bill Clinton. I voted for Hillary Clinton because she was running against Trump.
If someone else was running besides Hillary Clinton, I would have voted for
them. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton because he dodged the war. The reason I
couldn’t vote for Clinton is because if he was in a position where he could send
other people to die for this country, he should have been willing to go to war
himself when his country called on him. If had gone to the Peace Corps that
would have been fine. If he did public service, that would have been fine. But to
avoid, in order to save his own skin, because he had ambition, I thought that was
wrong. And then to sit in the White House where you can send people to die
based on an order that you give when you weren’t willing to follow someone
else’s order back in ’68, ’67, when he was of that age. That was the only reason. I
thought he was a brilliant politician, I thought he was a good president, I thought
his moral compass was a little bit off, but as far as being a president, I thought he
did a good job. But if he ran again, I wouldn’t vote for him for that same reason.
Because too many guys died who respected the country. I personally thought
voting for Clinton would not have honored the sacrifices they made. Even though
it was an unjust war, they answered their country’s call. And when you don’t
answer the call, when you’re called and you avoid and don’t answer your
country’s call, automatically you lose my respect, just automatically. That’s just
the way I feel.
Mr. Granof: It’s interesting that among the African American population who grew up in the
pre-civil rights era, people are as patriotic and devoted to the country — more so
than, say, people who were much more privileged.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I am not articulate enough to say why, but Judge William Bryant gave a
good example. He said, he as he spread his arms out and said, “When this
country was founded, the Constitution was here, the rights for everybody way out
here. Some people didn’t have rights, but as time went on the two hands got
closer together. Now they’re not together completely, but based on the rule of
law, the court system, the political process, the democratic process, these rights
are getting closer and closer, so that everybody will be created equal and will
enjoy the same rights.” I mean, just think, gay people, lesbian people, 30 years
ago, they didn’t have any rights. Fifty years ago, they couldn’t even come out,
you know, but as time went on, people saw the injustice of it, the inequality of it.
People saw that they would not like to be treated that way. Nobody picks that kind
of lifestyle, just like nobody picks to be born a certain race; it’s just the way it
happens. And then to face discrimination because of that, because of something
beyond your power, it’s wrong, and then people tried to eliminate that. Now there
will always be the 10 percent. There will always be people who say certain people
shouldn’t have rights. I believe it is wrong to deny people equal rights because of
their status in life, it’s against our Constitution and against God’s law. I read this
book about the Spartans. Spartans were notorious for men being with young boys
that they were responsible for. It didn’t have anything to do with their lack of
manliness. Not that it’s right or wrong. I’m not passing any judgments on that, but
I’m saying that people should not be judging people for things that they have
almost no control over. And I guess I realize that I had a serious sense of justice. I
didn’t like injustice, and that was another thing that directed me towards the law.
I’m glad that I chose that path because every once in a while, you get a chance to
help somebody. Even though you’re not getting paid for it, it’s the right thing to
Mr. Granof: Are you still an optimist about the arc of history, and notwithstanding the last year
Mr. Murray: Yes, I’m still an optimist. As a matter of fact, a bunch of my Marine buddies and I
went down to Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the guys in our group was
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We went down there to lift his spirits, and we
always, always get into these political discussions. And this was back in
September 2016 when Trump was the nominee but before the election. I was the
only person in the group not supporting Trump.
Mr. Granof: Really.
Mr. Murray: These guys were conservative. I mean they were Marines. A lot of Marines are
Republican. Lot of Marines are Catholic. But I said, you know if Trump gets in, if
he gets in, we will be facing constitutional challenges. I said, but I’ll put my
money on the Constitution all the time. I’ll put my money on the system all the
time. Because I remember back in 1968 when Martin Luther King was
assassinated, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, we had all the riots, you had the
Vietnam War going on, you had the protests going on, you had cities burning,
Watts riots, Detroit, Washington, D.C. had riots and all this stuff going on, and
the country survived. It wasn’t a challenge to the political system as much as it
was a challenge to society, the way society was set up.
And then you had Watergate, which was a challenge to the political
system, and the country survived, the Constitution prevailed. And I said those
were serious challenges. Trump — I said this in September — I said he will have a
problem because he’s never shared power. He doesn’t know how to do that. I told
them there will be problems with his giving up chasing that almighty dollar. He
can’t do that because it’s in his blood. That’s what makes him tick. But that will
also be his downfall. I said, if he gets elected, I don’t think he will finish his first
term. I think he’ll be impeached, or so frustrated he’ll resign, or something will
happen. This was before he was sworn in, before he won the election. So, I don’t
know if any of this will come to pass, but I have a lot of faith in the system. I also
believe in a cyclical theory of history where whenever there’s a high power at one
pinnacle, there’s a countervailing power on the rise. And you saw it in the
elections in Wisconsin yesterday and you saw it in the election in Virginia, you
saw it in the elections in Arkansas, so there’s something going on, and it probably
won’t manifest itself until November 2018 when there’s a midterm.
So yes, I have faith. This is an incredible country. Absolutely incredible. I
mean where else can a guy who grew up in a broken home, of mixed-race parents,
rise to be president of the United States? Where else?
Mr. Granof: With a funny name.
Mr. Murray: With the funny name, and middle name after one of the mortal enemies of the
United States, “Hussein.” You can’t overlook something like that. Only in this
country can something like that happen. Freedom is a precious commodity. As
long as people are free to vote, free to express their ideas, the country will be all
right. I mean look at the Constitution, 25 amendments in 200-plus years.
Mr. Granof: Well, it’s certainly helpful to talk with you, because to talk with someone who’s
optimistic puts things in perspective.
Mr. Murray: You’ve got to look at the long range. I mean Trump’s only in office for four
years. If he decides to run again, I don’t know if he will, I don’t know if he’s
going to survive the first term. I think Robert Mueller is a fantastic attorney,
investigator. I mean this guy was a Marine. That’s what a lot of people don’t
understand. He’s a combat tested Marine, and when you’re in combat, you’ve
been tested and you survive that, there are not too many things that are going to
intimidate you — even the president of the United States with his vast powers.
Mueller won’t be intimidated. Robert Mueller will do his job to the best of his
ability, and if he finds that Trump is not guilty of anything, he’ll say so. If he
finds that Trump, that all of these things that are against the law, he’ll say so. He
won’t be intimidated.
Mr. Granof: And particularly because he’s not young anymore, he’s in his 70’s, I think.
Mr. Murray: Yes, and Marines are mission oriented. You give a Marine a mission, he’s going
to move heaven and earth to accomplish that mission. Just like I said, he’s going
to adapt, improvise, and overcome. That’s what he’ll do to accomplish his
Mr. Granof: That’s probably why Trump has Kelly as his chief of staff.
Mr. Murray: I feel good about Kelly, though not good about the last couple of days. I feel
really good about Secretary of Defense Mattis. He’s a Marine’s Marine. So even
with someone like that, someone like President Trump in the White House, as
long as you’ve got somebody like Mattis watching over things, because they put
country and God before everything else.
Mr. Granof: I think also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Mr. Murray: Dunford? General Dunford’s a Marine. All cut from the same cloth. All cut from
the same cloth. So that’s why I wasn’t worried. If they didn’t have those guys in
there, I would be a little bit more concerned.
Mr. Granof: They say that you don’t say “I used to be a Marine,” that once a Marine, you’re
always a Marine.
Mr. Murray: And that’s a true statement. One example that comes to mind is I was in a Burger
King getting a sandwich a couple of months ago, and I saw this guy who had a
Marine Corps hat on, 4th Marine Division. I said, “Hey, Marine,” and he said,
“Were you in?” And I said “yeah, semper fi,” then we shook hands like long lost
brothers. I saw the 4
th Marine Division insignia on his hat. I said, you must have
been in Iwo Jima. The guy was in Iwo Jima. He was 92 years old and in almost
perfect health. He was straight as a rock. Walked in and walked out of the Burger
King. And yes, never saw the guy before, and if we had time, if I wasn’t on the
run, we could have sat down and had a conversation.
The same thing in Seattle. I was in Seattle to see my daughter and her
family. Since I was hungry, I stopped at a McDonald’s after getting a rental car,
and I had on a little Marine Corps hat, a baseball hat, and these guys walk in. Big
guys, and they saw my Marine hat and said, “Hey, Marine,” and they say “Semper
Fi,” and I say “Semper Fi,” and asked them to come on over. So, we sat down.
We spent the whole hour talking. Never saw these guys before in my life, but
that’s the bond that you form in the Marine Corps. You know this organization is
the biggest fraternity in the world, and once you’re in, every Marine becomes
your brother, and that’s a true statement. And that’s the way the guys I went
through training with are, even though we disagree, and have serious
disagreements about politics. There’s one guy, a really smart guy, he’s a
Libertarian. No government. “I don’t want any government. I want to be able to
carry my gun wherever. I want to be able to buy a machine gun.” That’s his
belief. We have some serious disagreements, but yet there’s still that bond there
that our political differences won’t interfere with. So, it is a good thing. Yes, it is
a good thing.
Mr. Granof: We’ll get to talk more about your Marine experience. We’ll get to that, but I think
that discussion gives a pretty good flavor on the record for your perspective on
Mr. Murray: Well, that’s why I wanted to join, because it separated itself from the rest of the
branches. There was this spirit of camaraderie. I mean the Marine Corps hasn’t
always been at the forefront of racial integration.
Mr. Granof: The Navy wasn’t.
Mr. Murray: The Navy wasn’t. Heck, the Army wasn’t. You know Truman had to force the
services to integrate. Some of the same preconceived notions about prejudging
people and their abilities.
Mr. Granof: Although this is a little out of order, but since we’re talking about the Marines,
what did you know about the Marines, and when did you make that decision to
Mr. Murray: I believe I made the decision to join the Marine Corps before I went to college. A
high school friend of mind wanted me to go with him and join the Marine Corps
after graduating from high school and I said no, I wanted to graduate from college
first and try to go in the Marine Corps through the Officer Candidate Program.
Mr. Granof: Did you go in through the ROTC programs?
Mr. Murray: I read about it, I picked up some brochures, I found out that the Marine Corps had
a PLC law program where you can join the Marine Corps,go to boot camp for two
summers, and then when you graduate from college, you would be commissioned
a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. And then under the PLC law program
your service was deferred while you attended law school, which meant you would
get time in grade. By the time you get out of law school, you would be a captain.
So that kind of interested me, but the recruiter down in New Orleans was from
Mississippi, and he wasn’t about to let a black kid in this program, and he said
“No, we don’t have any openings.” I asked him questions about it. He answered
all my questions, he was polite, but he said, “We don’t have any openings.” He
said the kind of guys that join from this office are football players, and I wasn’t a
Mr. Granof: What year are we talking about here?
Mr. Murray: This was ’64, ’65, something like that. But you had to join early enough so you
would have the two summers. I went back, maybe a year later, and he said no
again. The same guy. I went back a third time, and there was a different officer, a
different recruiter, completely different. This guy was a Vietnam vet, well
decorated. He embraced me. He answered all my questions. He said we’d be glad
to have you, but you can’t join the PLC law program because you’re already
graduating from college. You should have joined PLC law program. I said I came
two years ago, but I got rejected. He said, “Well, I am sorry about that, but we can
put you in the OCS program, Officer Candidate School.” I said, “I’ll take it, but I
got accepted into Georgetown Law, and what I would like to do is go to law
school one year, preserve my spot, and then come in the Marine Corps.” He said
we could work out something like that. The recruiting officer told me to see your
draft board to see if you would qualify.
Mr. Granof: Was there a draft on at the time?
Mr. Murray: There was a draft. They were in the same building. Draft Board and the Marine
Corps Recruiting Office. So, I went downstairs to see the Draft Board. I sat down
and talked to this lady. She didn’t even look at me. I told her what my situation
was, and she was writing. I said what I need is a year deferment, and then I’ll join
the Marine Corps, just want to save my spot in law school. She said you’ll never
see the doors of the law school open. You’ll be drafted before the end of the
summer. I got up, went back upstairs. All I had to do was take the oath because I
had passed all the other tests and whatnot. I took the oath, and that was it. Didn’t
even tell my parents before that I was doing that, but I came home and told my
parents, and my dad was upset, my mother was upset, but it was a done deal. My
brother was already in Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: Could you tell me again what year we’re talking about?
Mr. Murray: This was ’68.
Mr. Granof: So that was the height of the Vietnam War.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And you clearly were draft material.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was going to be drafted, no doubt about it.
Mr. Granof: So, let me get back to college. Or high school. You basically said you were going
to college and you had to look around for a college that was affordable.
Mr. Murray: Yes. I went to Xavier University. Like I said before, it was a Catholic college.
Mr. Granof: We talked about this before — but it wasn’t on the record — that they didn’t really
have guidance counselors at your high school, so you really had to do the whole
Mr. Murray: Right. It was a good school, and I got in. The money was tight, very, very tight.
And then I got a partial scholarship after my first year, to help, because my grades
in History were really good.
Mr. Granof: And your major was History?
Mr. Murray: Was History. Yes.
Mr. Granof: And you had a minor in Economics?
Mr. Murray: Yes. A minor in Economics. I didn’t choose my minor at that time. I just wanted
to major in History, and I didn’t want the Political Science, you know
History/Political Science. I wanted something different.
Mr. Granof: And why was that?
Mr. Murray: Well, I thought the two courses were too similar, for one, and I wanted a different
challenge. And so, I took Economics and I fell in love with it, because it was very
logical. I said, “Holy smokes, this makes a lot of sense.”
Mr. Granof: And it’s also very quantitative, especially these days.
Mr. Murray: Yes. When I was studying for the final exam, I said, “I like this,” and so then I
decided to minor in Economics. That’s what I did.
Mr. Granof: And where did you live when you were in college?
Mr. Murray: Lived at home. Couldn’t afford to live anyplace else. You know you had to save
your money. Took the bus, public transportation to get to school, which was way
on the other side of the city. That was a long commute. Where did I sleep? I could
sleep standing up on a bus.
Mr. Granof: And you were still working, right? Did your newspaper route. Did you have time
for any activities at college?
Mr. Murray: Didn’t have time, didn’t even have time to date, so I didn’t date the first year. I
didn’t have the money to date until I got that partial scholarship. But work and
study, that’s all I did, because I knew grades were important.
Mr. Granof: Because you knew then you were going to law school.
Mr. Murray: That was the only way to go to law school. I couldn’t afford to slack off on the
Mr. Granof: I guess at some point you basically said I’m going to law school and you had to
Mr. Murray: I had to decide where. I came up to D.C. in the summer of ’67. I got selected for
this internship program at the State Department.
Mr. Granof: How did you do that?
Mr. Murray: I applied for it.
Mr. Granof: How did you know about it?
Mr. Murray: Some advertisement in the school, and I was interviewed by this panel of people
who were going through a selection process, and I passed the selection process.
They were looking to recruit people for the Foreign Service. I didn’t know
anything about the Foreign Service at the time. It looked like an opportunity. I
took advantage of that opportunity. I passed the selection process. Came up here. I
stayed in a dorm at Howard University.
Mr. Granof: Had you ever been North?
Mr. Murray: Nope.
Mr. Granof: Had you been anywhere but Mississippi?
Mr. Murray: Nope. My first time, other than going up to Cleveland to visit my grandmother
who was dying. We drove up and drove back, that was it. This was my first time
on a train, because I couldn’t afford to fly up, so I took the train up to D.C. That’s
a 24-hour trip, almost exactly. Left 8:00 o’clock in the morning from New
Orleans, got here to Washington at 8:00 o’clock in the morning.
Mr. Granof: There was a train that ran from D.C. to New Orleans, I don’t remember what they
Mr. Murray: Yes, that’s the train I took.
Mr. Granof: The Crescent City, or something like that.
Mr. Murray: It was the Crescent something, and I got here, settled in a dorm, went to look for
someplace to eat.
Mr. Granof: Did you have a place to stay? I mean had they arranged for you to stay in a dorm.
Mr. Murray: I stayed in a dorm, yes. I got here, I had a little money, so I went to get something
Mr. Granof: What year were you in school then?
Mr. Murray: I was going into my last year of college.
Mr. Granof: So, between your junior and senior year.
Mr. Murray: Right. I got something to eat. They didn’t have the cafeteria open during the
summertime at Howard’s campus, so you had to eat on your own, and I found this
little restaurant close to the dorm where they served stew. It was just a couple of
bucks, and I had to budget myself. I was eating, — lost a lot of weight that summer
— I was eating on $12 a week. I was feeding myself for $12 a week. The big meal
was lunch. I had lunch at the cafeteria at the State Department through the
vending machines. Couldn’t afford the regular stuff, the hot food. At the end of
work, I would catch the bus back to the dorm and go to this little greasy spoon
where they served stew, and the stew was like two bucks, three bucks, something
like that, and that would be my dinner. I did that for the summer. Saved my
money that I earned as an intern at the State Department. I worked for the Bureau
of Economic Affairs. The people were really nice. That was a good experience.
First time I ever worked in an office. It was an eye opener. I didn’t know they had
all these opportunities of being a Foreign Service officer. Took the Foreign
Service officer exam. I wasn’t interested in being a Foreign Service officer, but I
took the exam. That was a hard exam, very hard exam. I didn’t do well on that
exam. So, I said the law is my profession.
Mr. Granof: Well, how did you decide to go to Georgetown? .
Mr. Murray: Well, it was a good school. I applied to several law schools. I got into the
University of Denver Law School, Howard, one or two other law schools I forget
now, but I got into Georgetown too.
Mr. Granof: But you weren’t interested in studying law in Louisiana?
Mr. Murray: If you practice law in Louisiana, you have to get into politics if you were black,
and you would do primarily criminal law, and you would not be hired by any
firms, and you would be relegated either to being a solo practitioner working out
of your house, because they didn’t have that many opportunities for black lawyers
in New Orleans. They had some good ones, they really had some good ones, but
the real good ones developed while I was in college, and guys who became
independently famous because they were good lawyers, they got involved in the
civil rights movement, the name was an advertisement because of that, and they
were able to develop a nice practice. But I didn’t want to be relegated, limited,
and I knew if I stayed in New Orleans I would be limited, so that’s why I looked
to some other place. I didn’t know I would wind up in D.C. I thought maybe I’d
eventually make my way to California, but as it turns out D.C. became home. One
thing led to another, as it does in most people’s lives. Sometimes you just follow
your path. You don’t have any choice in the matter. It’s the way, the path, what
the Chinese call the I Ching, the path, and I followed my path, and D.C. became
When I got accepted into Georgetown, I thought that was a gift from
heaven. I had a full scholarship, but I couldn’t go because the Draft Board forced
me — that’s one reason I wanted to keep that one year, to keep the scholarship
alive — but the Draft Board said I would never see the doors open, I would be
Mr. Granof: So, you must have notified Georgetown what your situation was.
Mr. Murray: Notified Georgetown. They said thanks for letting us know. And that was it. So, I
signed up for the Marine Corps, and that summer I got married, and I got that job
teaching disadvantaged kids that I told you about. My wife and I moved up to
Washington in September because she had a job with the Veterans
Administration. I mean she was in a special management program. My wife is
Mr. Granof: So, you got married.
Mr. Murray: I got married in ’68.
Mr. Granof: And then went into the Marines.
Mr. Murray: Went into the Marines.
Mr. Granof: She knew.
Mr. Murray: I had to tell her.
Mr. Granof: Since we’ve been going for a while, maybe this is a good time to stop.
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
February 8, 2018
This is the third interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, February 8, 2018.
Mr. Granof: Last time, when we ended you mentioned three very significant things. You got
married, you went into the Marines, and you were accepted into Georgetown Law
School, but you deferred. And so, refresh my recollection about what year this
Mr. Murray: I got married on June 8, 1968.
Mr. Granof: 1968. So, let’s start with your getting married. When did you meet your wife, how
did you court her?
Mr. Murray: I met my wife in college. I bought a book from her, and she was very beautiful, I
thought, but I had absolutely no money to date, because I was on a shoestring
budget working my way through college. It wasn’t until I got an additional
stipend on a History scholarship. History was my major, and the chairman of the
department gave out a scholarship to the outstanding History students every year.
I was lucky enough to get that scholarship, so I was able to have extra money to
have a small social life. The first chance I got, I asked her for a date. And that was
it. That was it. Fell in love. Took a while to fall in love, but I fell in love, and I
proposed to her in my senior year, my last year in college. We got married.
Mr. Granof: So how long did you date?
Mr. Murray: Dated about three-and-a-half years.
Mr. Granof: So, she was a New Orleans girl?
Mr. Murray: She was in New Orleans. Very smart. Came from a very good family. I would say
I married above my station in life. Her father was a college professor, and she
graduated either number 1 or number 2 in high school, and number 2 in college.
Very, very smart. National Merit scholar, honors graduate, you name it, she had
it. And she was very independent thinking.
Mr. Granof: And did she go to college at Xavier?
Mr. Murray: Yes, we both met at Xavier University in New Orleans. That’s where her father
taught. That’s where her mother went. Both of her parents were college graduates,
both of them had advanced degrees.
Mr. Granof: What did her father teach?
Mr. Murray: Art History. And he had his advanced degrees from the University of Indiana. The
first date is an interesting story because her father was a very intimidating man,
and I don’t intimidate. I knocked on the door, he answered it, he invited me in, sat
me down, and I knew it was coming. The third degree. I said to myself I’m going
to cut this third degree short. And frustrate him a little bit. I did things like that.
You know, it’s not that I was being difficult; I just got tired of going through the
third degree every time I decided to go take a young lady out and meet her
parents. He was puffing on his pipe, and he looked at me and he said, “Tell me,
young man, what are you interested in?” And I just said one word,
“Communism.” And all of a sudden, his face changed. He said, well I’ll go see if
she’s ready, and my mission was accomplished. I cut the conversation short, he
knew I wasn’t interested in communism, but I told him that just to back him off a
little bit. But we had a great relationship. He respected me and I respected him,
but I wanted to draw the line in the very beginning that I don’t push around easily.
We enjoyed each other the first date, and then eventually we got married.
Mr. Granof: And you proposed to her in your senior year.
Mr. Murray: I proposed to her in my senior year, I didn’t have a job, I had maybe a couple
hundred dollars in the bank, I had orders to go to the Marine Corps in October of
’68, and we got married in June of ’68. The question was getting a job between
graduation and the time we would leave to move to Washington.
Mr. Granof: And she was okay with your decision to go in the Marines.
Mr. Murray: Well, I told her that before, you know, I proposed, and I would understand if she
said “No, I don’t want to wait for somebody who may or may not come back.”
This was during the height of the Vietnam War, ’67; there was the Tet offensive
’68; there was pretty intensive fighting; and the Marines were always on the front
lines. I didn’t know where I would be sent, I didn’t know what would happen to
me, and I laid all that out. But, you know, she was understanding, and she said
yes, and we just kept our fingers crossed. But my story isn’t different from a lot of
stories. World War II, Korean War, World War I, you know, a lot of guys were in
my position where they had someone they loved, the war broke out, they felt the
need to serve their country, and their wives, their future wives understood; they
did their duty, some of them came back, some of them didn’t. My story wasn’t
any different than any of those. I didn’t think I was special or an exception to the
many men in uniform during times of war who went before me.
Mr. Granof: I think you’re right about that. There were a lot of people who said let’s get
Mr. Murray: Yes, because remember while I was in college, I tried to get in the PLC law
program, but I ran into problems with the recruiter, and so it didn’t really happen
until my last year in college, when the recruiters were changed — the guy
accepting me – and I couldn’t get a deferment from the draft board. This was all
planned, but I wanted to go in as a lawyer, but it just didn’t work out that way. I
was going to go in, but I didn’t go in the way I wanted to go in.
Mr. Granof: Because of prejudice?
Mr. Murray: Well, yes, that’s right. That was the primary reason. But you don’t let that stop
you if you want to accomplish something, and that’s one of the goals I set in my
life, I wanted to be part of the Marine Corps, see if I liked it, see if I could meet
the challenge, because it’s a very challenging organization, and you wanted to test
yourself. So that’s one of the things I wanted to do. And that happened. We
moved to Washington after we got married. Well, before we moved to
Washington, I worked at a business school teaching inner city kids, and I told you
about that brief experience, and I was very successful. Students liked me. I had
absolutely no problem with discipline in my class. The students were very
responsive to the instructions. They learned something and I learned from them.
The students gave me a big plaque to remember them when I left.
Mr. Granof: And this was in?
Mr. Murray: In New Orleans. And then my wife and I, in late August, I packed everything I
owned in the trunk of my car, which wasn’t much, and we moved up to D.C.
Mr. Granof: What made you decide to move to D.C.? I mean the Marines could have sent you
Mr. Murray: Well, because I was going through training at Quantico, which is right down the
road, and my wife had a job at the Veterans Administration. She got selected for
the management training program. I mean she was heavily recruited by the
government, she wanted to work for the government. She was recruited by Social
Security, the VA, and a couple other agencies. They put her in the management
training program, and she worked for the VA Hospital in New Orleans while we
were waiting to get transferred up here. So, we moved up to D.C., we got an
apartment in Northeast on Second Street, right at the intersection of Hawaii
Avenue right behind Catholic University. And I commuted to Quantico when I
was in Basics School, just about every day, except when I had night tactical
exercises — that’s what they call it.
Mr. Granof: How did you manage to commute? That’s a long way.
Mr. Murray: Well, the first 10 weeks, when I was in OCS, I stayed primarily on base because
that was like boot camp.
Mr. Granof. In other words, you went in, but you hadn’t been to OCS before.
Mr. Murray: No. I hadn’t been in OCS. October 14, 1968 is when I took the bus from the
Greyhound Bus Station right at New York Avenue to Quantico, and I checked in,
reported in, and then waited to get assigned. The first day it was hectic. It was a
madhouse because it was a shock value, and the drill instructors did that on
purpose. They were masters at it. They take you from a civilian, a sloppy civilian,
and they’re trying to turn you into a disciplined Marine, and so they start the
breakdown process on the very first day, so it’s a lot of yelling and screaming,
you’re running everywhere, you’re carrying your foot locker with you, you’re
going into the barber shop, you get all your hair shaved off, you get your uniform,
you go to your barracks, you get your rack, your bed, you got a little foot locker,
you got three utilities, two pairs of boots, three pairs of underwear, three socks,
everything’s in three’s. You’re supposed to keep it clean and spit-polished the
entire time. Well, the first five weeks, the first six weeks, I stayed on base because
they didn’t allow any leave or liberty. After the first six weeks, they let you go
home on the weekends. So, I would come home on the weekend, and then Sunday
night take the bus back to Quantico, until I graduated. I graduated in December,
and in January I reported to the Basics School at Camp Barrett.
Mr. Granof: Tell me more about 10 weeks of basic training. It’s physical, isn’t it?
Mr. Murray: It was physical and mental. Physical. The first three or four weeks were very
rough. We started out with 50 guys in our platoon. We graduated, in my platoon,
maybe 27, 30, so there was a high dropout rate. Lot of people just dropped on
request, DOR, drop on request, because the training was too tough.
Mr. Granof: And what was tough about it? Like marching?
Mr. Murray: Marching was easy. It was the tough physical stuff. The DI’s would like to give
you a big lunch, big greasy lunch, before a big hike, because your stomach would
be heavy with spaghetti, meatballs, whatever they served you that day, but it was
always a day, and then we had to hike two miles to the “Hill Trail” with a full
backpack, rifle, canteen, and everything. The “Hill Trail” was a series of hills that
you had to hike once a week.
Mr. Granof: Like 80 pounds, 70 pounds?
Mr. Murray: The backpack wasn’t that heavy, but it was heavy, maybe 50 pounds, to the Hill
Trail. Now the Hill Trail, every Marine officer who went through OCS at
Quantico will tell you about the Hill Trail, because it was a punishing hike. It was
a series of hills, up and down, and our training was in the wintertime, so the
leaves had already fallen, our boots were not like the boots they wear now, where
there are grips at the bottom. Our boots were leather bottom, like the old World
War II boots, and you would be slipping as you go up, the DI’s did that on
purpose just to frustrate you, so you had to understand the mind games, because
they wanted you to get frustrated, they wanted you to quit because if you quit
under those circumstances you would quit under any circumstances when the
going got tough, and they only wanted people who could hang in there and never
give up. That was their goal, to weed out those people.
Mr. Granof: There were other physical requirements, weren’t there?
Mr. Murray: Oh, we had PFT test, physical fitness test, you had to do a minimum of 12
pull-ups, 40-50 pushups, you had to do a broad jump, you had to run three miles
in a certain amount of time, my best time was about 18 minutes.
Mr. Granof: Pretty good.
Mr. Murray: That was good. I couldn’t do that again to save my soul. I could barely walk now
with my back. But that was a good time to run the 3 miles in boots.
Mr. Granof: So, you must have been in reasonably good shape because I don’t hear you
saying, “Oh this was really tough on me, you know, it was rough.”
Mr. Murray: The physical part wasn’t tough. The obstacle course, I was always very agile, I
had good upper body strength, I had good endurance, so the physical stuff wasn’t
that tough. The hill trails were tough, but the other training was not that tough to
me, and the Marine Corps was relentless in putting you in shape. Just to tell you
what kind of shape I was in, I came home right before I went to Vietnam, and one
of my friends and I decided to go to the Lakefront, Lake Pontchartrain, to go
swimming, and this was in the summertime, during the heat of the day. I said
well, before I go in the lake, I want to go for a run, because I was trying to
acclimate myself. I had my orders to go to Vietnam, so I was trying to stay in
shape, and I went for about a three-mile run, and it wore him out, and this guy
was in pretty good shape, and then I took my running clothes off, jumped in the
lake, and swam way out and back, and I never thought about it. He said he tried to
keep up with me and almost died. I said, “Well, you know, we’re active every
single day. We’re doing something every single day. I don’t expect you to be able
to keep up with me, so don’t feel bad about it. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in
my life, and I want to stay that way when I go over there.” I never thought about it
until then because there was a comparison between me, who was in really good
shape, and my friend, who thought he was in good shape but really wasn’t.
Mr. Granof: No, he wasn’t doing the kind of physical activity you were doing day-in and dayout.
Mr. Murray: Day-in and day-out you go on hikes, with full backpacks, you go night patrolling,
you go, you push yourself to the limits, and it’s constant. You spend a lot of time
Mr. Granof: I was going to ask you about whether you spent time in class.
Mr. Murray: Yes, in the classroom. In the Basics School, it was a combination of classroom
work, physical training, learning about weapons and tactics. The first thing they
teach you is weapons. You learn about all the weapons.
Mr. Granof: And this was after the 10 weeks?
Mr. Murray: In the 10 weeks, you stay in class, but not as much. It’s more a physical challenge.
Mr. Granof: And how many hours in class? I’m just curious.
Mr. Murray: About once or twice a week, maybe a couple of hours a class. You would have a
class maybe on map reading, you’d have a class on weapons, on your rifle, on a
machine gun. They wanted you to learn the ins and outs of all the weapons used
by Marine infantry units.
Mr. Granof: And did they test you?
Mr. Murray: We had tests on that in the 10 weeks, the OCS part of it, but I can’t remember too
much of the tests that I took in OCS. I do remember a lot of the tests we took at
the Basics School – they called it TBS — because we were tested all the time.
TBS was right on the other side Interstate 95 where I first went for training.
Mr. Granof: The reason I’m curious about it is I was trying to compare Marine training with
my experience at Navy OCS.
Mr. Murray: Completely different. In Marine training you can’t drink any soft drinks, you
don’t make any phone calls, you don’t have access to anything in OCS. You live
in a 50-person barracks. By the time you graduate, that’s been cut in half. More
physical, to weed out the weaker limb. And the weak of mind. I was tired. I
always had a good night’s sleep at the end of the day. You went to bed early. For
me it was early. For me, 10:00 o’clock was early. Lights out 10:00 o’clock or
Mr. Granof: You previously told me you were a night owl.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was a night owl, and the lights came on at 0530, and you were constantly
running. You had 3, 5 minutes to make up your rack, get dressed and fall outside.
There was someone yelling at you all the time, all the time, they’re yelling at you.
At six weeks, it became a little bit more temperate because they accomplished
their purpose. The DI’s saw that the group was coming together as a unit. By that
time, the six weeks, we’re in decent physical shape, so the DI’s were not as strong
or not as abusive.
Mr. Granof: Did it seem like a long six weeks?
Mr. Murray: Looking back, no. But looking forward, when you’re living day to day, yes, it was
tough, you never thought it would end.
Mr. Granof: So, you got out and that must have been a proud moment.
Mr. Murray: It was, it really was.
Mr. Granof: Is that when you get your commission?
Mr. Murray: You get promoted in the Marine Corps the day you graduate from OCS, you
become a second lieutenant. It’s not liked the Army or some other services where
you go through boot camp and then you go to another school, and then after you
graduate from that school, you become an officer. No, in the Marine Corps, after
you finish OCS, you’re promoted to second lieutenant, and then you go to The
Basics School where you learn weapons and tactics.
Mr. Granof: And in Basics School, you could commute to Quantico?
Mr. Murray: That’s when I commuted just about every day, except when I had night problems
like night patrol, night ambushes and night tactical problems. As long as I could
make 5:30 formation, which meant I had to leave my house in Northeast
Washington by 4:00 a.m. and be on the base by that time. That’s when the route I
took was called Shirley Highway instead of what is now known as I-395.
Mr. Granof: The traffic was lighter then.
Mr. Murray: Traffic was a lot lighter then, and I put the pedal to the metal. I really moved out.
I used to break my record, going from Northeast D.C. to Quantico was 55
minutes, and that’s pretty good. You lost most of your time going through the
city, but once I hit Shirley Highway at that time, I really stepped up.
Mr. Granof: And so, Basics School was mostly classes?
Mr. Murray: It was classes, but it was also training because we went on a lot of hikes; we went
on patrolling; we learned tactics about a platoon accompanying an attack, a
platoon accompanying a defense, how to set up a defensive perimeter. You
learned how to set up your weapons, you learned land navigation, but the most
fun I had was patrolling. I liked being out in the woods, I liked exploring new
trails, I liked setting up defensive positions. I enjoyed that part of it, but that kept
you out at night, so I had a room. Married guys had a room. There were about
three of us in this room that we shared. When we had night problems and we
stayed out too late, I couldn’t drive home all the way to D.C. and back to make an
early morning formation, and so I stayed on base.
Mr. Granof: And who were the teachers? Other Marine officers?
Mr. Murray: Senior Marine officers, all combat Vietnam vets, every single one of them.
Mr. Granof: And did they talk about their experience in Vietnam?
Mr. Murray: No so much. It wasn’t about war stories. It was about teaching what they learned
from their tour in Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: In terms of “this will serve you well, you better learn this because . . .”
Mr. Murray: Yes. Well, what would happen, officers, commanders in Vietnam would send
letters, or at the time it was letters – it wasn’t e-mail because we didn’t have
e-mail – they would send letters back to the Basics School saying “This is what
the enemy is doing now.” For example, at the battle of Hue, during the Tet
offensive, the Marines did not have training on house-to-house fighting. After
Hue, they built a village which simulated some of the buildings that Marines had
to attack in Hue, and what they taught you was how to attack a building, how to
clean out a building, which they didn’t do back in ‘66 or ’67 before the battle of
Hue. So, they kept up to date with the tactics based on the conditions on the
battlefield. And if the conditions changed, they sent word back to the Basics
School, and they changed their curriculum to fit what the enemy was doing on the
battlefield. It was a constant state of change. They kept up to date. They were very
good at that.
We learned how to do that, but everything culminated at the Basics School
in what they call a three-day war. That’s when you’re out in the field for three
days moving like a unit, like a company. The first night, when we were in class to
get our orders and get the plans of what’s going to happen for the next three days,
there was a huge thunder burst; I mean rain came down in buckets, and I’m saying
to myself maybe they’ll cancel the three-day war. No way. We went out in that
rain, and I tell you it was pouring. But then you say to yourself, people don’t stop
fighting because of the weather conditions, so this is a good experience, that we
Mr. Granof: That’s positive spin on it for sure.
Mr. Murray: Well, yes, you had to look at it, say okay you’ll get wet, and you’re soaking wet. I
didn’t sleep that night. We went on a patrol and then we went on a night ambush,
and then the next day, with no sleep, the company commander made me the
company messenger. Now the company messenger is a guy that when one platoon
commander has a message he wants to give to another platoon commander, you
run from person to person, full pack, rifle, everything. I was running up and down
the line, you know, with no sleep, up and down, up and down. And then they
changed company messengers, and I was huffing and puffing. And then they
made me part of the mortar group, which meant you had to carry an M-60 mortar
with a 60-pound base plate and ammunition. That’s two nights I didn’t get any
sleep. And the third day we went out on ambushes again. For three days I didn’t
have any sleep. When we got back to base after the three-day war, I came to the
room, I was going to take a shower, but I wanted to check to see if the shower was
empty. Someone was already in the shower, so I had my helmet on, my pack, and
my rifle, and I sat down on my rack, bed, and I fell asleep just like that. Didn’t
wake up until the next morning with my helmet, my pack and my rifle over my
shoulder in a sitting position. That tells you how tired I was.
Mr. Granof: And never got the shower?
Mr. Murray: Never got the shower. But we had the day off that day, so I drove home. And then
that was the big event, that was the culminating event of the Basics School where
you put all your training into focus.
Mr. Granof: And were there no people who failed out in Basics or did most of the people get
Mr. Murray: Yes, they winnowed people out. There were guys who went on a night navigation
course. One guy got lost. He was out all night. He knocked himself out. Ran into a
tree. He was gone. And a couple of guys, the exhaustion got to them. One guy had
an epileptic seizure on the three-day war, and he was a fine physical specimen,
but you know, just the strain of not knowing how to pace yourself, it got to him,
and he got a medical discharge. One of the things, if you ever stepped out of line,
if you ever got a DUI, DWI, you were out. If you ever missed or came back late
from leave, you were out, because it was very disciplined.
Mr. Granof: Did they just discharge you?
Mr. Murray: They put you in a reserve unit. They wouldn’t send you into a combat unit, but
they found a way to keep you away from the fighting Marines because if you
were irresponsible with yourself, you would be irresponsible with others. The
Marine Corps had a very, very strict code in that regard. They respected their
troops, and they wanted people that they respected leading their troops. They
looked at your conduct very closely. And throughout the whole OCS and Basics
School experience, you were also subject to peer evaluations. Your peers were
evaluating you not only on your physical abilities, but also on your leadership
abilities, your knowledge and everything. And that was one way they kept in
touch because, in other words, you were always being watched — not like a spy —
but the question is do you want to go into combat with this guy. And if the answer
was no, the leaders found out about it because that came up on your peer
Mr. Granof: I never knew that.
Mr. Murray: The Marine Corps has what they call the truth teller when you do evaluations of
your officers. Let’s say you are a company commander. You have four lieutenants
commanding your platoons in your company. They are all great officers. They are
all outstanding. They all have excellent fitness reports. So the truth teller forces
the company commander to rank those lieutenants from top to bottom, and when
you rank at the top, and continually rank at the top, those are the ones that become
your generals because most of the Marine generals, you’ve seen them, they’re all
squared away, they’re all exceptional individuals. These are the guys who rank 1
and 2 consistently throughout their military careers in the truth teller.
Mr. Granof: It’s a very merit-based organization.
Mr. Murray: Yes, very merit based, very subjective. Now once in a while you get two guys
who are equal, just about, throughout their career. Same experience, same
background, same kind of fitness reports, but the truth teller will separate
number 1 and number 2.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting.
Mr. Murray: It’s an interesting organization, the Marine Corps.
Mr. Granof: So, you got through all that?
Mr. Murray: Got through all of that.
Mr. Granof: And you got orders?
Mr. Murray: Got orders to Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: And when did that happen?
Mr. Murray: That was in July of 1969. I went over to Vietnam in July of ’69.
Mr. Granof: But at what point in your basic training did you get your orders?
Mr. Murray: The last month of basic training. The very first day of OCS in October of 1968,
the drill sergeant said everybody’s going to Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: You weren’t surprised by that?
Mr. Murray: No, no. That was no surprise. Everybody did not go to Vietnam, but most of the
guys I went through training with, they had to go to Vietnam. When you went in
the Marine Corps back in the late 1960’s, you know where you were going.
Mr. Granof: So, your orders say report to where?
Mr. Murray: Westpac. Western Pacific FMF, which meant I had to go to Okinawa, so I flew
from New Orleans to San Francisco.
Mr. Granof: So, you had some leave, right?
Mr. Murray: Yes, 30 days leave. So, I spent 30 days with my wife, she was expecting, she was
going to deliver in January. I left July 19th
, I believe. Flew from New Orleans to
San Francisco, San Francisco to Hawaii, Hawaii to Wake Island, Wake Island to
Guam, Guam to Okinawa. Everybody on the plane was a Marine. No civilians. It
was the longest, it was my first time on a plane, too. Never been on a plane
Mr. Granof: So that must have been a bit traumatic, I mean leaving your wife and she was
Mr. Murray: Well, there’s a saying, you get your orders, you pack your bags, you kiss your
wife goodbye, and that’s it. I had my orders, I packed my bags, and I kissed my
wife goodbye. That was in the days when you could actually, your family, could
walk to the gate where your plane was departing.
Mr. Granof: I remember those days. Before all the security.
Mr. Murray: Before all the security. They didn’t even have any hijacking going on at the time.
My wife was there, my parents were there, and my brother had already been in
Vietnam, my brother just came back, he was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I was
on my way and he came back.
Mr. Granof: He was Army?
Mr. Murray: He was Army. He was a LRRP, long reconnaissance patrol. Let’s see, I got to
Okinawa and I spent 3, 4, 5 days there, I forget, and one of the most revealing
things of this whole experience, one of them, I was waiting for orders to go into
Vietnam, because you go from Okinawa to Vietnam. I was in the Officers’ Club, I
had lunch, and I went to the bulletin board, because when you are in transition
Mr. Granof: Officers’ Club in where?
Mr. Murray: I think it was Camp Hanson in Okinawa. And on the bulletin board was this news
clipping, and it was about this Marine helicopter pilot who was a veteran of 800
combat missions in Vietnam, 800 combat missions, got killed in a motorcycle
accident in Okinawa. And I said to myself, you know, you go when it’s your time,
so no matter what happens, you can’t be afraid of what goes on. If it’s your time,
you might die before you get to Vietnam. If it’s your time, you might die on your
way to Vietnam. If it’s your time, you’ll die in Vietnam. Therefore, you tell
yourself don’t worry about it because there’s nothing you can change about that.
Just do your job. That was my mindset. The concern about being killed left my
body at that time. I’ll just do the best I can with what I have, and that’s it. And it
was a pretty good experience, good in the sense that you learn a lot about
yourself. I had some good troops under my command.
Mr. Granof: So, you go from Okinawa, and you’re told to report where?
Mr. Murray: Well, there was an attachment with the first FSR –
Mr. Granof: FSR?
Mr. Murray: I forget what that meant. Logistic command. And I picked up a platoon that did
security for that base. That base got hit a couple of times.
Mr. Granof: This was when you were in Vietnam?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: But from Okinawa your orders say report to a particular place?
Mr. Murray: A particular place in Vietnam. I forget. I think it was the first FSR. And I went to
the headquarters there, division command, and then they assigned me to this
combat operation that was attached to this unit.
Mr. Granof: So, you’re assigned to a particular platoon?
Mr. Murray: Yes. And I picked up a platoon that didn’t have a platoon commander.
Mr. Granof: And you are now the platoon commander?
Mr. Murray: I am now the platoon commander.
Mr. Granof: This is your first experience with command?
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: So, what’s it like? I mean you’re responsible for what? 40 guys?
Mr. Murray: Well, it was about 25 or 30. It was a reduced platoon. It was interesting because
these guys, they need a lot of training. Some of them were in-country, some of
them had been in Vietnam for a long time, some of them were new, a lot of them
were in between. But they weren’t well trained. The first thing, I started training
them, I started training them in patrol techniques, I started getting them in shape,
went out on patrols with them, taught them about security, taught them about
ambush sites. Because they haven’t had a platoon commander in such a while,
they were kind of haphazard, and their patrol techniques, they were haphazard in
how they set up their weapons.
Mr. Granof: But they were part of a company?
Mr. Murray: They were part of a company.
Mr. Granof: And you reported to the company commander?
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: The captain?
Mr. Murray: Right. My captain. That lasted, I don’t know, three, four months.
Mr. Granof: While you were there, you said you went on patrols. Did you engage the enemy
Mr. Murray: Yes. Called in gunships, artillery strikes.
Mr. Granof: But you guys were getting shot at?
Mr. Murray: We were getting shot at. And that lasted for about, I don’t know, about three, four
Mr. Granof: Did you lose people?
Mr. Murray: Lost one guy, but we lost him after I got transferred. I lost one guy.
Mr. Granof: But I mean during that period.
Mr. Murray: During that period, I didn’t lose anybody. When they were part of my platoon, I
didn’t lose anybody.
Mr. Granof: You were on patrols and safeguarding the space?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: But close enough so you were in contact?
Mr. Murray: We would get hit and we would go out, and after I called in the gun ships, this
was at night, I would get a platoon organized, we’d go out and patrol and all we
could find were blood trails. We knew we killed a lot of people that night because
the helicopter pilot would tell us he would see bodies flying up in the air. If you
ever saw a gun ship, you see them in the movies, where there’s a constant stream
of 7.62 rounds. It goes [gun sound imitation]. That’s the sound they make. You
don’t hear tch tch tch tch, you don’t hear that, it’s a constant stream, a thousand
rounds a minute, more than that. I forget, so many rounds a second, I mean it
comes out in a constant stream, a red line from the gun ship straight down to the
target, and when you consider that every fifth round is a tracer, so every fifth
round is red, and you see one straight line of red so you know there’s a lot of
bullets going out; yes, we hit somebody, we saw him fly up in the air, so you’d be
on the radio with them, and you try to stay in contact; meanwhile I was getting
my platoon ready so at the crack of dawn we would be out searching to see what
we could find, and all we found were blood trails, all we found were blood trails.
Mr. Granof: Never found bodies?
Mr. Murray: Never found bodies, which was not unusual, because they probably had tunnels
close by where they could take the bodies. If some of the enemy were alive, they
wouldn’t leave bodies for you to count. They would take the bodies with them
back in the tunnels. However, if you killed everybody and there wouldn’t be
anybody to clean the battlefield, then you can do your body count, which I
thought was a waste of time anyway. That lasted a couple of months, several
months, and then this ammo storage area got hit, got attacked.
Mr. Granof: Where was this? Do you recall?
Mr. Murray: This was about maybe five miles from my base, and my commanding officer told
me that he wanted me to take over security of this ammo dump, where they kept
all the rounds, all the artillery rounds, you know they stored them in these berms,
and it was a prime target.
Mr. Granof: So, you were sitting literally on a powder keg?
Mr. Murray: Yes, and it was right by the infiltration route on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, so it was
part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I set up security there, we beefed up the security,
we used barbed wire.
Mr. Granof: Was this the same platoon you had?
Mr. Murray: Whole different outfit because I moved, not my platoon. They wanted me to move
to and take over security of this place, so that’s what I did.
Mr. Granof: And you were still a second lieutenant?
Mr. Murray: I was still a second lieutenant. Right.
Mr. Granof: And so, they basically assigned you a platoon, or more than a platoon?
Mr. Murray: Well, I had maybe 30 guys, or 35 guys under me. I had a gunnery sergeant, I had
two sergeants, and the rest were either lance corporals or PFCs, but the gunny did
most of the work. The gunny was pretty sharp. He was a former scout sniper, and
we picked up some enemy VC right in our camp, because the gunny spotted this
guy pacing off for an artillery strike. He said, “Lieutenant, watch this guy.” I’m
learning, I’m still learning. And a guy who is like in his third tour, he said, “He’s
pacing us off. We’re going to’ get hit, but before we get hit, we’re going to’ grab
him.” So, we went down there, and we grabbed him, we arrested him, we turned
him over to CID, you know the Intelligence Unit, and sure enough he was a VC,
working in our base. That was common. In my other unit, one night we got
attacked, and one of the guys that was killed was the guy that cut hair on base. He
was a friendly employee during the day, and a VC enemy at night. So that’s the
kind of war that was. That was the kind of war that was.
Mr. Granof: A little unnerving.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: To have the barber, the guy who’s cutting your hair and sometimes maybe has a
razor in his hand.
Mr. Murray: He’s there to gather intelligence. What better way to get intelligence than sitting
in a barber chair listening to these guys mouth off about things, because men have
a habit of telling jokes, telling stories, spilling their guts, if you will, when they’re
sitting in a barber chair, or sitting waiting to go into a barber chair. It was a
perfect place to pick up information.
Mr. Granof: He must have known English.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. Just about everybody on that base who worked for base people knew
English. Just about everyone. Not all the Vietnamese knew English. That was my
first experience trying to communicate with somebody where I didn’t know their
Mr. Granof: I’m interested in what you might call the psychology of command, or at least that
of a young person, a brand new officer, faced with the task of commanding 30, 35
people, wanting them to respect you, also probably aware that you had control
over their lives, you wanted them to be safe to the extent you could in a war zone.
Mr. Murray: Well, one thing, you wanted to gain their confidence, and you had to earn it. You
automatically had their respect because of the rank on your shoulders. They will
salute you and whatnot, and they’ll pay the proper respect because you’re an
officer. But you wanted that loyalty where they follow you anywhere, and that
you have to earn.
Mr. Granof: And you were aware of that?
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes, you earn that over a period of time, you earn that by watching out for
them, you earn that by protecting them, you earn that by taking care of them, you
earn that by teaching them, you earn that by disciplining them, you earn that by
drawing them in as a unit, and this unit when I first took it over was sloppy. First
thing I did, they didn’t like it, but I got them into shape. And one of the things you
were taught in OCS is pain can be a unifying factor, so if everybody’s suffering,
you have something to identify with. And if their suffering is caused by one
person, namely me, then you have something to bring them together, and then
sooner or later, you loosen up, you teach them why you’re doing the things you’re
doing, and they begin to understand, and then you take them out on patrol, you
teach them the right way to patrol, the wrong way to patrol, how this can cost
your life and how this can save your life. Then you begin to earn their respect,
which is the main thing you want to do.
Mr. Granof: Sounds like you were comfortable in that role.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes, I had no problems with leadership, I had no problems with leadership at
all. I didn’t shy away from it. I was a leader in the Boy Scouts.
Mr. Granof: This is the same kind of self-confidence that would make you a good trial lawyer?
Mr. Murray: I didn’t know about that at the time.
Mr. Granof: Looking back?
Mr. Murray: I guess so, but the main thing I wanted to do is teach these guys, keep them safe,
and protect them, because at a certain point, thank God, never had to ask any of
them to die for me, or die to carry out an order, you know, because we were
fortunate. We were very, very fortunate. You know I got off the phone a couple
weeks ago, because I am the chair of my reunion committee, we have our 50th
reunion coming up with my Basics School class. One of my favorite buddies, his
name is McGrath, and I called him up, and tried to talk him into coming to the
reunion, and he said, “Well, I got problems, I got post-traumatic stress disorder.”
He got shot three times in Vietnam, three times; he was a company commander.
He said, “I don’t know if I’d like to come there, might bring back memories.” I
told him, “Look, these guys, all they want to do is have a good time, that’s all
they want to do. You don’t have to sit down and talk about what you did in
Vietnam. You can talk about what you did in OCS, talk about what you did in the
Basics School, you can talk about what you’re doing now, but you don’t have to
talk about the war.” So, I’m very close to having him come, very close. In fact,
I’m going to call this weekend, and check with him.
It’s that kind of thing, you know, you form that bond, that brotherhood
that they talked about, which is true. It’s a very true statement, and you carry that
on, and I wanted to protect these guys who were my responsibility. I think it
would be hard to live with myself if somebody got killed because of a mistake
that I made.
Mr. Granof: But you did have to go out and patrol with these guys, and presumably you were
patrolling because there were Vietcong around?
Mr. Murray: Vietcong. We captured some, captured, I don’t know, four or five Vietcong.
Mr. Granof: Did you have fire fights?
Mr. Murray: No, we caught them by surprise. Caught them when they weren’t armed, when
they were working in the village, and we grabbed them, we ran them through, got
on the radio.
Mr. Granof: How did you know they were Vietcong?
Mr. Murray: Well, they were supposed to carry IDs, and we checked their ID with the CID
leader, the Criminal Investigation Division, people that were responsible for
interrogating enemy prisoners, and they had a list, and sure enough, these
Vietnamese had fake IDs. We turned him over, and those guys turned out to be a
VC. We did that several times. Well, after the ammo story, then they had a brig
riot. The Marine Corps had a brig, and the interesting thing was that when the brig
got attacked by the NVA and the VC, they thought the prisoners who were
incarcerated would revolt. They didn’t revolt, they fought. They underestimated
Marines. Even Marines who were being disciplined by being incarcerated fought
with their Marine buddies. After the ammo storage areas got secured, they sent
me over to the 3-MAF brig to work.
Mr. Granof: What’s it called, the 3-MAF?
Mr. Murray: The Marine Amphibious Force, 3 for the Third Marine Division, Marine
Amphibious Force. I went over there, and I was the only officer there working in
the brig, but I had professional staff, guys whose military billet, their MOS, was
Mr. Granof: And these were Marines?
Mr. Murray: These were Marines. Some Marines and one, one was a Navy guy, I still
remember his name, PN1 Walters, that was a mouthful for me. You had to call
him that. I said can I call you “1” and he said “No, PN1 Walters.” I said “Okay
PN1 Walters.” So, I was in charge of that, and I had a platoon for that operation as
well. Most of the members of my platoon were guards in the brig. That was
interesting. I had a very good First Sergeant named Top Baker, and I more or less
turned everything over to him, quite frankly, because these guys were a tight knit
group and they were professionals. When I was introduced to the platoon of
guards, I gave the shortest speech I ever gave to a new platoon I was taking over.
I pointed to the sergeant, and I said “That’s my sergeant, he is your sergeant, I
support him 100 percent.” Then I turned to the sergeant and said, “Dismiss the
platoon.” That was it. And I wanted the sergeant to know that because he was
very experienced. I wanted him to know that I had his back, and I wasn’t going
interfere unless it was absolutely necessary because he was very experienced, a
very capable NCO. And I didn’t have any problems. I stayed there for the rest of
Mr. Granof: And how many people were in the brig? How big a brig was it?
Mr. Murray: It was several hundred. We had all kinds of guys, we had murderers, we had guys
who were arrested for black market activities, but by far the most dangerous of
the prisoners were the guys who disrespected authorities. We had guys in there
who were accused of killing innocent Vietnamese and they got caught in the
crossfire when there was such a political uproar, I mean good Marines that were
just in a bad place at the wrong time. I felt sorry for them because here they had
this murder rap hanging over their head, and they were just victims of
circumstances. But things worked out for them. We had guys who were very
smart. Had this one guy in the brig, his name was Green, black guy from Detroit,
a high school dropout, 158 IQ, because I looked at his record, very smart, but his
only ambition was to get involved in a life of crime. And I made it my mission to
try and work with him. Couldn’t reach him. Could not reach him. Could not reach
him at all. I always wondered what happened to him. We had other guys that you
could reach, but this guy Green, I mean the guy was brilliant, just never had the
Mr. Granof: Now these guys must have been awaiting trial?
Mr. Murray: Some of these guys were sentenced. Some of these guys were awaiting trial. They
had to separate them from the unit.
Mr. Granof: But anybody who was sentenced to a long-term sentence would be sent back to
Mr. Murray: Eventually, yes, they would be sent back to the States. Some of these guys, quite
frankly, I don’t know how they got in the Marine Corps. We had one guy, my job
was to put them into certain classifications, minimum security, medium security,
maximum security. There was one guy they brought in, I walked in the interview
room, he was sitting on a table, sitting on a table. I talked to him for maybe three
seconds to see who he was, identify yourself, and I told my First Sergeant,
maximum security. Just like that. I would normally put them in Medium, and if
you can’t get along with people in Medium Security, then you send them to
Maximum. This guy, Maximum, right away. And he wound up, same guy, second
day to the Maximum Security cell block, he wound up attacking one of my
guards. Evidently, he made some kind of sharp instrument and slashed my guy’s
face while he was being fed. After chewing out my guy, my guard, for being so
lackadaisical in the way he treated this guy, you know, I went after the prisoner,
and we disciplined him. And the way you discipline him, you handcuff him and
immobilize him, so he cannot cause people any more trouble, because he was
kind of dangerous, he was mentally off, he was unbalanced, and I don’t know
how he got in the Marine Corps; after being recruited, I don’t know he survived
basic training. That was a mystery to me because this guy obviously had mental
problems. Several of the guys who were in that brig should never have made it in
the Marine Corps. The only explanation I can come up with, because I used to
have this conversation with my senior staff NCOs, is that perhaps they survived
because they were so closely supervised, because in Basic you don’t have a
moment to yourself, someone’s always watching you. And the minute they had a
little bit of freedom, that’s when the bad angel came out that people had to deal
with. But that was an interesting experience. We had one brig riot while I was
there, and the CO sent me in to calm the riot down. That was interesting because
all the guards were out. When the prisoners started rioting, they brought the
guards out until things calmed down, then we’d go back in. I said, “Well let me
go in and see if I can get the situation under control.” I went in, no guards, the
doors were locked behind me, it’s a big open area, and guys were coming out of
their huts, the minimum, the medium security people. I said let’s go in your hut
and talk because I knew it was going to be a gripe session. We don’t like the food
here, sir; we don’t like this; we don’t like that; we’re not getting enough meals.
Then it’s just a question of sitting down, listening to the gripes, letting them get it
out of their system, figure out who the leaders are, and then split them up. That
was my goal. I came there, sat down, listened to the gripes, figured out who the
leaders were, and I said “Okay, let me see what I can do about it.” Then the next
day I split the leaders up, put them in different locations; no more trouble.
Mr. Granof: I may have asked this before, but how big a population did you have in the brig?
Mr. Murray: Oh, we had a couple hundred.
Mr. Granof: That’s a pretty good size.
Mr. Murray: We had close to 200. Close to 200. Given minimum, medium, and maximum
security. And that’s where I stayed until I got promoted to first lieutenant there,
and that’s where I stayed until it was time for me to come back home. The year
sort of went by. It went by I can’t say “fast” because that’s when I’m looking
back, but looking forward I was probably one of the shortest lieutenants, and
when I say “shortest lieutenant” I’m talking about a short timer. By the time I got
to that, I had maybe a hundred days left, but I didn’t tell anybody. And then I
went on R&R to Hawaii, met my wife, and this was in May, and I had already
been in the country for 10 months. Most people go on R&R at the halfway point.
But I waited until 10 months. I said it would be psychologically debilitating to
leave R&R and go back to Vietnam and say you’re only halfway through. So, I
wanted to wait.
Mr. Granof: In other words, the practice was if you had been in combat for six months, and
then you got 30 days leave?
Mr. Murray: Then you want to get back to your unit. And I wanted to get back to my unit. But
it was so nice when I kissed my wife goodbye in Honolulu and said I’ll see you in
Mr. Granof: And by then you had a child?
Mr. Murray: By then, yes, but my daughter didn’t come on R&R.
Mr. Granof: It was a daughter, and what was her name?
Mr. Murray: Michele. She was my first born. As I said earlier, I didn’t see Michele until she
was six months old, when I came back, because my wife was staying with her
parents and working with the Veterans Administration in New Orleans. That was
a good thing the VA did for her. You know, while I was in Vietnam, they sent her
back to New Orleans so she could have the baby, have my daughter, live with her
parents so she could have some support, someone to watch the baby while she
was at work. So that was a good setup, and when I came back from Vietnam, I
didn’t tell anybody I was coming back. I just landed at the airport in New Orleans
and took a cab to my in-laws’ house where my wife and daughter were staying.
One of the first thing I noticed that was different was that the cabs were now
integrated. Around the time I left to go to Vietnam, there were black cab
companies for black people and there were white cab companies for white people.
This time the cab driver happened to be white, and I gave him the address.
Mr. Granof: Were you in your uniform?
Mr. Murray: I was in uniform, yes. I didn’t have much clothing. I probably had a pair of
civilian pants, a couple civilian shirts, and that was it. Most of the time you wore
your uniform, or you wore your jungle utilities. In Vietnam it was always jungle
utilities, but when you are sent back to the States, they return your uniform that
you had stored while you’re in-country, so I had on my Charlie’s, my summer
Charlie, which, at that time, was a khaki shirt, khaki pants, and a khaki cover.
There’s another name for it but I can’t say it on the tape, and I had my ribbons
and whatnot. The cab driver drove up to the door on Willow Street, which was
uptown New Orleans, I knocked on the door, my father-in-law answered the door
and welcomed me in. Everybody was glad to see me, my wife was in the
bathroom at the time taking a shower or something, and I saw my daughter sitting
in one of these little swings, for the first time picked her up, didn’t put her down
for the rest of the day.
Mr. Granof: That must have been wonderful.
Mr. Murray: It was, it really was.
Mr. Granof: So how would you characterize your experience in Vietnam if you had to
Mr. Murray: Well, in several ways. It was an eye opener. You have such great people in this
country, serving their country. The Marine Corps is such a fantastic organization.
It has its pluses and minuses. The war itself, I came to the personal conclusion
that it wasn’t being fought correctly. Being a second lieutenant, if you can make
Mr. Granof: But being a second lieutenant on the ground in Vietnam, you certainly can make
Mr. Murray: You don’t give up territory that you fought and shed blood to get, you don’t give
that territory up. But the biggest revelation, the people didn’t care, the South
Vietnamese people just didn’t care. The South Vietnamese were not as motivated
as the VC and the North Vietnamese. Not all of them were like that, some of them
were hellfire fighters. I worked with a group they call PRU, Provisional
Reconnaissance Units. These guys were killers. Every single one of them in that
unit had somebody who was killed, murdered, or tortured by the VC. There was
hatred in their blood, and you could look in their eyes and see hatred. You know
they went out to kill, to kill the enemy. You had strong soldiers like that, but you
had other soldiers who just didn’t care. You saw brand new Army trucks filled
with soldiers and their wives and their girlfriends going out on picnics.
This is a combat zone. Marines had beat-up trucks, the South Vietnamese
soldiers had brand new stuff, brand new equipment, brand new trucks, brand new
jeeps, brand new everything, brand new guns, and some of them were in the fight
but a lot of them weren’t, and this was their country. You saw that the will to win
the war by defeating the enemy was not there, it just wasn’t there. It wasn’t there
in the fighters, and it wasn’t there in the people who they were fighting for. They
were there to get as much as they could get out of the Americans, and that’s it.
Mr. Granof: When you left Vietnam, did you feel the war was unwinnable?
Mr. Murray: I didn’t feel the war was unwinnable; I thought we didn’t have the will to win,
which is a big difference. When you enter a war for the purpose of getting a
reasonable settlement, then you’re not in the war to win, and if you’re not in the
war to win, you’re wasting a lot of lives, and I thought the bombing should have
been relentless. It wasn’t. A B52 strike would take the starch right out of your
collar, and you don’t even have to be there. All you got to do is just be in the area
and hear the ground tremble. I don’t know what the politicians were thinking back
home, but if you get into a war, you get into it to win. The purpose of war is to
achieve a political goal. If the political goal is to defeat communism, then the
political goal should have been to defeat North Vietnam, and you do that through
relentless war fighting, and that wasn’t the case here. You bomb here, but you
can’t bomb there. And we never invaded the North. How do you conquer the
enemy if you don’t invade their territory? I mean there were reasons for that that
I’m not privy to, that was way above my pay grade, but if you did any reading
about World War II and you saw that the goal was unconditional surrender, that
leads to a whole different method of fighting. That’s relentless fighting, and that’s
not what we did in Vietnam. So, when you come back — and one of the sad days
was April 30, 1975, when you saw the fall of Saigon, and you saw people being
chased out of their own country — and you say why did we do that? Why did we
go over there and fight for South Vietnam for it to end like this? And then when
you start reading about it, and read all the political intrigue, mistakes, and the
broken promises that we as a country made — you know Ho Chi Minh fought with
us during World War II, on the promise that he would get his country back. We
broke that promise. There was supposed to be an election, but because we thought
that Ho Chi Minh would win, we supported Diem and the country was divided,
and it stayed divided. You know from a political standpoint that wasn’t right.
From a moral standpoint that wasn’t right. From a military standpoint it wasn’t
right if you weren’t going to back it up with all of America’s might. You don’t
fight a war with one hand tied behind your back.
Mr. Granof: So, you’re either all in, or you shouldn’t be in?
Mr. Murray: You’re all in or you shouldn’t be in. Precisely. Because it’s waste. The way the
first Iraq war was fought, that’s the way it should have been. Overwhelming
force. This country can exhibit overwhelming force; we didn’t do it in Vietnam.
It’s sad. Every time you go to that wall, you see all those names on there, and you
ask yourself, what did we accomplish? Nothing. Right now, it’s one country, and
it’s Vietnam and its now under communist rule. How does one explain to the
families of those whose names are on The Wall?
Mr. Granof: And we’re friends with them.
Mr. Murray: Yes. But we became friends with the Germans and the Japanese after World
War II. That’s not a problem. The war in Vietnam was a waste. When you come
right down to it, we were fighting for a cause that was destined to fail. A lot of
people were killed or maimed for a lost cause. Nevertheless, some of my Marine
buddies want to go back to visit. I never want to go back there. It’s beautiful, an
absolutely beautiful, beautiful country. I mean the beaches are to die for. Plus, I
stood on top of a mountain one time when I was on a patrol. On one side of the
mountain I saw emerald green rice paddies, and on the other side emerald green
South China Sea. It was a beautiful sight. But I wouldn’t go back there.
Mr. Granof: And why?
Mr. Murray: Because I thought it was a waste, I thought the South Vietnamese people did not
fight hard enough for their own country. The desire wasn’t there. And I personally
resented that when they had so many young Americans dying the South
Vietnamese were not as motivated as those in the North. Young Americans who
went over there were people who believed in our country, who answered the bell,
who fought for the freedom of others in a far-off land. These young Americans
were the guys right out of high school, out of the factories, out of the auto
mechanic shops, guys who pump gas. You know these guys didn’t have a lot to
go back to when the war was over with. They were lucky to get their jobs back,
most of them. I mean these young American soldiers and sailors, these young
Marines were able to operate millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, and they
were dealing with life and death situations all the time. Yet they had a hard time
getting jobs when they came back. It wasn’t right, at least that’s the way I felt.
You know, I was lucky, I had a college degree and I had ambitions of going to
law school, but I always thought about, you know, guys like Savage, he was a
corporal in my outfit. Bridges, a factory worker from the Midwest. What did they
have to go back to? And these guys, they saw a lot, before they came to my unit
they were up in the DMZ, they saw a lot of action. I mean their eyes looked old
before their time. You could see it in their eyes. They saw a lot of stuff they
shouldn’t have seen at that young age. And what did they have to go back to, and
for what? When you look at the end result, what we accomplished by being over
there almost 10 years, you don’t have anything to show for it, but a lot of lost
Mr. Granof: It’s a tragedy.
Mr. Murray: Yes, it is and was a tragedy.
Mr. Granof: When you got back to New Orleans, did you still have time to do in the Marine
Mr. Murray: Yes. I got orders to go to Quantico and so we moved back. We drove from New
Orleans back to D.C. On the drive back to D.C., driving through the South, I still
had a time finding a hotel that would accept me and my family. Segregation was
still alive and well in the South in the mid-1970’s. When I reported to Quantico,
my wife and I had to find a place to live. This time we decided to live in Virginia.
We got a place around Landmark shopping center because it would be easy for
my wife to commute into D.C. Also, it wasn’t a bad commute for me to Quantico.
So when I went there, the first day I reported to Headquarters, they said,
“Lieutenant, we’ll give you three choices, you can go to OCS as platoon
commander, you can go to Basics School as a platoon commander, or you can
command an SDT platoon.” SDT is Student Demonstration Troops. The Student
Demonstration Troops are the bad guys who train the officers. So, in other words,
they pretend to be the enemy on tactical exercises. I thought about it and I said if I
went to OCS as a First Lieutenant, I wouldn’t be doing anything because the
sergeants did all the work. I said the Basics School, I would be watching a bunch
of second lieutenants and that was not too exciting either. Then I said give me the
SDT platoon. I took the SDT platoon, and that was exciting, because these guys
as you brought them out, you did the operations, you did tactical problems and
you brought them back and whatnot, and I was enjoying it. I had my own parking
spot right outside the barracks, I got along well with my CO, got along well with
the battalion commander. The battalion commander was a squared away
lieutenant colonel. I remember when he conducted an inspection of my barracks.
He said, “Lieutenant, are your barracks are ready for inspection?” I said,
“Colonel, my barracks are spic and span, my barracks are ready.” And he
immediately went to the shower. He looked around, you couldn’t see any dirt, the
shower was spotless, and he bent down and picked up the drain cover on the
shower floor, you know where all the water goes, and took a pencil and scooped
up soap scum, and he said, “What do you have to say about this?” Now I would
have passed a white glove inspection if he had done anything else. I said, “Well,
that’s something the lieutenant is going to have to take care of, Colonel.” He
knew he had me. He just wanted to take the starch out of my young hide. That
was pretty good. I thought that was good. I said I got to remember that one. The
colonel probably had someone do it to him many years ago and was passing the
lesson along. I guess it was part of tradition.
I got a call after about two or three months there, I got a call from
Headquarters, Marine Corps, and they wanted me to transfer to Headquarters,
Marine Corps, to the branch there, in the G1 division. And I thought about it,
because I liked my platoon, I liked that I had my own parking spot, I liked being
on base, and I got along well with the other platoon commanders. I thought, “But
I’m not exercising my mind, and I know I’d be going to law school the following
year.” I said okay, and I got transferred to Headquarters, Marine Corps. I got a
little desk in a cubby hole, I didn’t have a parking spot except way, way out, and
this was at the Navy Annex. I don’t know if you remember where the Navy
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: It’s no longer there, they tore it down. It was on Columbia Pike. I worked for the
G-1 Division writing policy for the Marine Corps. I was in charge of all off-base
and on-base housing. I was the lieutenant in charge of all base housing for the
entire Marine Corps, so I did some traveling with the Pentagon off-base housing
inspectors. I was the low-ranking officer there. Everybody else was either a
colonel, a major, or a general. I was the lieutenant. I got a chance to write some
policies. I got a chance to visit some Air Force bases, some Naval bases, didn’t
include the Army, but that was it. And then I waited. That was when my colonel
at G1 was a Vietnam vet, a company commander, and a battalion commander in
Vietnam, a Naval Academy graduate, spit and polish. I came into my cubicle one
day, eating my breakfast, and he said “Lieutenant, get in here.” I came up, and his
cubicle was right next to mine, so he heard me eating my breakfast. He said,
“When you come to work, you come to work to work, you don’t come to work to
eat breakfast, you understand what I’m saying?” I said, “Yes, sir.” That was the
last time I ate breakfast in the office. Even now I don’t eat breakfast in the office.
I appreciated that. In my exit interview, he said “I was pretty hard on you.” I said,
“No, sir, every time you were hard on me, I deserved it, and I became better for
it.” And he thought that was the right attitude. And I was serious about it too. He
was a good leader and set a good example. To this very day, when I come to work
in the morning, I sit at my desk and begin to work. But he was a good leader, and
a strong leader, and I appreciated it. After my exit interview, I left Headquarters
Marine Corps,got on my motorcycle, and drove to Quantico for my final physical
Mr. Granof: You were driving a motorcycle then?
Mr. Murray: I had a motorcycle at the time. I drove a motorcycle to Quantico. Had my exit
physical. Got the clearance from the corpsman and the doctor. Got on my
motorcycle, drove home, changed my clothes, took my uniform off, put on
civilian clothes, drove to Georgetown’s main campus and went to orientation for
Mr. Granof: And what year was this?
Mr. Murray: This was 1971.
Mr. Granof: This may be a good place to stop.
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
March 22, 2018
This is the fourth interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, March 22, 2018.
Mr. Granof: Last time we left off, you had just gotten out of the Marines and you took off your
uniform and went immediately to the orientation at Georgetown Law School.
Mr. Murray: I rode my motorcycle down to Quantico to get what they call an exit physical,
which was really brief, overseen by a corpsman, and then a doctor, to make sure
that your record is clean in case you have any kind of disabilities that you’re
going to file a claim with later on, you want to make sure that there’s a basis for
that in your record. Once I got my physical completed, I went home, took off my
uniform, put on some civilian clothes, and drove down to the main campus of
Georgetown where the Georgetown Law School orientation was conducted. I
drove on campus, and you have to remember this is my first time on a college
campus in a long time. Most of my exposure has been to the Marine Corps,
Marine Corps bases, and it was a shock, it was a culture shock to drive onto
Georgetown’s campus. I thought I could handle it, because I had been interacting
with civilians for a year since I’ve been back, and I didn’t have a problem with
that, I’m kind of an easygoing guy.
Mr. Granof: What year was this?
Mr. Murray: This was 1971. Anti-war demonstrations, the beginning of the hippie movement, a
lot of social changes had gone on while I was in the Marine Corps, especially
while I was in Vietnam. And I was surprised at the appearance of the student body
for the law school, the entry class, because being a Marine Corps officer, you’re
used to a certain discipline, and there was no discipline, and I had to check
myself. I said to myself wait a minute, this is not the Marine Corps, you can’t
expect people to be lined up in an orderly fashion. You cannot expect that kind of
discipline. Just because people are walking around and they look disorganized,
that should not upset you. But it did, because I noticed it. And, I became aware
that I noticed it.
Mr. Granof: And the dress?
Mr. Murray: And the dress — torn sweatshirts, unkempt clothes.
Mr. Granof: Beards?
Mr. Murray: Beards. Unshaved. Hair not trimmed, and whatnot. All of this was new to me, but
I sucked it up, went in, listened to the orientation, and then looked forward to
starting law school. I went to Lerner’s Book Store, not too far from Georgetown
Law School at 600 New Jersey Avenue. There was only one building there; it was
a new law school. It just opened, and I would be, my class, the ’71 entry class,
would be the first class that graduated and completed their entire legal education
in the brand new building. So, after I got oriented, bought my books, read my
class schedule, that’s when the bell rang, and life began to change because law
school was a completely different environment. It was tough, it was interesting, I
was trying to adjust to the change, the social change, the atmosphere, the more
relaxed environment as opposed to a disciplined military Marine Corps
environment. And I got used to some of the stares of people who knew I was
former military because I still had some military garb; I didn’t have enough
money to buy a whole new wardrobe. I still had my jungle boots that I wore, and
I’d use those to ride my motorcycle. And I had some other military garb that I
wore on occasion. It took me a while to build up a wardrobe, so I didn’t have to
wear military stuff when I went to class. But I found comfort in sitting in the back
row of the class with some other veterans. We all kind of bonded. Some of us
were Vietnam veterans, some of us were just in the National Guard, and some of
us were people who were in the Reserves, so they sort of looked up to me because
I was in the Marine Corps, and I had been in Vietnam. But it was comforting
because these guys, we developed a friendship, we formed a study group, and we
helped each other.
The most interesting story I have to tell about my experience in law
school, the first time I got called on to recite, in Torts class, by Professor Frank
Flagel, a brilliant professor, nice guy, excellent teacher, one of the best teachers
that I had my entire time at Georgetown. As soon as I heard my name, the military
instinct kicked in, I jumped out of my chair, I yelled “Yes, sir,” and I scared the
bejesus out of him, because he’s used to students when they’re called on, to stand
up sheepishly, but I popped out of my chair because that’s what I’d been doing for
three years — the last three years — when a senior officer would call you, you’d
stand at attention, yes sir, you know, get your orders, yes sir, turn around and do
what you have to do. I realized how deep that tradition was imbedded in me. The
veterans, they burst out laughing, they thought it was funny, and to me, I thought
it was funny, too, because it showed the cultural shock that I was still trying to
adjust to. It really demonstrated that I still had a way to go, and the other students
— who probably thought this guy went to Vietnam, this guy was in the Marine
Corps — they were whispering about me, but now they knew, now they knew.
And, you know, they treated me okay, but I was never a part of their group. I was
never part of their group because I fought in a war that most of them protested
against. And that experience was interesting, but it didn’t bother me. I was there
to get an education, I was there to graduate, and I was there to get a job in the
legal profession. I didn’t take any of that stuff to heart.
Mr. Granof: How many people were there in your entering class at Georgetown?
Mr. Murray: It was a huge class, a big school. In my Torts class, the Torts class and the Civil
Procedure class, they took down the partition in the room, so I had about 150
people in the class. It was a huge class.
Mr. Granof: That was a big class.
Mr. Murray: It was a big class, and that’s why I was kind of surprised when I got called on.
It was in the first week, the first two weeks of class. I was prepared, and I recited,
and when the professor tried to stop me because I was on a roll, I’d say, “Excuse
me, sir, I’m not finished.” And he wasn’t used to being talked to like that. You
know, I could tell, and I had to self-examine myself, I said, “Well you’ve got to
slow down, this is not the Marine Corps, you’ve got to adjust, and you’re going to
have to adapt.” And that’s what I did.
Mr. Granof: And did they have different sections of Torts?
Mr. Murray: Well, they had different sections of Torts, but that was such a popular class, and
he was such a popular professor, they combined sections, and that’s why they had
it in a big room. Another section they combined was Civil Procedure, a section
that was taught by Professor Sherman Cohn. Sherman and I have become friends,
after I graduated, because we saw each other at bar functions, and we still do see
each other on occasion. In fact, he’s of counsel to this firm right now. We became
of counsel around the same time. But he still teaches law over at Georgetown. An
excellent professor, very, very knowledgeable.
Mr. Granof: Were you required to take specific courses in your first year? When I went to law
school, different era, but we didn’t have any choice. The first year was Contracts,
Torts, Property, Civil Procedure.
Mr. Murray: It was the same when I went. We had Contracts, Torts, Property, Civil Procedure,
Criminal Law, and then the next year, Criminal Procedure. But all of the courses I
identify were year-long courses, and you didn’t get examined until December of
the first semester, and you only got examined in one course, and that was Criminal
Law, and then the next year, you took Criminal Procedure. Might have been vice
versa. I forget which one. But the other courses, like Contracts, Civil Procedure,
and Torts, your exam was at the end of the year.
Mr. Granof: That is the way it was with us, and it was almost scary.
Mr. Murray: Yes, but I was a History major, so I was used to digesting a whole book and
getting ready for being examined on anything that was in the book. My History
professor had a standard examination question that he asked on every exam.
Therefore, everyone in the class knew what the examination question was going
to be, the first-year class, and it would start with the word, “Trace.” And he had
an acronym, PERSIA. He said, “Trace the political, economic, religious,
scientific, intellectual and artistic development, from” and then he would do a
span of maybe a hundred years, and the exam period was unlimited. I would
spend three to four hours writing his examination, on that one question.
Mr. Granof: So, you were used to that?
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was used to that, so that didn’t bother me, I was used to digesting a lot of
stuff, but what I was concerned about was whether or not I was absorbing the
materials. You’d talk to other students. I didn’t know anybody who went to law
school, and I definitely didn’t know any lawyers, so you didn’t have anybody to
talk to, and most of the guys who were veterans like me were in the same boat.
We didn’t know anybody who went to law school, but I heard from talking to the
people that there would be a point in time where the light would go off, where all
of a sudden things would begin to make sense, and I knew the light went on
sometime in mid-October because in the discussion groups, not only would I
participate, but also I would understand what other people were talking about. So,
I thought that I must be absorbing the materials. Therefore, I stopped worrying
about it. We had one guy in my study group who was a Marine, smart guy but he
just couldn’t pull it all together, and he dropped out after the first year; he didn’t
come back. He was a nice guy, smart, but for whatever reason, he just couldn’t
pull it together. And by pulling it together I mean take an abstract set of facts and
apply the legal principles that you learned. He just couldn’t do that, for whatever
Mr. Granof: So, you took Contracts and Civil Procedure. Did the professors use the Socratic
Mr. Murray: They used the Socratic method, but many of them were not very good at it quite
frankly. Frank Flagel was good at it, Sherman Cohn was good at it, but the rest of
them were not. And I found that not unusual because in my entire educational
career, you could probably count the really good teachers on one hand with a
couple of fingers missing. That’s through grammar school, high school, college,
and then law school. So that didn’t surprise me. You learn the law by selfdiscipline, reading, and working hard. That’s how you learn the law. And it helps
to have a discussion with other people. It helps to listen to the class discussion,
but to learn the principles that you have to apply to the set of facts you’re dealing
with is just sitting down, reading, and studying, and working hard. That’s just it.
And once I realized that, that’s what I did.
Mr. Granof: You’ve said that the purpose of first year law school, regardless of the course, was
to “get you to think like a lawyer.”
Mr. Murray: Analyze everything.
Mr. Granof: To analyze it, to use evidence, not to let your preconceptions color your thinking,
or at least dominate your thinking.
Mr. Murray: Yes, that’s right, and to that purpose even the teachers who were not good at the
Socratic method, you would learn something from the discussions, and from the
readings. It was tough because I’ve never liked homework, I never did like
homework. And there was a lot of homework in law school.
Mr. Granof: A lot of reading.
Mr. Murray: Well, that’s homework to me. It’s work that you have to do but you don’t
necessarily want to do it, but you have to do it. It’s taking you away from other
things, and my daughter was, by this time, she was one year old when I started
law school, and it took me away from spending time with her. We had a twobedroom apartment, and I had my desk in my bedroom. I would close the door,
but she would knock on the door and open the door and come in, and then you
have to spend time with her, you know, you can’t chase her out, so I would spend
half-hour, 45 minutes, until she got tired or bored, and wanted to do something
else, then I would go back to studying.
Mr. Granof: So that’s hard being at law school and having a family?
Mr. Murray: It was very hard. A lot of people did it. It was tough, because you couldn’t devote
your time to your family. It was especially hard on my wife, Elodie. Think about
it for a moment. A few months after we got married, I went off to OCS. I was
absent. All through my training at Quantico, I was gone for a large part of the
time during our first year of marriage. Then one month after we celebrated our
first anniversary, I was off to Vietnam, leaving her behind with a baby on the
Mr. Granof: And your wife was working?
Mr. Murray: My wife was working at the time; I was going to law school. And the routine was
I would take my daughter to the day care, because my schedule was more flexible
in the morning. My wife would pick up my daughter in the evening because her
schedule was more rigid, she got off at a certain time. So that’s how we managed
the first several years. And for me, the first year, what was extremely difficult
were the writing assignments, the research assignments, which meant that I had to
go to law school and spend time in the law library on the weekends.
Mr. Granof: Yes, this was before computer research.
Mr. Murray: You had to go to a law library, you had to do the assignments, you had to write
the memos, do the briefs, you had to do all that stuff.
Mr. Granof: So, you did have writing assignments in your first year?
Mr. Murray: You had writing the first year. And it was okay; it wasn’t anything really
dramatic that I remember, other than how to organize a brief, and how to do
footnotes, but that was the old-fashioned way. They didn’t have computers where
you press a button and automatically a footnote drops down. You had to do it the
hard way, and I was lucky enough that I had a typewriter. I learned how to type
when I was 13 years old. I had a horrible bicycle accident at that age. As a result
of my injuries, I was laid up for a while and I learned how to type while I was laid
up. I got hit by a car, and for a month or so while I was recovering, that’s when I
learned how to type. So, I was lucky enough to know how to type, to be able to do
my own typing. That really helped in law school. The study group also helped,
but that study group broke up after the first year because a couple of guys got jobs
as law clerks in law firms, and then we went in different directions. We took
different paths in other words. Some guys took specialized courses in their second
and third years, so we very seldom saw each other except on occasion we got
together, you know, for drinks or just to catch up on each other. And that was
kind of sad, because I liked those guys, and every once in a while, I’d call them
up and we’d get together, especially one or two guys.
One of the guys in my study group in law school, Jerry McGowan,
became the Ambassador to Portugal. Another study partner, Russ Lucas, started a
communications law firm and hired Jerry McGowan. In 1978 or ‘79, a few years
after I graduated, they wanted me to come practice with them. They had started
their own communications firm, which was on the ground floor of cell phones.
They were writing all these licenses, getting all these applications. They’d say
“Dwight, we guarantee you will be rich.” And I said “Well, what does it
involve?” And they told me, and they said, “You won’t be happy, but you’ll be
rich.” I said, “No thanks.”
Mr. Granof: Good for you.
Mr. Murray: I said, “No thanks, no thanks.” And they’re both rich, they’re both rich now. But
you know I wanted to be happy, and I wanted to enjoy what I was doing.
Mr. Granof: Sure.
Mr. Murray: Let me skip to graduation, to clerking, and starting a law practice. I clerked for
Judge Murphy. I should not skip over that.
Mr. Granof: Well, you’ve got the first year of law school with these courses, and you got
through it. Were you concerned at the end about the exams?
Mr. Murray: No, I wasn’t concerned about the exams. They had guys who had read all the
books before the first day of class. They had guys who were 3rd
lawyers in their family. They had guys who had a lot more outside experience in
the legal profession than I did. When I took Corporations law, I didn’t know about
stocks; nobody talked about that stuff around my dinner table, and my friends
certainly didn’t talk about stocks or dividends. I didn’t even know what the Dow
Jones Industrial Average was. But you know you keep your ears open, your eyes
open, you learn, you pick up things. I knew I was at a cultural disadvantage, but I
felt I could overcome any disadvantage with hard work. Now did I think I would
ever make Law Journal? No, I didn’t kid myself, but I said even if I lucked up and
got invited to join a law journal, I don’t think I would have accepted it because
that just wasn’t me. I did reasonably well in all my courses. I don’t know what my
ranking was, but I did reasonably well.
Mr. Granof: So, you were pleased with the outcome of the first year?
Mr. Murray: I was pleased with the outcome of the first year. One of the guys in my study
group made Law Journal, and he was a guy that participated least. I found out
when he made Law Journal that he was a Harvard grad. I didn’t know that the
entire time. I knew that he was National Guard and that he grew up in Boston.
That’s all I knew about him. And he was a nice guy. His name was David Long.
When he graduated, he got a job with a Wall Street law firm which I didn’t think
he would be happy at, and it turned out that he wasn’t. But you know I wasn’t
interested in a lot of the things that drove a lot of the other law students. I wasn’t
interested in becoming a member of the Law Journal. I was interested in doing
well, and more important, I was interested in learning the law and becoming a
very good lawyer. That was more important to me than anything.
And I’ll tell you just a brief story. I had 88 credits in my last year. All I
needed was 80 to graduate. And it was 2:00 o’clock in the morning when I came
to a decision. I was studying for my last exam, which was the Uniform
Commercial Code. And I said to myself, “Why are you doing this to yourself?
You don’t need this exam, why are you killing yourself?” I made the decision to
drop the course. And I dropped the course the next morning before the exam.
Even though I made the decision to drop the course, I continued to study. When I
made up my mind, I was going to drop the course, I still continued to study,
because I wanted to learn about Article 9. I already knew a little bit about
Article 2 because we had Article 2 Sales in Contracts. But Article 9 Secure
Transactions fascinated me, so I continued to study. I wanted to learn. And I was
interested in learning the law, interested in mastering the law, and I use that word
deliberately because the more I got to know, the more I realized it could never be
mastered. All you could do is your best. You will never learn all there is to
know — ever — but that’s the beauty of it. There’s always something new to learn.
So, I just kept at it, just kept at it.
Mr. Granof: Was there a time that you decided to move in a particular direction? At the end of
the first year, was there some area of the law that really interested you and you
said I’m going to do this?
Mr. Murray: I wanted to try cases. That’s what I wanted to do. I thought I had a talent for that
part of the profession. And I thought that would be — if I had any kind of gift —
that’s what I wanted to explore.
Mr. Granof: I remember you saying that even before law school, from an early age, you knew
you wanted to be a litigator.
Mr. Murray: Not a litigator. Litigator and trial lawyer are two different things. And I tell people
that. A litigator may never see the inside of a courtroom, or maybe argue a motion
or something like that, maybe take a few depositions. Trial lawyers go to trial, so
they take that work product and they put it into action. A litigator will never know
whether or not that plan had any merit to it. In other words, can they convince the
trier of fact about the merits of their case? A trial lawyer will tell you the plan had
merit or it didn’t, because either a judge at a bench trial will decide or a jury will
decide. So that was the ultimate challenge.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting. I never thought about that distinction.
Mr. Murray: I told a client this. I was representing 3M, and I went up to meet the General
Counsel of 3M, and he said “Well, Dwight, we got a lot of lawyers,” and I said,
“You’ve got a lot of litigators.” And he looked at me and said, “What’s the
difference?” And I told him, “A litigator looks under every rock. A trial lawyer
knows which rocks to look under, and when you’re paying by the hour that means
a lot.” And he said, he paused, he rocked in his chair, “You’ve got a point.” And
his whole philosophy changed because he started hiring law firms like mine. I
worked for 3M for quite some time. He was the third general counsel that I had
met. I had a history with 3M, but he started hiring other law firms instead of these
silk-stocking law firms where they just churn the hours and whatnot. And he got
better results; he got better results because these guys were trial lawyers that he
hired. And they knew their way around the courtroom. But that was my ambition,
to become a trial lawyer. At least I had to try it. I didn’t know whether or not I
would be successful. But I felt confident that I would be successful.
Mr. Granof: The first year really doesn’t offer you a lot of opportunity to do that.
Mr. Murray: No. But the third year I joined a clinical program, called the D.C. Law Students in
Court, and it was on the civil side where young third-year law students like me
represented people in Small Claims Court or Landlord & Tenant Court. And most
of the law students gravitated towards the Landlord & Tenant Court because they
had a manual about Landlord & Tenant Court. The book had motions, it had the
steps that you follow and whatnot. I didn’t want that. I wanted to go to Small
Claims Court where you represented people in contract disputes, labor disputes,
simple automobile accidents — these were the same kind of cases that a person
would be trying on the outside. And there wasn’t a manual for small claims court.
You had to take the case — get the facts, do the research, prepare the case, and try
the case. And I had more trials by the end of my third year than anybody else in
the clinical program because Landlord & Tenant Court resolved cases by motions
or a settlement, but in Small Claims Court there were trials — very few
settlements, mostly trials. And I would hang around the court, most people went
on spring vacation, but I’ve never been on spring vacation in my life. I would be
the only law student in court picking up cases, so I had a pretty active trial
calendar. By the time I graduated from law school, I had at least 5 trials, bench
trials, under my belt, which was pretty good. So, I knew the system.
Mr. Granof: These were in Superior Court?
Mr. Murray: The trials that I had were all in Superior Court because Superior Court had a rule
that allowed a law student to try cases as long as that student is supervised. But by
the second semester, this was a two-semester commitment, I had reached the point
where I needed very little supervision, and my supervisor was probably in the
building somewhere but not next to me in the courtroom when I was trying a case.
He would be walking in and out of the courtroom, but he knew me well enough to
know that I came in prepared. It was interesting because I learned a lot. I learned
not only where to stand in court, the simple stuff, but learned how to read judges,
and I learned how to listen to the testimony and how to read witnesses. I also
learned how to identify the salient points of a case that you want the fact finders
to remember when they’re making a decision. So those were good things that I
picked up as I went along.
Mr. Granof: Did Georgetown have at that time a trial practice course, other than the program
you just described?
Mr. Murray: That program was part of the trial practice course. It was a clinical program. They
also had an appellate program. They had several different clinical programs,
depending on the variety of interests of law students because not every law
student wanted to be a trial lawyer. Some of them were interested in
administrative law, some of them were interested in just criminal work. I wasn’t
interested in that because I did a paper on plea bargaining in my first year at
Georgetown, and I became disenchanted with the criminal justice system. I knew
that leg was an essential element to the system, but it just turned me off — the
process turned me off — but I understood how necessary it was to do that. I
interviewed some former convicts as part of my paper, and I remember a guy told
me, “Plea bargaining is a great system, young man, because where else can you
do a crime with a maximum sentence of 25 years, and then plead down to 5 and
get out at 2?”
Mr. Granof: That’s one way of looking at it.
Mr. Murray: You can’t beat that. And the guy was absolutely right. And the judges I
interviewed, the judges said, “Look, if there wasn’t plea bargaining the whole
system would shut down. Young man, do you think I can try every case that
comes up? Impossible.” I had an idealistic point of view that everybody deserved
their day in court, but the realistic point of it is some people don’t want to take the
chance. Guilt or innocence sometimes doesn’t make a difference; it’s whether or
not you want to take a chance given the weight of the evidence, especially today
when the U.S. Attorney’s office writes an indictment. I defended a lawyer many,
many years later in a legal malpractice claim filed by a guy that he represented in
a criminal case. Very well-to-do businessman. Pled guilty. I read that indictment,
and I said to myself, it would have been stupid for him to plead not guilty because
they had him dead to rights; they had evidence dead to rights against him, but he
thought the lawyer did something wrong. We were able to resolve that. But
getting back to my opinion on the criminal justice system that disenchanted me —
the paper I wrote on plea bargaining disenchanted me — so I focused more on
Mr. Granof: And did your experience confirm your predilection that this is really what you
wanted to do?
Mr. Murray: Yes. When I clerked, the judge I clerked for, Tim Murphy, he was a great man, a
great mentor. The reason why I got the job was because he was a Marine, he spent
time in the Marine Corps, and when I applied, my Marine Corps service was on
my application. Therefore, he called me in. We hit it off right away, and we
became friends until the day he died. But, in any event, yes, it satisfied my
Mr. Granof: You said this is what you want to do and when you started doing it you said,
“Yes, this is exactly right for me.”
Mr. Murray: Judge Murphy knew that I was interested in trying cases where they had good trial
Mr. Granof: Did your affiliation with Judge Murphy begin in the third year of law school or
Mr. Murray: Afterwards. You know, it’s like I said. When I came into this town, I didn’t have
anything. Everything I owned was in the trunk of my car, along with my wife’s
stuff. Well, she had more stuff than I did. I didn’t know anybody, didn’t have
anything. A military background was a big help because I was able to get a couple
of summer jobs as a result. I got a job with the Defense Contract Audit Agency,
and then I got another summer job with the Navy Court of Military Review, and
those were very good and interesting experiences. The Navy Court of Military
Review was appellate work. Defense Contract Audit Agency was Defense
contract work. Interesting, but not to my liking. The guys I worked for were very
good at it, very kind to me, and showed me the ropes, but it was something I
could not do for the rest of my life.
Mr. Granof: When you got out of law school, you knew you wanted to be a trial lawyer?
Mr. Murray: Yes, and Judge Murphy helped me in that regard. I didn’t get accepted by the U.S.
Attorney’s Office. I think I did poorly in the interview because the guy asked me
“Do you think you can send some of your black brothers to jail?” And I looked at
him, I got really close to him, face to face, and I said “Sir, I’m a combat Marine.
You think that’s tough? You don’t know what tough is.” So, in other words, I
challenged him. He was trying to challenge me, but I challenged him right back. I
don’t think it came across too well, but I was insulted by the question.
Mr. Granof: He was not African American?
Mr. Murray: He was African American. And from what I could see, he was a good man, but he
asked the wrong question at the wrong time to the wrong person. That’s the way I
looked at it. I didn’t pass the interview, and Judge Murphy, to his credit, called
around. He knew this law firm called Carr, Jordan, Coyne & Savits at the time.
And most of these guys were Marines. So, they said, send him over.
Mr. Granof: What was your affiliation with that law firm?
Mr. Murray: I didn’t know anything about them. I sent out about a hundred resumes. I got
maybe three calls for interviews. Everybody said, you have a good resume, good
to know you, thank you for your service, more of a curiosity kind of thing than
anything else. Some of the practices, when I got to know what kind of work they
did, I wasn’t interested, but the Carr, Jordan firm was exactly what I was looking
for. And Judge Murphy knew it, and these guys were all Marines, so they were,
you know, just like the brotherhood all over again. I started that job on July 1, and
I thought I went to heaven because I was in trial all the time.
Mr. Granof: In other words, when you were out of law school, you started with Carr, Jordan?
Mr. Murray: No, I started as a clerk for Judge Murphy.
Mr. Granof: How did you get to Judge Murphy?
Mr. Murray: I sent my resume to about every judge.
Mr. Granof: You thought a clerkship would be helpful?
Mr. Murray: I thought a clerkship would be helpful. And I thought I would get accepted by
Judge Harry Alexander. I didn’t know much about Judge Alexander. But we had
the same background. He grew up in New Orleans, I grew up in New Orleans. He
graduated from Xavier University, I graduated from Xavier University. He went
to Georgetown Law School; I went to Georgetown Law School. Judge Alexander
didn’t even call me in for an interview. I got an interview with Judge Murphy and
one or two other judges, but Judge Murphy and I hit it off right away. I was so
glad he made me the offer because, like I said, we became good friends from the
time I clerked until the day he died. And I was at his house when he died. He was
very instrumental in my career. He pointed my in the direction of the Carr, Jordan
Mr. Granof: Just preliminarily, how would you evaluate your overall experience in law
school? I mean, it sounds like it was a good experience.
Mr. Murray: Overall experience was good because I learned a lot. But when you look at it from
my perspective, a guy that never liked school, who never liked homework, and
who was doing homework all the time, it was not enjoyable. It was a means to an
end. A path that I had to go through to achieve an objective. Some people liked
that process. They liked school, they liked academia. I never did. It was always a
means to an end for me. Some classes I really enjoyed. But the work was
relentless and always required reading and it interfered with the time I could
spend with my family.
Mr. Granof: And you had a family.
Mr. Murray: And I had a family. And I was concerned about, how does a guy like me get a job
in a strange town where he has absolutely no anchor, where he knows no one,
where there’s absolutely no connection. I was concerned about that, I was really
concerned about that, and I said to myself, “Well, if I have to struggle to get cases
at the courthouse and hang out a shingle, then at least I could do that.” So I was
prepared to do that, but I knew that to learn the right way I would have to go to a
firm where they would teach you, where they would have, you know, you start off
with a small case and then learn as you go. And this firm that Judge Murphy
provided the introduction to, Carr, Jordan, Coyne & Savits, was that firm. It was a
good fit, a perfect fit.
Mr. Granof: But before that, let me ask you about your clerkship. So, you clerked for Judge
Murphy after law school for a year?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And what was that like? You said he was a mentor.
Mr. Murray: He was one of the hardest working individuals you’ll ever meet. He was the only
judge that I know that could have two, three things going on at the same time, and
be on top of all three of them. He would have a jury out and call another jury for
the next case, and then hear another case while he was waiting for that jury to
come down. He was a relentless worker, and he was a perfectionist, and he was
demanding. He was a very good teacher.
Mr. Granof: Were you his only clerk?
Mr. Murray: I was his only clerk. You know there were times when, whenever he was in trial, I
was there, which meant I had to come back and work late at night and on
weekends to do the office work as a law clerk, to do memos, to do briefs, to do
orders for him to sign. But I learned a lot watching because whenever there was a
good lawyer trying a case, he’d say, “You might want to come to court, Dwight,
got some good lawyers trying cases.” I would spend the whole time watching
these trials, but at the same time the work was piling up in chambers. But I was
learning, and that’s what I wanted to do. And he kept me so busy I would carry
my lunch in my coat pocket, and whenever there was a recess, I would take a
couple of bites of the sandwich, and then when the recess was over, go back to the
courtroom because he very seldom took lunch; he just worked right through
everything. In this city the taxpayers got more than their money’s worth out of
Mr. Granof: I’ve heard that the Superior Court was a mixed bag. They had many judges who
were just outstanding, and Judge Murphy was one of them. Then they had other
Mr. Murray: Yes, and that’s true. In the old days they had some judges who were very
interesting, and some judges who were characters, some judges you’d come back
from the courthouse and say, “Hey, guess what I saw today, guess what I heard
today, or guess what this judge did,” and everybody would laugh because it was
humorous. And some of these judges engaged in inappropriate conduct. That’s
not the case now. I think the judges who sit on the Superior Court are high
quality, they have excellent academic backgrounds, excellent education, excellent
experience. My only criticism would be — this was a long-standing criticism —
they had more judges with a criminal law background than judges with a civil law
background. And that’s a problem because in criminal law there’s a criminal law
bench book for judges. Civil law covers so many fields — products liability, torts,
medical malpractice, contracts, real estate, domestic relations, you name it, it
covers the gamut — there’s no way you can master this entire field. It takes time.
So I don’t care how smart you are, where you graduated in law school, what Ivy
League school you went to, if your experiences in the legal profession are limited
to criminal law, when you step into civil law it’s a whole new different ballgame.
And the problem with that is that the clients pay for the learning curve of the
judges because some judges don’t manage the case properly, because they can’t
see where it’s going, they haven’t been there before. Take a judge like Judge
Murphy, or Judge Braman, Judge Weisberg or Judge Gray, some of the other
really good judges — I know I’m forgetting a lot of the good ones. They have the
experience, they’ve been there, they can see where a case is going, and if it’s
slowing down, they know how to speed it up. But other judges, they don’t know,
and they won’t tell you they don’t know. Lawyers are not only there to represent
their clients but also to help with the administration of justice. The judges, with
the help of the lawyers, should work to speed the case along.
One of the nice experiences that happened to me when I was practicing, I
had a pretrial conference, a status conference, and I told the judge, “Well judge,
we have to supplement a 26(b)(4) statement,” which is an expert witness
statement. The judge looked at me and said, “What’s that?” And you know what?
I was glad he asked the question, as opposed to faking it and then looking it up
later on, because then you can explain it to him. I’m there to educate the judge
about my case and so is my opponent there to educate the judge about his/her
case. The more he knows, she knows, the better the case will go. At least that was
my thought. I learned a lot from Judge Murphy. I learned a lot about judges,
learned a lot about lawyers, learned a lot about the discipline in a courtroom, and
it was a tremendous experience.
Mr. Granof: So, I would assume that Judge Murphy had a fair share of criminal cases.
Mr. Murray: He had when I was his clerk. He sat in every division, except the Tax Division.
So, as his clerk I had experience in the Criminal Division, the Family Division,
the Child Neglect Division, and the Civil Division. It was a tremendous broad
span of law being thrown at you on a regular basis, and I remember one time the
bailiff was late coming in, and the Judge said, “Call the Court to order.” So he
said, “The next time I tell you to do that you’d better know how to do it,” and I
watched and I learned, and the next time he told me to do that, I knew how to do
it. You learn, you learn.
Mr. Granof: Were there any lawyers that you saw that were terrific?
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. Ken Mundy; Judge Mencher, he tried a case and did an excellent job;
Judge Henry Greene was principal Assistant U.S. Attorney, tried a big evidentiary
hearing trying to get a recording admitted, and Henry Greene, Judge Greene, did a
fantastic job, he completely demolished the expert, demolished him, just through
cross-examination and preparation. And to this day I still remind him of that. I
saw some very good lawyering as a clerk with Judge Murphy. And Ken Mundy
did a fantastic job in a case. It was a good experience.
I tell young lawyers now if you got a clerkship with a trial judge, try to
get a clerkship with an appellate judge. If you got a clerkship with the U.S.
District Court judge, after that’s over get a clerkship with an appellate judge
because it builds your resume, and you’d be surprised how many doors that opens
after you have an appellate clerkship. I didn’t know because no one sat down and
said “Dwight, if you want to do this, these are the steps you have to take.” But I
learned a lot, like I said; keep your eyes open, and you learn even more. And I
learned that if you want to, if you have your eyes set on certain firms, certain
firms won’t even open a door for you unless you have certain tickets punched
along the way, and you got to know what those punch holes should be. A federal
clerkship at the appellate level is one way to get in those doors, that’s if you want
that kind of practice. I didn’t particularly want that kind of practice because I
wanted to be in the courtroom, and I knew that big firms did not give that
opportunity to young associates. The firm that I went to did.
Mr. Granof: After Judge Murphy, could you have looked at the U.S. Attorney’s office?
Mr. Murray: No, because I was disenchanted with criminal practice. Looking back, I think that
was a mistake I made. Not a big mistake by any stretch of the imagination,
because it would have been interesting to try a bunch of federal cases, you know,
by the seat of your pants because these guys were trying misdemeanors; they
never meet the witness, they’re flying by the seat of their pants, and that’s kind of
interesting. It teaches you good cross-examination techniques on the fly. Good
direct examination techniques on the fly. But at the time I wasn’t interested in
learning on the fly. I was interested in learning how to do things the right way,
you know, methodical preparation, working a case up. I wasn’t interested in
somebody giving me the file when I walk in the courtroom and then working from
that by the seat of my pants. To me, there was no thrill to that. If I could have
gone into Felony I section right away, that would have been interesting; but that
wasn’t likely. And I don’t blame them, because I didn’t have the experience for
that. It’s just like when I started with the Carr, Jordan firm, I didn’t start off with
medical malpractice cases or products liability cases. I started off with the small
cases, and then worked my way up.
Mr. Granof: And so, was it Judge Murphy who put you in touch with Carr, Jordan?
Mr. Murray: Carr, Jordan, Coyne & Savits.
Mr. Granof: And how big a firm?
Mr. Murray: It was about maybe 20 lawyers, they were all trial lawyers, every single one of
them. They had an office in D.C., one in Maryland, one in Virginia. And all they
did was try cases. I was trying my first case within one month after joining the
firm. And I was trying cases, one a month.
Mr. Granof: So, they had lawyers in Maryland and Virginia?
Mr. Murray: Yes. And I got a desk and an office.
Mr. Granof: You were in the D.C. office?
Mr. Murray: I was in the D.C. office. First day on the job they rolled a cart in with files. They
said, “These are your cases.” And you knew you’re going to get the dregs – all the
cases nobody else wanted. But that was okay. I got some really bad cases, but I
tried a bunch of them. That’s how I learned.
Mr. Granof: What kind of practice did they have?
Mr. Murray: Well, they had an insurance defense practice. There are two ways to learn how to
try cases when you come out of law school. You can either join the Public
Defender’s Service or U.S. Attorney’s Office, or Commonwealth Attorney’s
office, where you try criminal cases, represent the City Council, the city, the
county, or the federal government.
Mr. Granof: That’s in Virginia.
Mr. Murray: Yes. Or Maryland. State’s attorney. Or you can join a firm like Carr, Jordan
Coyne & Savits where you learn how to try cases. That’s difficult these days
because insurance companies started their own law firms, and now they have
captive firms that they give that work to rather than give it to firms like where I
learned. As a result of the change, it’s more difficult for lawyers to learn the right
way. Now when I learned they — my firm — gave you all the help you needed.
They have a budget for Continuing Legal Education, so you can take CLE courses
to sharpen your skills, to learn new ways of doing things, to keep up on the rules
of evidence. It was good, and like I said, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I never thought I would retire because it was so much fun. Lot of work, but this
was different work. This is homework, but it’s different; it was not work done for
abstract purposes. It was homework in preparation for trial. Therefore, you have
an objective, you have a goal.
Mr. Granof: How long were you there? Was this where you spent your career?
Mr. Murray: Thirty-seven years.
Mr. Granof: Thirty-seven years at Carr, Jordan?
Mr. Murray: Yes, 37 years. It was Carr, Jordan, and then it became Jordan, Coyne, and the firm
went through several changes. But I was basically with the same firm for 37
Mr. Granof: You became a partner in the firm?
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: When you left, how big a firm was it? Did it grow?
Mr. Murray: Well, it’s a good point. It compels me to tell a story about the nature of this firm,
what kind of a place it was. The biggest we ever got was about 70 lawyers, and to
me, that was too big.
Mr. Granof: How many of them were in D.C.?
Mr. Murray: Most of them were in D.C. We occupied like two, three floors, in the building.
And we had a huge environmental practice. We did a lot of stuff. We expanded a
little bit, and then one day the client that gave us a lot of their environmental
work, which was a major portion of our practice, called up and said, “There’s a
new manager, and he wants to give all these cases that you had to another firm.”
We went from having all these environmental cases to losing all of them.
Mr. Granof: Did he say why?
Mr. Murray: Just a change in leadership. A new manager comes in, he wanted to give it to his
college roommate’s law firm. The decision to transfer the cases had nothing to do
the firm’s competence. It was a decision based on contacts, and influence.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting.
Mr. Murray: Yes, and I’ve seen it before. You know you practice long enough you see a lot of
different changes in the legal profession. A credit to the Jordan Coyne & Savits
firm was that in most firms, people would have gotten pink slips the next day
when a significant client was lost. But not the Jordan Coyne firm. That firm made
the announcement, and they told everybody “We’ll keep you as long as we can
even though we believe we don’t have work for everybody, but we believe it’s
better for you to find a job when you already have a job than look for a job after
you’ve been laid off.” Most of those people found jobs, and we paid them while
they were looking. That shows a loyalty. That’s typical Marine Corps stuff that
you don’t find in other law firms. And another thing we did, when the first Gulf
War broke out, we had six of our guys that were called up to serve, and we kept
paying them while they were away. I don’t know another law firm that would do
that. They were getting paid combat pay, they were getting paid Marine Corps
officer’s pay, but we kept paying them, and that tells you a lot about the firm. I
enjoyed being a part of that because they weren’t money hungry or money greedy.
They were interested in making money, don’t get me wrong, but that wasn’t the
alpha and omega of their existence. There were a lot of things of character and
loyalty and good stuff like that, old-fashioned stuff that made up their law firm.
Made it a good place to work.
Mr. Granof: So, let’s get some dates in here. You graduated from law school in ’74. And you
clerked for Judge Murphy from ’74-’75?
Mr. Murray: Then I started with Jordan Coyne; Carr Jordan.
Mr. Granof: Carr, Jordan, and worked for them from ’75 until?
Mr. Murray: ’76 to 2012.
Mr. Granof: So, when you started out, they had maybe 20 lawyers and they did a lot of
insurance defense work?
Mr. Murray: A lot of insurance defense work, a lot of corporate defense work.
Mr. Granof: So, corporate defense work. What kind of cases did you start out with? You must
remember your first case.
Mr. Murray: I don’t remember my first case. At one time and for a long time I did, and I was
surprised that the longer time went on, the more I forgot about the cases I
handled, because I handled a lot of them. A lot. I used to remember all my trials.
Now I can’t remember all my trials; I just remember the bad ones — the ones that
I lost, particularly the ones that stand out. The ones that I won I forget them, quite
easily as a matter of fact. But the ones that I lost I remember. The ones that had
some dramatic moments I’ll remember, but I tried over a hundred cases. I know
guys that tried a lot more than that, and they have the same problem that I have.
You know, tell me some facts, and oh yes, I remember that case. But I have to
have that little jump start, can’t remember the names of the people but the facts I
Mr. Granof: What kind of cases?
Mr. Murray: The kind of cases I handled to start off?
Mr. Granof: Well, yes. I mean here you are, a brand-new lawyer, although you’ve had some
limited experience in Superior Court and in the Clinical Program at Georgetown,
and you’ve seen how trials operate with Judge Murphy, but that’s one thing.
Suddenly here you are with clients who are paying and expect results.
Mr. Murray: And expect results. For most of the cases that were in the firm, the trial attorney
had to evaluate the case for the client before trial on a form that was called a trial
evaluation form. This form requested certain information that the client felt was
necessary in order to make a decision whether or not to go forward with the trial
or settle the case. And I would always fill my trial evaluation out tight, and by
tight, I gave myself little room for error. If the demand on a small case, let’s say
when I started out, the demand might be $25,000. If I wanted to settle the case, I
could write it up that we don’t have a chance of winning, so why not offer
$15,000, so you settle somewhere in between. I wasn’t like that. If the demand
was $20,000, I would say the case is worth $5,000 if I thought it was $5,000. So,
then the spread would be too much to work out a settlement.
Mr. Granof: You honestly thought it was worth $5,000?
Mr. Murray: I honestly thought it was worth $5,000. I didn’t say that because I wanted to try a
case; I said that because I honestly believed that was the value of the case. In
other words, I did not do a trial evaluation to induce the client to settle the case to
avoid the trial. My evaluations were my honest belief about the value of the case.
Mr. Granof: Well, here you are, a new lawyer, how do you know what the case is worth?
Mr. Murray: You talk around, you talk to people, you look at what they call the multiplier.
You usually use the specials, the medical specials, multiply the medical specials
by a factor. Now the multiplier will determine how much the case is worth. A
case that’s close on liability will lower the multiplier. A case where liability is
slam dunk, the higher the multiplier. A case where you have no chance of
winning, and the other side has a good witness, and you’re going to get creamed
in court is a very high multiplier. Because you want it to settle, you want to
protect the client’s assets. That’s what I was all about, protecting the client’s
assets. I was not afraid to go to trial, so that is why my evaluations were what I
called tightly projected. The clients appreciated it because the clients knew when
an attorney was puffing up the value of a case to avoid a trial. The clients also
knew that I wasn’t afraid to go to trial to back up my evaluation numbers. If
protecting the client’s assets meant going to trial, then I went to trial.
Mr. Granof: Did you interview witnesses?
Mr. Murray: Yes. I interviewed witnesses.
Mr. Granof: So, you had the file?
Mr. Murray: We took depositions. Oh, yes, you did the whole workup.
Mr. Granof: Before you wrote the client memo?
Mr. Murray: The trial evaluation would be the last thing you do after the case was worked up.
You got the discovery, you took the depositions, you reviewed all medical
records, and then you make a determination as to the value of the case, and you
write that trial evaluation.
Mr. Granof: But the first thing you’re doing, you get this file and you have to decide to start
with, presumably a complaint has been filed?
Mr. Murray: I’ll tell you how it starts. You get a complaint.
Mr. Granof: The complaint’s been filed?
Mr. Murray: The complaint’s been filed. They want you to file an answer. You file an answer.
Then I’ve always had a practice that I file my discovery, my interrogatories, my
request for production of documents, with my answer. That way you can put it
Mr. Granof: You’re a brand new lawyer. Is that what you started out doing?
Mr. Murray: I started out sending discovery requests out when I filed my answer because I
knew that once I got the discovery out, I could then wait 30 + days for the
discovery responses to come in, whatever it is; most of the time my opponents
were late with their responses. Eventually I am going to get the discovery
responses. Once the discovery responses come in, I schedule the depositions of
the parties and witnesses. So you have steps to go through.
Mr. Granof: But you knew this to start with?
Mr. Murray: Yes. I knew this to start with.
Mr. Granof: So, you come in and you think it’s a good idea immediately to file interrogatories,
document production requests?
Mr. Murray: Yes, you get the case moving. Filing the Answer and sending out discovery
requests gets the case moving and that gets you the information you need to make
a decision and an initial assessment of the case in determining the next step. You
get the interrogatory answers back, you get responses to the request for
production of documents back, you get some medical records back, and then you
learn not to trust the responses to request for production of documents. You send
out subpoenas, but you have to know who to subpoena in order to get certain
records. So, you learn that when you get all this information, you take
Mr. Granof: So, then you decide on a deposition schedule. By the way, where were these first
cases tried? Were they in Superior Court?
Mr. Murray: I had some in Superior Court, I had some in federal court, you know, as a young
lawyer. I’ll just tell you a brief story. My first experience before Judge Gesell. I
don’t know if you knew Judge Gesell.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: Judge Gesell. Brilliant judge. Hard task master. Young lawyer, me, appearing
before Judge Gesell, and I wasn’t intimidated by anybody, let me tell you, and I
wasn’t intimidated by Judge Gesell, but I went there, you know, he looked at me
and he said, “Mr. Murray, explain to me why you raised this defense in your
answer.” And the reason I raised the defense in the answer, I said, “Well, Judge,
this is a standard response that we file with just about every complaint in order to
protect and preserve our affirmative defenses.” He leaned over the bench and said,
“Mr. Murray, the next time you file any pleading in my court, or any court, make
sure you have a factual evidentiary basis to do that.” And I said, “Yes, sir.” And
the way he said it was like a teacher to a student, as opposed to trying to crush me,
because I didn’t take it that way. I learned something and I’ve been following his
advice ever since. This occurred over 40 years ago.
Mr. Granof: Well, this must have been in a status conference, a pretrial conference.
Mr. Murray: It was the first status conference, first status conference, and he locked my heels,
as they say in the Marine Corps, and read me the riot act but in a very gentle
teacherly sort of way.
Mr. Granof: So, he didn’t want just boilerplate, pro forma stuff?
Mr. Murray: He knew I was a young lawyer. Shucks, he probably knew I came out of the
Marine Corps based on the firm that I came from. And the spit shine on my shoes.
But he wanted to set me off on the right path right away, as opposed to me
developing bad habits. And I tell you that was a good lesson. It’s all about
learning, so I learned from that. And I tried three cases in front of him. Won all
three. These were bench trials.
Mr. Granof: And what kind of cases were they, if you can remember?
Mr. Murray: One automobile accident, one premises liability case, and I forget what the third
one was about. But, you know, he was a good judge, a really good judge, and a
smart judge. You know, he’s the guy who used to handle the biggest cases in that
courtroom because he was one of the smartest judges on that bench at that time.
Handling cases from a young lawyer like me, he probably thought it was amusing,
but it was a great experience for me.
Mr. Granof: And in your first year, I don’t know if you recall, when did you actually set foot
in a courtroom?
Mr. Murray: First month I was at the firm. The very first month, within a matter of weeks. I
had my first trial within 30 days of joining the firm.
Mr. Granof: And did you have a partner, somebody overlooking?
Mr. Murray: No, if it was a small case, they’d bring you in and say, okay, tell me about the
case, what are you going to do, how are you going to prove it, etc., etc. I was able
to answer all the questions because I had that experience in the clinical program
before, and I had experience as a law clerk before. So they left me pretty much
alone, and they knew if I ran into trouble they would hear about it, because what
they would normally do after the trial was over with — they didn’t tell you this,
but I found out later — one of the partners would call up the judge, and say
“Judge, we had a young lawyer down there to try a case in front of you. How did
he do?” Using that method as a follow-up process, the partners would get a report
on its lawyers and how those lawyers performed. And the judges would say, “Oh,
he did fine, he’s got promise,” or “Yes, he needs a little work,” or whatever.
Mr. Granof: The judge has an interest in having competent attorneys appear before him.
Mr. Murray: That’s right. It makes the judge’s job easy. If you want to make a judge happy,
have two good lawyers trying a case in front of him. The judge has absolutely
almost nothing to do. The lawyers and the judge will control the flow of the case,
but it’s the lawyers who are writing and directing and starring in the play.
Mr. Granof: I still remember that from Irving Younger — his tapes — in which he said “If there
are two terrific lawyers, drop everything, go down to the court and hear them
because a case that would ordinarily take a month, they’ll do it in a week.”
Mr. Murray: Yes, that’s right.
Mr. Granof: The case that would take a week, they’ll do it in a day. A case that will take a day,
they’ll do it in two hours.
Mr. Murray: And he’s absolutely right. And that’s why judges want good trial lawyers in front
of them. I mean there’s nothing more exasperating than to be chewing out a
lawyer in front of the jury because a lawyer constantly makes mistakes, or a
lawyer is doing things, slowing up the process, covering things that are
unnecessary, dragging it out, because they don’t know what they’re doing.
Everybody thinks they can try a case until they get into the courtroom and try to
do something when somebody says “I don’t want you to do that. I object.” And
then that’s when everything falls apart.
Mr. Granof: But you thought you could try cases. I mean you had a fair degree of selfconfidence.
Mr. Murray: I thought I could try cases. I knew I would make mistakes, but also knew I would
learn from my mistakes. And I knew I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. It’s
all a process of learning. I knew I wouldn’t do a perfect job, but I knew as time
went on, my abilities would improve; at least that was my goal. I gave this
example to my partners. My partners asked, “Why do you try so many cases?” I
said, “Well, it’s like a prize fighter. If you lay off two, three years, you lose your
instincts, you lose your reflexes, you’ve got to stay in the arena. You’ve got to
throw the punches and have the punches thrown back at you. Otherwise, your
reflexes will diminish, and your skills will sort of wither on the vine.”
Mr. Granof: Well, here you start out as a new attorney, you’re given cases, and you’re in court.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And what did you know about conducting cross-examination? How did you know
how to do that?
Mr. Murray: I bought a treatise, Goldstein on Trial Techniques. That was a set of books, it was
a three- or four-volume set, and it gave you examples on cross-examination.
Because you didn’t learn cross-examination in law school. You got a little bit of
an introduction to it in the clinical program, but you really learn crossexamination by doing it, and then having it explode in your face, and then
realizing you pushed a little bit too far, that you were not disciplined enough to
stop when you made your point, to sit down, like Irving Younger said. If you
made your point? Sit down. You’re not disciplined enough. You learn that
through trial and error. You learn that through the scars on your back, from
making mistakes, and you learn that by reading samples of cross-examinations,
how to lead the witness; direct exam — who, what, when, where, how, and why.
You start off a question with one of those words, no objection. Cross-
examination, a question that calls for a yes or no response. You learn through
doing, and they didn’t teach you that in Evidence course because you’re so busy
trying to master the rules.
Mr. Granof: Principles of evidence, that’s right. You see on TV and popular movies where the
witness, you know, the Perry Mason style where the witness breaks down.
Mr. Murray: And that doesn’t happen. Maybe once in a while it might happen if you’re lucky,
but for the most part it doesn’t, and you want to structure your cross-examination
so you make the points you want to make in closing argument. And if you made
your points so you can argue to the jury effectively, then you stop because closing
argument you can control, that’s your bailiwick. Cross-examination, all you want
is to get that witness to give you the information that you can use in closing
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting. Tying your cross-examination, well I suppose to your direct
examination for sure, but looking ahead to the closing argument to really frame
what you’ve done throughout the trial.
Mr. Murray: The whole trial, yes, just like the hub of the wheel and from every spoke, the rim,
all supposed to point to that central theme of your case. As long as you’ve got that
central theme covered, you’ve got a sufficient argument to make. And you can
craft your argument, your persuasiveness in your closing, but you need to fill in
the blanks. You need those spokes that point to the hub, and everything is tied
together by the rim of the wheel. So that’s what I tried to do. And it takes a while
to learn. When I first started, my technique was to use the back of a legal binder
and clamp on examination ideas, clamp on opening statement ideas. Then I
moved to the trial notebook where everything was in a notebook, all the
examination stuff, the legal research stuff, the deposition transcripts. I’d have two,
three binders sometimes. Then I went to the laptop. Laptop had everything in it.
Mr. Granof: But initially when you started out, you used the binder?
Mr. Murray: Yes, like a yellow notepad. The back part of the yellow notepad, the cardboard
section, that was the key to me, because you can carry it around and it won’t be
flapping like loose-leaf paper, and you can write on it, you can make notes on it.
Mr. Granof: Well, we’ve been going for an hour and 20 minutes, so maybe it’s good time to
Mr. Murray: To set another meeting.
Mr. Granof: To do that. So, this concludes the fourth interview.
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
April 18, 2018
This is the fifth interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Wednesday, April 18, 2018.
Mr. Granof: This is the 5th interview of the oral history of Dwight D. Murray as part of the oral
history project of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Gene
Granof. The interview took place in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 18,
Mr. Granof: I think the last time we talked, you really were at the law firm and you indicated
that over a course of some, what, 37 years, am I right about that, you had tried
more than a hundred, at least a hundred cases.
Mr. Murray: Right.
Mr. Granof: Although you indicated that your memory about the details of all of them are not
as good as it used to be, what are the cases that stand out in your mind, both the
ones that you thought this really turned out well for me, I did a good job, and
then, maybe the other side of the coin is, the cases that maybe you were
disappointed about. Start with the good ones, the ones you said it turned out really
Mr. Murray: That’s an interesting question. I try not to think about those cases often, quite
frankly, but occasionally they will come up in my mind, but my early
introduction, my first trial, when I joined the law firm and within 30 days of
starting the job, I was in the courtroom trying a case, a small case, and I worked
hard on it, I did. It was a Uniform Commercial Code case, a sales case, or a case
that dealt with Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, and I did a
memorandum of law on the UCC because I thought the trial judge would not be
up to date with the law of UCC. On the first day of trial, I presented my
memorandum. The judge looked at it, put it aside, didn’t even read it. That was
disappointing, and then I could tell the judge had already made up his mind about
this case once he heard the initial introduction of the facts because everything
went downhill after that. I thought my performance was good because I was
always very good at criticizing myself and my performance because that’s the
only way you can improve. Did you do this right? What happened when this
occurred? How could you avoid it, a slow-down? I’m always giving myself an
autopsy after every trial, after every day of every trial. And for the life of me I
could not explain why I lost the case. I was very disappointed because I put in so
much work on my first trial for a client of the firm. I gave myself the usual posttrial autopsy and could not pinpoint where I lost the judge. Then I had to realize
that sometimes those things happen and there is very little one can do about it.
You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, go back to the office and start to get ready
for your next case. I didn’t let it interfere with me. But that taught me a lesson that
you have to be focused on improving yourself, you can’t let minor things slow
you down or discourage you. You have to keep pushing forward. The interesting
thing about my first few years in the firm . . .
Mr. Granof: Let me just interrupt you and ask you about that first case. In reviewing in your
mind your performance, did you feel you did . . .
Mr. Murray: I thought I did a very good job. I ran across a witness who was very good, and the
judge didn’t let me get control of the witness. He was a salesman, this guy that I
cross-examined was a salesman, and he was very good, very good on his feet,
very sharp, and the judge would not let me, would not allow me to get control of
him. He let the witness expand his testimony beyond the scope of the question,
and that was disappointing because a lot depends on, my chances of winning
depended on my ability to control the witness and not let him explain for the
benefit of his client what this sale was all about. So that was disappointing more
so because the judge did not take the preparation I put into the case seriously. It’s
one thing losing a case, it’s another thing not getting a chance to present the law
and the facts the way the court is supposed to allow you to present. So that was
Mr. Granof: That raises a whole question of experience in controlling a witness. I would
assume, although I don’t know for sure, that the more trial experience you have
the more you have developed means for controlling a witness. How do you do it?
Mr. Murray: Well, that’s true, and I had some trial experience before I even started because in
the Georgetown clinical program I had five trials before I graduated. That was
more trials than anybody else in the clinical program. When everybody else was
going on spring break and Christmas break, I was in the courthouse picking up
cases, and these cases eventually led up to trial. I never went on a spring break. I
had some experience through the clinical program, and I bought a set of Goldstein
on Trial Techniques. It was a three-volume set. I paid for these books out of my
own pocket. I read about cross-examination, read about how to control the
witness, the leading questions, besides what I learned in the clinical program
itself. I knew how to control a witness with leading questions, but this particular
court would not allow me to get an answer to my question without the witness
going beyond the scope of the question. And that’s key in controlling the witness.
You ask a leading question that calls for a yes or no. If the witness says, “Well,”
and begins a long monologue before he answers the question, you lose control of
Mr. Granof: Can you say something like “Excuse me, Mr. X, do you remember the question
that I asked you?”
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes, you can say . . . but the judge says, “Let him finish, let him finish.” Now
later on you learn to say “Well, your Honor, first, I’m not trying to prevent the
witness from testifying, I’m trying to get an answer to my question.” The question
could be yes, the question could be no, I mean the answer could be yes, the
answer could be no, the answer could be I don’t know, and I explain that I’m not
trying to deny him that, but for the sake of the record, to protect the sanctity of the
record, for the Court of Appeals, let’s get an answer to the question first before he
explains. And you get into that and the judge will see what you’re doing. And
then you learn how to set up judges, you learn this as time goes on.
Mr. Granof: How do you do that?
Mr. Murray: Well, you make the record, and the judge will know you’ll be sending a signal
that what the judge is doing is preventing you from properly exercising your
rights to proper cross-examination.
Mr. Granof: And judges don’t like to be reversed on appeal.
Mr. Murray: Well, if you don’t like to be reversed on appeal, and the chances of them getting
reversed on appeal are slim because the judges have complete control of how the
testimony of the witnesses is being presented to the jury, but it doesn’t look right
for a judge to interfere with the lawyer’s cross-examination, especially when the
lawyer is following the rules. It just doesn’t look right. You learn how to just
make that record because making a record is very important. When I teach trial
techniques, or when I used to teach trial techniques, I would always tell students, I
said, if it’s not on the record, it doesn’t exist. If you see that the judge is not
giving you the opportunity, you put that on the record, because if you think it and
don’t put it on the record, it doesn’t exist, it never happened. So that’s why you
have to be always conscious of making that record. And I learned that at a very
early stage, very early stage.
Mr. Granof: Yes. One more digression, something that you said raises a question in my mind.
Do you think from your experience that courts of appeals, when they’re reviewing
a case, approach a bit differently, maybe even subconsciously, if they have more
confidence in the lower court judge? So, for example, a Judge Gesell, who had a
terrific reputation . . .
Mr. Murray: Yes. . . .
Mr. Granof: You might fare better because the appellate court might think that Judge Gesell,
he knows what he’s doing, we know he knows what he’s doing. You think that’s
Mr. Murray: I don’t doubt it for a second because Judge Gesell, I had three trials in front of
him. I won all three trials. Judge Gesell knew how to manage a case, and he knew
how to control the courtroom. I don’t know if I said this earlier . . .
Mr. Granof: You did mention that your interchange at the very first . . . with Judge Gesell, and
he said,“Mr. Murray if you don’t have a factual basis for a defense, don’t do it my
courtroom or in any other courtroom.”
Mr. Murray: Precisely. And he was absolutely right, and I learned from that, and I have
practiced that ever since. I have always liked tough judges, always. I got along
better with tough judges than I did with the easy judges, quite frankly, because
tough judges played by the rules, and if you knew the rules, you were OK.
Mr. Granof: They would let you try your case.
Mr. Murray: They would let you try your case, and nothing pleases a judge better than a real
good trial judge, nothing pleases a really good trial judge better than to have two
lawyers who know what they’re doing, who have practiced professional courtesy
between themselves and present their case in a professional manner. The judges
sit back, and the judge is entertained.
Mr. Granof: So, after that first case, then you were going to go on and talk about succeeding
Mr. Murray: Yes, because I was the new guy, I got all the bad cases, so in my business, I was
required to identify the percentage chance of winning to the client. You had a
scale, zero to a hundred. I don’t think I had a case in the first three or four years
that I was at the firm that I had a better than 5% chance of winning. So, all my
cases were losers, but I tried them anyway, because I learned from each trial. And
the reason why I tried them is because the settlement demand was always more
than what I recommended the client should pay. And back in those days when I
represented insurance companies, they didn’t mind trying cases, but what they
were concerned about were the risks, and if I limited the risks, they were willing
to take the chance. The great part of it was that most of the time I was right, so if I
would lose a case, more often than not, it would be a defense victory; so in other
words, the jury or the court would award less than what the demand was and
maybe around what I was willing to offer.
Mr. Granof: So that was a victory.
Mr. Murray: It was a victory. It was a defense victory. But those kinds of victories do not show
up in the win/loss column.
Mr. Granof: And the insurance company was pleased because you came in within a range they
were willing to pay in the first place.
Mr. Murray: That’s right, but a lot of people don’t understand that. I remember speaking in
front of a group of law students at Georgetown. One of the questions, “What’s
your win-loss record?” Well, you can’t judge your lawyer’s performance by the
win-loss record. You could try a case and the jury returns a verdict against you,
but you won because you saved your client a lot of money. I have a good example
for that. I forget when in my career I tried this case, but this is one of the cases I
always give as an example to law students and to other people.
I represented a trucking company that put a truck on the road with bad
brakes. There was no doubt about it. Maintenance records clearly showed the
truck had bad brakes, and they knew the truck had bad brakes. The truck was
involved in an accident. It struck a school bus, full of handicapped children. You
can’t get any worse facts than that. There was only one injury in this accident.
The injured person was a 10- or 11-year old girl. She was a white girl, very, very
pretty. She had the most beautiful smile you’d ever want to see, but she was a
spastic quadriplegic and severely mentally retarded with cerebral palsy. And her
parents were the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. I took the parents’
depositions in their home, and it was a set-up, because they wanted me to see this
young girl. I’m a Marine, I’m mission oriented. My goal was to get the facts that
would help me, but you couldn’t avoid being affected by the appearance of this
young girl and her parents. Nice home somewhere around American University,
very nice, well-to-do people, but I really liked that little girl. And we could not
agree on a settlement because the whole basis of the claim is not that she was
severely injured in the accident, it was just that she regressed in her development
as a result of the shock of the experience in the accident. So, in other words,
before, her parents were able to escort her to the bathroom, with difficulty, but
now they had to revert to picking her up, bringing her to the bathroom. That was
one of the things they complained about. And they were concerned that as they
got older, they would no longer be able to do that. We couldn’t agree on a
settlement. The plaintiffs’ attorney wanted a lot of money, and I didn’t want to
give it to him because I thought the aggravation of her condition did not warrant a
million-dollar settlement. So, because I don’t intimidate and I’m not afraid to
lose, because it’s like Kipling winning, losing, they’re both imposters, you treat
them both the same way. So, we went to trial. It was a hard-fought trial, and my
client was sitting in the courtroom during the entire trial because of the potential
exposure that was involved.
Mr. Granof: So, I guess the whole issue was damages.
Mr. Murray: The whole issue was damages. But I never give up on liability either. I never give
up on liability. I got another story after this one.
Mr. Granof: But that must have been tough. I mean because if you challenge liability and the
evidence is overwhelming that the brakes were bad, how does that affect, it it’s a
jury case . . .
Mr. Murray: Well, you make your argument as strongly and as convincingly as you can. Just
because someone runs a stop doesn’t necessarily mean they are at fault if the other
side, the other person saw they were running the stop sign, and they didn’t take
precaution to avoid the accident, too. So, if you throw enough facts in the hopper
you may not win the case, but you may decrease the amount of the verdict. What
you wanted was a champion in that jury room who’s was going to argue the
points of the case I made on behalf of my client. “Yes, but the testimony is this, I
focus on how poorly the young girl was medically and physically before the
accident.” So that’s what you . . . I didn’t want to roll over on liability, so I fought
liability, but I fought it in a credible way, not in a ridiculous way. Yes, my guy
had bad brakes; but the truck was able to stop, he didn’t pulverize the bus. This
was a heavy truck, this was a light handicap bus, there wasn’t considerable
damage, no one was bloodied as a result of this accident, so he was able to slow
down, the brakes were working somewhat. This was almost in the middle of the
day, so he was able to stop and go at some point in time when he started his job at
7:00 o’clock in the morning. That was my argument. So, at the end of the trial, at
the closing argument, my client came to me and said see if you can settle the case
before the jury comes back. I went to my opposing counsel and I said to opposing
counsel, “You don’t know what the jury’s going to do, let’s make an effort to see
if we can settle it, to control the outcome.” And he said, “I’ll take over a million
dollars.” My client was willing to offer $750,000.
Mr. Granof: That’s pretty close.
Mr. Murray: That’s pretty close. He wouldn’t budge. My client wouldn’t budge. The jury came
back with $90,000.
Mr. Granof: Really.
Mr. Murray: $90,000. Yes, because the jury instructions only made us liable for the
aggravation of the damage, and the aggravation was really small. That was the
focus of my argument. This poor young girl was in a bad state when she was born,
and she was in a bad state for most of her life even before the accident. The
accident changed her ever so slightly which may improve over a period of time.
Mr. Granof: Yes, that makes sense. The damage you caused. You weren’t responsible for her
Mr. Murray: But the key to that victory was I put a lot of people on the jury that had
handicapped people in their lives, so they knew, they could identify with the
parent, but not necessarily feel sorry for them. I thought the most brilliant move
the attorney on the other side made was he wheeled the young girl in, showed her
to the jury, then wheeled her out. Let me tell you, she was a very pretty, innocent
bright face, beautiful smile individual, young girl, and I felt sorry for the parents
after that. I thought they made a bad decision. I went over and expressed my best
wishes for them after the verdict and hoped that things work out for them, and
then 30 years later, I looked in a newspaper in the Metro section and I see this
young girl, who is now a young woman, drowned in a swimming pool in the back
yard. The same little girl. So that was sad, but . . .
Mr. Granof: But how did you know to make the decision to pick handicapped people on the
jury? I would have . . .
Mr. Murray: I wanted to avoid sympathy. That’s all. And if you have a handicapped person in
your life, you know what their lives are like, you know what your life is like
because of their handicap. And you wouldn’t necessarily feel sorry for them,
because you go through the experience too. I was trying to avoid that element,
that unknown element of sympathy, which could shoot the verdict up and get it
out of control. That was my goal.
Mr. Granof: Your intuition was that putting handicapped people on the jury would make them
less sympathetic, or at least more understanding of your case. That’s not intuition
which is obvious. It certainly wouldn’t be obvious to me, so obviously, you have
very good, a very good intuition and sense of what putting handicapped people on
the jury would produce with respect to your case.
Mr. Murray: I wanted to tone down the sympathy and I thought that would ultimately help. I
knew I was going to lose the case; the question was how much. I mean I can’t tell
you how many times I went into a case, “How much can I keep the verdict
down?” I’ve been very fortunate in being able to do that throughout my career.
Mr. Granof: So, someone saying to you “win-loss” — that was really a terrific win.
Mr. Murray: Yes. On the record, if they were keeping win-loss columns, that would be a loss
because there was a verdict against your client. But let me tell you, my client was
doing back flips. My client saved over $700,000, and possibly more if the jury
had come back with over a million, so my client was ecstatic. I could do no wrong
after that. My client was always in my corner.
Mr. Granof: Before you get to that, next case you were going to tell me about, have you had, I
don’t know if you’ve tried criminal cases as well.
Mr. Murray: No, I’ve never tried a criminal case. I got disillusioned with criminal cases when I
did a paper in law school on plea bargaining. I did research for this paper in my
first or second year, I forget which year it was. And I interviewed judges, I
interviewed attorneys, defense attorneys, prosecutors. I interviewed convicts, I
interviewed ex-cons, and I still remember this quote from an ex-con that I
interviewed. He said “I think plea bargaining is great. Where else can you do a
crime that calls for 25 years’ mandatory sentence, plea it down to 10, get out in
Mr. Granof: Yep, that makes sense.
Mr. Murray: That makes sense. And the judges all say “Well, if there wasn’t plea bargaining,
the system would collapse.” Defense attorneys were in favor of plea bargaining
for their reasons. Prosecutors say “Yes, we can eliminate a lot of backlog with
plea bargaining.” So, I said I like to get in the system where you can fight. If a
person gets indicted, by the time they get indicted, the government has such a
strong case against them, otherwise they wouldn’t indict. Your efforts are then
focused on getting a good plea deal. Plea negotiator. And I wanted to be in the
courtroom, I didn’t want to be stuck in somebody’s office negotiating a plea for
my client. That was my thought process back in my first, second year of law
school. I wanted to focus more on civil law. And then I saw a lot of criminal trials
when I was a law clerk, and I knew that some of what they called the Fifth
Streeters back then, they would come in and cross-examine a witness, and do an
excellent job, with very little preparation, just because of the experience level, and
on the one hand, I thought that was great, and on the other hand, I always liked
preparing. You can’t do that in civil. You can’t walk into a courtroom and start
cross-examining a witness in a civil case because civil law is so expansive.
Criminal law, there’s a how to do it book. Every judge has it. And I don’t know
the name of it, but it’s a criminal law bench book. Prosecutors have their bench
book; defense attorneys have their bench book. It cites all the law that you need to
know from arrest all the way to criminal appeal. I didn’t like that. I like to be
exposed to different challenges. Products liability has a different set of laws,
contract law is a different set, tort law has a different set, you name it, UCC has a
different set. I just like those challenges. I just like getting into new areas and new
challenges. Medical malpractice. You try a medical malpractice case. It’s
different from a serious automobile accident case where a death is involved.
There are completely different ways of approaching it, completely different
subject matters. I kind of like that variety. And criminal law didn’t give me that
expanse of variety. Top criminal lawyers can sit down and talk about a criminal
case and tell you what the chances are just based on experience. In a civil case,
depending on the subject matter, you have to know the facts, you have to study
the law, before you can come out with an opinion, because the law is always
subject to change. It’s not as constant as what the criminal system is. I mean that
was just my feeling. I may be completely wrong, but I’m just telling you my
thought process in the early years of my development.
Mr. Granof: Of course, when you started out, I don’t know if white collar crime was as big a
deal as it is today.
Mr. Murray: No, it wasn’t, because the big criminals were the drug dealers in D.C. These guys
were making a lot of money. Of course, I am not forgetting the Abscam
defendants or the Watergate defendants which were big cases and very
newsworthy, but the majority of the big criminal cases were drug related. Those
cases were being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., and those
prosecutors and Public Defender Attorneys back then became the big shot white
collar lawyers of the future. Every single one of them that I got to know became
big-time white-collar lawyers, in big law firms, years later. So, it’s kind of
interesting. I used to kid the Assistant U.S. Attorneys, I would tell them, you guys
have it made. Some FBI agent walks into your office, puts a big file on your desk,
ties a big ribbon around it, and says “this guy did it” of the two billion people in
the world, this is the one that committed the crime.
Mr. Granof: Well, how did you happen to have contact with these assistant U.S. attorneys who
were on the criminal side?
Mr. Murray: Well, I got to know some of them through Judge Murphy, the judge I clerked for,
and I got to know many of them in the American Inns of Court that I was a
member of for about 25, 27 years, something like that, because many of them
belonged to that organization. A lot of the attorneys at Williams & Connolly were
members of this Inns of Court. I was in the William Bryant Inn of Court. We met
once a month and we talked about civil trial issues as well as criminal trial issues.
One of the great things we did that will always stand out in my mind, we gave
each month presentations of historic cases. We presented the cross-examination of
this witness in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory case back in the 1900’s where
these hundred young girls, I forget the trial lawyer, we did the cross-examination
but . . .
Mr. Granof: He was a famous trial lawyer.
Mr. Murray: A famous trial lawyer. He should have lost that case, but he won it on crossexamination because he kept asking the witness, the young girl who survived the
fire, to repeat her testimony. Each time she repeated it verbatim without missing a
word, and then on the third time, he said “well, didn’t you mean to say this?” And
she said “Yes,” where she left out a word, and the whole jury knew that it was
rehearsed. It was memorized and that caused him to win the case. But my
assignment was the Scottsboro trial. And I was a moderator for that trial. That was
a tremendous trial because the lawyer who, I forget his name right now, who
represented the Scottsboro boys, was a criminal lawyer from New York.
Mr. Granof: Sam Leibowitz, wasn’t it?
Mr. Murray: Leibowitz.
Mr. Granof: He became a judge.
Mr. Murray: Became a judge and I already know about that. Leibowitz, what was interesting
about that case was the jockeying before because, and this is a good part of
history, the NAACP did not want to represent or finance the legal defense of the
Scottsboro boys. The Socialist Workers party did, which was a communist based
outfit, so they were looking for a lawyer who wouldn’t mind going down South
and represent these black young men who were accused of allegedly raping these
two white girls. Leibowitz had a record, if I remember correctly, of 70 acquittals
in capital cases, and one hung jury. I mean you cannot get any better than that.
And I don’t know if you know, rather than getting into the facts of the Scottsboro
case, the trial that convicted these young men was a travesty. An absolute
Mr. Granof: Yes. I know something about it because a colleague of mine had a son who was a
documentary filmmaker and did a prize winning film on the Scottsboro boys, and
I saw the film, and afterwards there was a whole discussion including do you
really want to bring a Jewish lawyer from New York down before a Southern jury
in — where did they try it — Alabama?
Mr. Murray: Yes. Scottsboro, Alabama. But that’s the heroic nature of the legal profession.
Where you had guys doing that kind of stuff, for centuries. What was it, John
Adams defended one of the escapees from a slave ship? They made a movie about
it. Lawyers have been doing those kinds of courageous acts for centuries, where a
lawyer stepped forward to defend an individual’s rights in hostile territory. That’s
what got me interested in the legal profession. Anyway, we did a terrific
presentation, and I’m sorry I threw away the transcript because it was really
commendable. But Leibowitz did such a fantastic job against such overwhelming
odds. Another thing it taught me about society back then in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Many prominent black people, including Paul Robeson, I don’t know if you know
Paul Robeson . . .
Mr. Granof: I did. I actually heard him sing.
Mr. Murray: OK, there you go.
Mr. Granof: I was much younger.
Mr. Murray: Paul Robeson was criticized for having some allegiance to the Communist Party,
but if you look back then, during that time period, when there were no civil rights,
even though Paul Robeson was an accomplished athlete, accomplished singer,
accomplished lawyer, all those things, high intellect, you know he was still treated
as a black person.
Mr. Granof: And he was treated a lot better when he went to Russia, Communist Russia, the
Mr. Murray: And there is the point. The Communist Party opened their arms to a person and a
race that was rejected by their own country. I could see the attraction why some
people went in that direction. I don’t believe they realized what they were getting
themselves into, but I could see the attraction. If someone is going to accept you
with open arms, no questions asked, and treat you like a human being, there’s a
certain appeal to that, and that explains why some of the African American
intellectuals back in that period of time were attracted to that system. It’s
unfortunate that their decision to do that placed a mark on their character, but
that’s just the facts. I can understand why they were attracted to that. It’s one
thing to be rejected by, you know, the country, and then here’s a group over here
that will accept you with open arms.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: And you must be careful. I remember in college I had this white friend. He said,
“Dwight, come to this meeting with me.” I said, “Well, who’s going to be there?”
“A bunch of college professors.” I said, “Why would I want to meet with a bunch
of college professors?” I went to the meeting. It was in some professor’s home
close to the campus. I was the only black person in this house, and I listened to
the conversation and the antennas went up. I said, “This is a sell.” You know they
start off with criticizing the country, and I said, “This is not for me.” But you
know you don’t want to make an announcement “I’m outta here.” That would
attract too much attention. I just didn’t go back. Now he tried to get me to come
back. I said “No, I don’t think it’s for me.” I ran into this guy two or three years
later, and I said, “How’s that group going?” And he said, “Dwight, you were
smart to get out; now I can’t.” And that was the last time I saw him. I don’t know
what happened to him, I’m not saying something bad happened to him, but he did
not look happy. He looked like he was trapped.
Mr. Granof: And you never knew why he was trapped in it?
Mr. Murray: No, and he wouldn’t say, he wouldn’t say, but you could tell. You read people’s
emotions. He was not happy. When I asked him about that group, his whole
facial expression changed, so I made the right move. But I could understand why
some people were attracted to that. Here I was, in New Orleans, in the 60’s, in a
white person’s house, in the suburbs, surrounded by white people who were
treating me nice. You know I say, “Well this isn’t bad.” But if you brush aside
that and listen to what they were saying, you could see there was an ulterior
motive, and I didn’t like the motive, so I didn’t go back.
Mr. Granof: I’ve heard of the American Inns of Court but I’m not familiar with them, so you
could explain what kind of organization it is, who sponsors it and what they do?
It’s obviously a high-powered organization.
Mr. Murray: American Inns of Court was developed by Justice Warren Burger, Chief Justice
Warren Burger. What attracted him is he looked at the English system, because
it’s based on the English system where the barristers are part of an Inn and a
young barrister is sort of taught by an older barrister, sort of like, not a trade, or
guild or anything like that.
Mr. Granof: But that’s how you come up through the profession in England.
Mr. Murray: And you have levels. You have, if I remember correctly, sort of a beginner, a
person with maybe one or two years in the practice of law. Then you have a
barrister who has maybe five to 10 years in the practice, and you have a Master,
who has more than 10-15 years of practice. I was in the Master category, and I
was lucky since I was there in the beginning when it was formed. They had some
of the top trial lawyers in the city in the Inn. They had another Inn called the
Fahey Inn that practiced mostly criminal law, but this Inn, the William Bryant
Inn, was named after Judge William Bryant who the new annex to the courthouse
is named after. And Judge Bryant was there for the Scottsboro presentation. He
was interested in that as well. What we did, we had one time we devoted to
opening statements, another time we devoted to cross-examination, another time
we devoted to examining expert witnesses, and it was an opportunity to teach
young lawyers techniques that are used by – I mean some of the people were
really skilled at their craft, and like I said, there were some fantastic lawyers in
Mr. Granof: Did you have to be invited to join?
Mr. Murray: Yes, you have to be invited to join. And especially if you’re a master, and then
they look for young people to come in, and it was such a great experience, I was
there for 25 years, over 25 years, and then after I retired, I even went back for a
couple of the real interesting meetings that they had. I said, “Keep me informed as
to what your topic is going to be.”
Mr. Granof: Are the meetings, these demonstrations, open to, maybe not the public, but to the
legal profession generally?
Mr. Murray: No, not the legal profession, because it starts off with a dinner. We normally went
up to the 6th Floor, the judges’ dining room, and we had a catered dinner – that
was part of your dues – and we would sit around, sit at a table talking to young
lawyers and they would ask us questions about our career. We would ask them
questions about what cases they were working on. I remember this young kid
from Jones, Day – I must have had 40 cases, 50 cases, active cases at the time –
and I asked this young attorney from Jones Day how many cases did he have; he
said, “I have one.” And I felt sorry for him, you know, because how could you get
a lot of experience with one case? But that’s the nature of a big firm. You’d get
these exchanges like that, and these young lawyers have a chance to ask these old
timers like me, and other old timers who were more experienced than I was at the
time, about the practice of law, their career, how do they develop their career. I
would invite speakers to come in, and when it was time for my team — I was a
team leader — and when it was time for my team to make presentations. One time
I invited three speakers that impressed the heck out of the judge. The judge who
was president of the Inn at the time asked me, “Murray, how did you get that
much juice,?” So, I invited Jake Stein, I invited Plato Cacheris, and I invited
Sherman Cohn. Sherman Cohn is one of the founders of the American Inns of
Court, nationally known, a professor at Georgetown in Civil Procedure, and these
guys sat around and answered questions. They talked about the Monica Lewinsky
case. Plato represented Hanson, the FBI Agent who was caught spying on the
Government. These were heavy hitters. And it was a great event. But I knew these
guys. Don’t ask me how. I met Jake a long time ago, and we sort of developed a
friendship. And I met Plato, I forget exactly how, and I’ve known Sherman Cohn
because he was my Civil Procedure professor at Georgetown. I also hired him as
an expert witness in a case that I had. First time he ever testified in court. I could
not believe that.
Mr. Granof: He was an expert in Civil Procedure testifying on civil procedure?
Mr. Murray: No, he was an expert in, let me see if I remember. He was also an expert in Legal
Ethics, and I can’t remember, I used him in a couple of cases. One was a Legal
Ethics matter and one was about the request for admissions, and I can’t remember
which one was his first. But he did a great job. I was surprised, with all of his
experience, he’s never been called to testify. I told him “When I identify you as
an expert, you’re going to testify.” He did a great job, and we became friends and
have been ever since. We get together every once in a while.
Yes, the American Inns of Court was a tremendous teaching tool because I
always try to keep my mind open to learn new things, and I don’t care what the
source is, it could be a first-year law student. I taught Trial Practice at Harvard
Law in January – went over with a bunch of judges and lawyers from all over the
country. Spent a week with the law students, and you’d be surprised, you’d
always pick up something interesting when they would do a demonstration. You’d
say, “Oh, you know I must put that in my repertoire.” I’m always willing to learn
something new. And no matter what the source. These students worked hard at it,
and sometimes they would come up with an original approach.
Mr. Granof: And how did you get invited to teach at Harvard Law School?
Mr. Murray: I was invited by one of the organizers, Judge Hamilton, Chief Judge Hamilton,
and a guy by the name of Patrick Murray who ran the program at Harvard. I did
that for almost 10 years.
Mr. Granof: Did you go up during the academic year?
Mr. Murray: Yes, it was January. Harvard would pay my expenses, they would put you up at a
Sheraton on the campus, and then you would have breakfast on your own, you’d
have lunch with the faculty, and then you would have dinner with the law
students. But from lunch to dinnertime, you were teaching Trial Advocacy, you
were conducting mock trials, mock cross-examination, mock direct examination,
mock opening and closing arguments, and at the end, you would have a complete
mock trial with a different set of facts. Harvard would invite other people in to be
jurors, and the mock trial would be conducted either in a Massachusetts state
courtroom or a federal courtroom in Boston.
Mr. Granof: I think that’s wonderful. I wish they had that when I was in law school.
Mr. Murray: You know, I try to tell my kids this. That the school you go to is very important.
Both of my daughters are very gifted, very bright, but they kind of shun Ivy
League. My younger daughter could have gone to an Ivy League school, but she
didn’t like the idea. But I said this is the example of what a school with resources
can do for its students. They would bring these judges, federal judges, these top
notch trial lawyers, from all over the country, pay their expenses – they wouldn’t
pay them a salary or anything, just an expense paid trip – work them hard for a
week, just so these students could be exposed to the talent, and ask questions and
learn. I said that’s a tremendous opportunity. Not even Georgetown could afford
to do something like that, but a place like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, they could
afford it, something like that on an annual basis. They had an endowment big
enough where it was just a drop in the bucket. Nothing. But the opportunity, and
that’s what impressed me, because I certainly didn’t have that opportunity at
Georgetown and it was a highly ranked law school at the time, but their
endowment didn’t compare to Harvard’s endowment. The ability to do this I
thought was a great benefit to the students, it spoke well of the university, and it
spoke well of the profession, because not only did I have to block out a week on
my calendar to go there, but so did everybody else. The other sacrifice you make
is just because you are away from the office doesn’t mean you’re away from the
work. After dinner, I would go back to my hotel room to start working until
11:00, 12:00 o’clock at night. You know, catching up with my cases, answering
my e-mails, doing all that stuff. I had everything on my computer, so I took my
office with me wherever I went. It wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding. You were
working in essence from 7:00 o’clock in the morning to midnight without a break.
Whatever I did for Harvard and the faculty, the meetings with the faculty, mock
trials, and socializing with the students, and then after that I went back to my
hotel room. I did not go on one faculty dinner in 10 years because I was always
back in my hotel room working, trying to keep up, trying to keep the dogs at bay.
Mr. Granof: Well, that’s an interesting take on it, although I’m not sure that you’re entirely
right that where you go to school is determinative. I mean it gives you a leg up,
there’s no question about it.
Mr. Murray: No, if I left that impression, I didn’t communicate it well. No matter where you go
to school, you teach yourself. I mean it’s the effort that you put in. The school
gives you the opportunity. All I am talking about is an extra opportunity that
Harvard was able to avail its students that a lot of schools could not, no matter
where you went to school. I don’t even know if Stanford did something like that
for its students, but I thought that was terrific what Harvard did for their students.
And there’s no doubt, the Harvard students were impressive, they were bright, but
I didn’t find them any different than some of the other students I came into
contact with from all over, not even ranked law schools. You get some people
who were extra bright, and I would put them against anybody.
Mr. Granof: Absolutely.
Mr. Murray: And even when I started to do medical malpractice, I would find that doctors who
graduated from medical schools that were not nationally ranked in the top 10 were
sometimes better than the doctors who graduated from Ivy League medical
schools, simply because of their passion for the medicine and they kept up, and
Mr. Granof: I think that’s absolutely true.
Mr. Murray: Absolutely right. It really depends. The only thing, I’m bringing up this trial
advocacy program is that I thought it was a tremendous opportunity for these
students to connect with different aspects of the legal profession, away from
academia. They were talking to real live lawyers who try cases, judges who try
cases, who were at the top of their game so to speak.
Mr. Granof: You are so right about that because when I went to law school in the 50’s, you
would think that the only thing lawyers ever did was read appellate cases and
Mr. Murray: That’s right. Precisely.
Mr. Granof: The opportunity to talk with real live lawyers, people, I wish I had had that
Mr. Murray: And I wish I had that as well. Even my clinical program didn’t approach the kind
of instruction these people got at Harvard.
Mr. Granof: At least you were able to participate in and to teach in a clinical program. They
didn’t even have that. So when I got in the Navy and was trying my first court
martial, I didn’t know what I was doing. I had never stood up and examined a
Mr. Murray: They didn’t have the script in front of you?
Mr. Granof: No. They didn’t have a trial book, a bench book, they didn’t have anything.
Mr. Murray: Holy smokes. They’ve advanced after that. I helped one Marine. My law firm
helped a Marine that was in some trouble, and we represented him. This was my
first introduction to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It was a script. And
they said, you must read this. I said, “What do you mean, you must read this into
the record?” I said, “What about the ability to give an opening statement based on
facts that you intend to present?” So I became disenchanted with that. It was only
the general court martials that were more like what I was used to doing in a
Mr. Granof: Yes. But you know even in a general court martial, the first time I participated in
one, I had had no background in trial law. As a matter of fact, I wished I had had
an experience I had much later in my career going to the National Institute of
Trial Advocacy in Colorado for two weeks. I mean, what a difference that made,
and that was just two weeks.
Mr. Murray: I did that too.
Mr. Granof: So, what you participated in and what you did, that’s a real service to law
Mr. Murray: Well, yes, and remember I was just there for a week. This program went on a
month, so every week they had a different team of judges and lawyers come in, at
different stages. The first week they would devote to opening statements, the
second week they would devote to direct examination, the third week they would
devote to cross-examination and closing arguments, and then the final week
would be the mock trial. This went on for a month, and I was only there for one
week. So this school brought these people in, these faculty members in from all
over the country for four separate weeks to teach, expose these kids.
Mr. Granof: That’s a wonderful program.
Mr. Murray: It is a wonderful program.
Mr. Granof: So, you taught that, you taught at the American Inns of Court, you had an
opportunity to do these presentations, trials, NITA programs, and you did teach a
Mr. Murray: Yes. For several years at Georgetown. I taught one week at the Defense College
in Boulder, Colorado. That was an honor because you were hand-picked for that
Mr. Granof: When you say the Defense, was that a NITA program?
Mr. Murray: No, it was an organization, I forget the name of it now, it was a defense college,
that was part of the name, and it was organized around attorneys who defended
corporations and these big products liability cases, massive tort cases, and
whatnot, and what would happen is that the college would hand pick lawyers like
myself to go down as a team, to Boulder, Colorado, then it was Boulder,
Colorado, now it’s Stanford Law School, and spend one week with students who
pay $2,000 to $3,000 for a week to go through the same process that we went
through at Harvard or NITA — the same process, but a different set of fact
patterns. Except that at the Defense College we’d get up in the morning, we’d go
to this huge auditorium, and one member of the faculty would give a
demonstration on that topic of the day, so if the topic of the day was opening
statement, a member of the faculty would give an example of a good opening
statement. If the topic of the day was direct examination, they would give a good
example of direct examination. Whatever the topic was, there was a
demonstration first and then everybody would break into their groups and practice
that for the rest of the day. A different aspect of a trial was covered every day. At
the end of the week, each student would participate in a mock trial. So that’s the
way that one worked. That was pretty good, pretty well organized.
Mr. Granof: And why did they select you for it?
Mr. Murray: I don’t have the slightest idea.
Mr. Granof: Had you handled these kinds of cases?
Mr. Murray: Yes. I think I was selected because I was one of the attorneys for 3M, and the lady
who did the selection process was a big products liability lawyer that did a lot of
cases with 3M, and she hand-picked the lawyers. Most of them did 3M work for
this Defense College. A couple of them didn’t, but a majority of them did.
Mr. Granof: You had done work for 3M?
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was one of their trial counsel. 3M is a fantastic company. I got a lot of
experience with them.
Mr. Granof: You tried product liability cases for them?
Mr. Murray: I tried cases. The one case that sticks out in my mind is the case I lost. In Little
Rock, Arkansas, Federal Court in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a premises
liability case. 3M had a rock crushing plant. At this plant the 3M workers would
take huge rocks and crush them into small pebbles which they used to put on
roofing shingles. They had their own train with a locomotive engine and train
cars. They would move rocks and crush rocks from part of the plant to the other.
All of this was inside the 3M company’s plant. The plant had its own locomotive,
like I said, along with their own engineers, and whatnot. There was an accident
where this truck driver who was delivering stuff at the plant got struck by the
train. Now keep in mind the train only went about four or five miles an hour, but
because it was carrying such a heavy load, it might take, I don’t know, a half mile,
a quarter of a mile, to stop. So this truck driver, for whatever reason, was parked
on the tracks and did not hear the train whistle. The locomotive engineer blew the
whistle and applied the brakes, but the engineer could not stop the train in time.
The truck got struck, the driver was only slightly injured, there was only some
damage to the truck, the truck was turned over, but nothing very serious.
3M hired me to go down there and check this out. They had a top-notch
Little Rock law firm representing the truck driver who filed suit. I went down
there and took control of the investigation, and then took control of the litigation.
I had a little trouble with my photographer. I told him exactly what I wanted to
present to the jury. He gave me something else that he thought would be better.
And I fired him. And I brought my own photographer down there. What I wanted
to do is show a split screen on a TV monitor, what the track looked like from the
driver’s point of view, the truck driver’s point of view, and what the track looked
like from the locomotive engineer’s point of view, so that the jury could see that
there was no obstruction, and had the driver been paying attention, he could have
avoided the accident – first of all, by not parking on the tracks.
Mr. Granof: What was his argument – that it was perfectly normal to park on the railroad
Mr. Murray: His argument was that they didn’t have any bells or whistles, they didn’t have a
gate that would go down and prevent traffic from proceeding towards the track
when the train was approaching. So he thought it was all clear. He could not have
believed it was all clear because all he had to do was open his eyes and look, and
he would have seen a train was coming in his direction, slowly, you know, 3- 5
miles an hour.
Mr. Granof: Was he actually parked?
Mr. Murray: He was parked on the tracks. Yes. Parked on the tracks.
Mr. Granof: Well, why would anybody park there?
Mr. Murray: What he was doing was looking at his directional finder to see where his next stop
was, so his attention was diverted to his GPS system in the truck, to show what
direction he would have to take to get to his next stop, so he wasn’t paying
attention at all.
Mr. Granof: So he didn’t realize he was on the tracks?
Mr. Murray: He didn’t realize he was on the tracks. He tuned out his environment.
Mr. Granof: I see.
Mr. Murray: I thought it was a clear case of contributory negligence. We tried this case, and
I’ll tell you right now on the record, I thought I tried a perfect case, and I don’t
normally say that, but I prepared this case up the wazoo. I mean even the difficult
witnesses who I thought would pose a problem, I had them prepared, and they did
a fantastic job. Everybody, the testimony went in great, the evidence went in
great, the arguments went in great. At the end of the case, I got word from the law
clerk, “I think you won the case, Dwight. And the judge thinks you won the case,
too.” Now he wasn’t supposed to tell me that. But you know this was a jury case.
The plaintiff’s lawyer came up to me and said “Throw some money at me,
Dwight. Let me cut my losses.” I said “Well, let me talk to my clients.” We went
back to the plant, we sat down, and everybody felt good about the case. And I said
we can settle this thing, it must have been about $600,000, $700,000 demand. I
said we could settle it for $50,000. They said no. I advised them to think about it
because one never knows what a jury’s going to do. Everybody felt good about
this case. So, we told the plaintiffs’ lawyer “no” to his settlement demand of
$50,000 and went back to the courtroom to receive the jury verdict. The jury gave
the plaintiff $300,000. I was dumbfounded, absolutely dumbfounded.
Mr. Granof: For what?
Mr. Murray: This was what I call the big / little complex, the David v. Goliath complex. This
guy, the best move he ever made, he sat through the entire trial slumped over, like
he was pitiful in his presentation, but perfect to show the contrast between the big
corporation and this poor little truck driver.
Mr. Granof: Well, what kind of injuries had he suffered?
Mr. Murray: No major injuries at all. None.
Mr. Granof: Any broken bones?
Mr. Murray: No broken bones. Nothing.
Mr. Granof: So, I’m sure he had a doctor testify.
Mr. Murray: He had a doctor testify; he was OK. He had some minor cuts and bruises, but he
was OK. No permanent injuries. $300,000.
Mr. Granof: So, what did the judge do?
Mr. Murray: The judge said, “This is the jury’s decision,” and he upheld the verdict.
Mr. Murray: I took it up on appeal in the Eighth Circuit and lost the appeal. We lost $300,000.
That’s the one case I do remember almost verbatim.
Mr. Granof: I can imagine.
Mr. Murray: But you know, you also learn something. You take that as a teaching. You tell
your clients when they feel confident, I tell them about this case. I say you never
can tell. You put your faith in the hands of strangers, and you don’t know what
the hidden agenda is. I was the only black person in that courtroom, the only one,
except for a couple of witnesses from the plant. But the judge was white, the jury
was totally white, the attorneys were white, the plaintiff was white. Except for the
locomotive engineer and a couple other witnesses from 3M, I was the only black
person in that entire trial, and it didn’t bother me, but to this day I question
whether or not I should have challenged the jury for being all white, to this very
Mr. Granof: Was it a 12-person jury or a 6-person jury?
Mr. Murray: It was 12, but I thought, nah, these people can be fair. And I don’t know, but
that’s the self-autopsy, self-criticism I do after every trial. I looked at the jury, I
know I said, why should you challenge. Should you get some black person? I
said, nah, I think I can convince these people. My evidence was so strong, I
thought I could convince them. But you never know. You never know.
Mr. Granof: Interesting. Was the 3M plant in Little Rock?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And the truck driver was from Little Rock?
Mr. Murray: The truck driver was from the Ozarks.
Mr. Granof: Why would he sue in federal court, that’s interesting. You’d think he might get a
better deal in state court.
Mr. Murray: I don’t know why he sued in federal court. I mean, I didn’t file the lawsuit, I
didn’t know what the thought process was. 3M was a Delaware corporation with
its principal place of business in St. Paul, Minnesota, and they filed suit in federal
court. The trial judge did a good job; he was the chief judge of the federal court
down there. It’s one of those things you question whether I should have
challenged that jury. I thought about it and decided not to do it because I thought I
could convince this jury that you put in the box.
Mr. Granof: You thought you had a strong case.
Mr. Murray: And I did have a strong case, and the evidence was so clear. I mean I got where
the jury could see on a double screen the viewpoint from the locomotive
engineer’s point of view, unobstructed, and the viewpoint from the truck driver’s
point, unobstructed. And you know those things happen. Those things happen.
You do this long enough and you realize there are ups and downs. During a trial I
tell my clients to expect what I call the ebb and flow of a trial. I also tell people
that the key is to do all the damage to the other side when they are presenting their
case. Then complete the destruction of the opponents’ case during the
presentation of evidence in your case.
Mr. Granof: I think that must be the hardest kind of loss where you believe that your client is
absolutely right on the facts and the law, and you believe you’ve done a terrific
job. That is, you can’t think of any other way you would have tried the case other
than, as you say, challenging an all-white jury, but in terms of presentation, it was
as good as you were going to do.
Mr. Murray: It was the best I could do. I spent a lot of time down there, and I spent a lot of
time with the witnesses. I worked on the weak witnesses. I made them stronger,
made the presentation of the case very well, and it was a hard fought but a good
trial. Both sides respected one another and both sides did a decent job, and it’s the
kind of case you like to try. No hanky-panky, no cheap shots, it was an aboveboard kind of trial. It was a tough loss, it’s a loss that I’ll take with me to my
grave. You can’t change the facts. It happened, and you just build from there and
move on. You learn from that mistake. But the plant hired me again. The plant
wanted me again when they had another big case.
Mr. Granof: Well, because they saw you did a good job.
Mr. Murray: Well, you know I started off, the judge and I got into a little bit on an evidentiary
question and the judge called a recess, he checked my citation, and he said,
“You’re right, Mr. Murray,” right in front of the jury, and my client was sitting at
the table and said “Well, you’re doing a good job.” I said, “Now you guys see
how I make a living.”
Mr. Granof: You said you had another big case with them.
Mr. Murray: Yes, it was an environmental case. When you crush rocks into tiny little pebbles,
you make a lot of dust. The plant had this huge set of vacuums inside the plant
that sucked up all the dust from the air, but one time the dust bag broke. Let me
tell you, when that happens, they have to shut the airport down, because the dust
plume became so pervasive, and so wide and so thick, you couldn’t see. Well, the
neighborhood filed suit, and the first suit did not go well. So 3M fired the lawyer
and hired me to go down there. And for the second phase, the second wave of
lawsuits, I got them out on a summary judgment motion. They thought I did a
great job, and the plant thought I did a great job. I enjoyed those people down
there, I enjoyed going down there because I liked the plant people and I liked
working for 3M because you’d go around and talk to the plant people, and you
find out they’re second and third generations, and some of these people have been
working for the plant for 35 years. When I find someone who’s been working
there for 15 years, I call them a rookie, because once they get in, the benefits are
great, the conditions are great, the opportunities are great, and it’s a nice place to
Mr. Granof: This may be a good place to stop. We’ve been going for about an hour and 18
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
May 15, 2018
This is the sixth interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.
Mr. Granof: You wanted to talk about your family.
Mr. Murray: I wanted to mention some things about my family that I think are important. They
have been a big part of my life. I got married in June 1968 and when my wife and
I got married, she knew I was going to go into the Marine Corps, and she knew
back in 1968 chances of me going to Vietnam were very high. In fact, that did
come to pass, and it takes a remarkable woman to, first of all, commit her life to
someone with that kind of future. You don’t know whether or not it’s a short-term
future, a short-term marriage, and you know there was going to be a long
separation, and I’ve always appreciated with my wife – her name is Elodie – what
she did in accepting my proposal. Not only that, but when we got married, I didn’t
have anything. I probably had a couple hundred bucks in the bank. I got a summer
job after graduation and then in September, she had a job at the Veterans
Administration. She was part of the management selection team. She was highly
recruited by a lot of government agencies. She’s an extremely intelligent, smart
good person, very religious, and she agreed to go to work with the VA. We
moved up to Washington, D.C., in August-September of 1968, knowing that I was
going into the Marine Corps in October of 1968. We really didn’t have a lot of
time together as a married couple. On October 14th, I went to Quantico, and I was
in the OCS program. I didn’t see her again for another five weeks. After five
weeks, they allow you liberty just on the weekends, so I caught the Greyhound
bus from Quantico to downtown D.C. We spent Saturday and Sunday together,
and then by Sunday night I was back on base. That was pretty tough on her
because she was here in D.C. by herself, and then I left her again in July of 1969
when I went to Vietnam. By that time, we were expecting our first child, Michele,
who was born on January 17, 1970. I was away, I was in Vietnam at the time. I
didn’t see my daughter until she was about six months old. I think I said earlier
that was the same situation with my dad in World War II. He didn’t see me until I
was six months old. It was almost the same, like history repeating itself. But pay
tribute to that. And to be home alone. We moved back to New Orleans so she
could stay with her parents while she was expecting and working at the same
time. When she delivered Michele, her parents helped care for her. I came back in
July of ’69.
Mr. Granof: When you were away, there had to be considerable anxiety on her part.
Mr. Murray: A lot of anxiety.
Mr. Granof: I mean Marine lieutenants . . .
Mr. Murray: Yes, they had a short life expectancy. Very short life expectancy. And that was
another thing that weighed on her. I mean, I didn’t think about it that much. It’s
like I told you when I was in Okinawa, waiting to be transported over to Vietnam,
I saw this bulletin on the bulletin board about this Marine fighter pilot who had
800 combat missions in Vietnam and got killed in a motorcycle accident in
Oakland, California. And I said to myself, if it’s your destiny to die in Vietnam,
you’re going to die no matter what you do. You can die in a Jeep accident, you
can die in strange ways, or you can die in combat, and if you’re not going to die in
Vietnam, then you can stand up in a hail of bullets, and somehow you’re going to
miraculously be preserved or saved. I stopped worrying about it, but it didn’t stop
her from worrying about it. I didn’t pay much attention to it until many years
afterwards when I realized how stressful that could be on the ones left behind. If
you have any relative that is in harm’s way, you’re going to worry about them,
and you’re somewhat powerless, so that makes the anxiety even worse because
there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m kind of a problem solver, so if there’s a
problem I try to solve it, but when you’re put in a situation like that where you’re
powerless to solve it, then what you have to work on is to control the anxiety and
try not to worry about it too much. That’s kind of difficult.
When I got back, I was a little bit short-tempered and whatnot, and didn’t
understand much, trying to fit the role of not only being a husband, but also a
father. That took a big adjustment, and I thought I was the kind of person who
could adjust to anything at a moment’s notice or a snap of a finger, but it took a
long adjustment for me. And then to complicate things, when I got out of the
Marines, I went to law school. That dominated a lot of time. The more I think
about it, the more I realize what a struggle she went through putting up with me,
and the things that I had to do in the next step of the ladder of so-called success.
Marine Corps and law school. Then when you get out of law school, you get a
job. It takes up a lot of your time. That put a difficult burden on her. And it put a
difficult burden on Michele, my daughter. I remember I would purposely take
time off from my studies or in the Marine Corps and spend a little bit of private
time, take her to the playground, but not as much as I should have. And that’s the
thing you really regret when looking back on your life, things that you could have
done better, things that you should have done better, and you didn’t do better. I
regret that. But my daughter turned out well, my wife, she’s doing extremely well.
She became a staunch Catholic. She went to Medjugorje where the Blessed
Mother appeared, and it changed her life, completely, for the better.
Mr. Granof: Was she Catholic originally?
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. Came from a big Catholic family. She had two brothers who went into
the Jesuit seminary, and they got out after 10 years. She had an uncle who was a
priest. She had two aunts who were nuns, and when her father died, the Cardinal
said the Mass, the funeral Mass of her father. They were very well connected in
the Catholic Church. She came from a very prominent family. Like my mother
said, when she found out I was dating Elodie, she said “What does she see in
you?” I said, “Mom, you’re supposed to be on my side.” But my mother was a big
fan of my wife. And then I want to talk about my daughters. First, Michele.
Mr. Granof: And how many years have you been married now?
Mr. Murray: Almost 50 years. And Michele, extremely proud of her. She did well in school.
She went to the University of Virginia. She did very well there, became a member
of the Delta Gamma sorority and had very good grades. When she got out of
University of Virginia, she didn’t know what she wanted to do. Then she got a job
at Oakcrest Girls’ School and found her niche in life, which was higher education
administration. To accomplish the goal of becoming a college administrator, she
knew she needed at least a master’s degree, so she went to the University of
Vermont, got her master’s degree and went on and got a Ph.D. at the University of
Maryland while she was working at Loyola University in Baltimore. After
spending ten years in Seattle, Washington as a Vice President at Seattle
University, she is now the Vice President of Student Development and Dean of
Students at Holy Cross College, in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Mr. Granof: Oh. Sure.
Mr. Murray: The thing about her is she’s got all the qualities, and I told her a long time ago, I
told her when she was about maybe 22 years, I said you got all the qualities to go
as far as you want to go. She is levelheaded, she has good leadership qualities and
she has good decision making and analytical capabilities. Plus, she is not afraid to
confront when confrontation is needed, and she is a problem solver. I said one day
you’re going to be the president of a university. I predicted that a long time ago.
Whether that will happen, I don’t know, because she really likes her job now.
Mr. Granof: Being president of the university is no fun.
Mr. Murray: It’s no fun, but she was offered a job at one of these schools in Baltimore, and she
turned that down. Now my other daughter, Maria, she is also very, very special.
She went to Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology in
Virginia. Whereas Michele had more of a liberal arts focus, Maria was a scientist.
She also graduated from the University of Virginia with distinction and was Phi
Beta Kappa. Maria was more focused. She developed an interest in marine
biology, got a job at Woods Hole, which is a highly respected, to hone skills as a
Mr. Granof: It is. Woods Hole is a major marine laboratory, certainly one of the most
prominent in the country.
Mr. Murray: Yes, she lived in Cape Cod for a year or so, worked at Woods Hole, could have
gone to Scripps, and did go to Scripps, did some study at Scripps, and then
accepted a Ph.D. candidacy at the University of Maryland. She could have gone to
Stanford University. It was a toss-up. And don’t ask me why she chose Maryland
over Stanford. She said, “Dad, it’s who you study with, it’s not the school.”
Mr. Granof: I think she’s right about that. That’s all very perceptive.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I think she was wrong about that, but she made the decision and it was her
decision. And the reason why I say it’s wrong is because they don’t list on your
graduation certificate who you studied with; they just list the university. It’s not a
question of being elitist; it’s a question of how far a degree from Stanford will
take you compared to a degree from the University of Maryland. This is not a
knock on the University of Maryland. But mid-way through her program, her
advisor, the person she wanted to study under, left Maryland and took a position
at Cornell. This meant Maria had to find a new advisor and had to start over.
Therefore, it took her longer to get her Ph.D. But that setback showed me she has
a lot of courage and determination. She made me very proud. She was able to
shoulder the setback and do what she had to do to get her doctorate. Her doctorate
had to do with genetic mutations of oysters. It was so complicated, she and her
husband, Woody, who is an engineer, had to write their own program to do the
computations and borrow time on the supercomputer at Cornell. I went to the
presentation of her thesis, and I did not understand a word she said. It was so
complicated. She was talking way over my head and I was proud of her.
Mr. Granof: But the other side of that coin is that if you are looking for a job in a field, and
you studied with Professor X, who is well known and well connected, that can be
a definite plus even if the school itself may not have the same cache.
Mr. Murray: Well, it could be, but it didn’t work out that way. The professor that she wanted to
study with, he quit right in the middle of her pursuit, and she had to start all over
again with a new professor. Like I said, first she had to find a sponsor, then she
had to start all over again. And I don’t think that would have happened at
Stanford. He left to get a better opportunity at some university, Cornell, I think it
was. But in any event, you know you live and learn, and the thing about it is we
talked, yes, this was a setback but that’s how you get tested. You just don’t look
back. If you got to start all over, you start all over. You’re only talking about a
couple years. Yes, you wasted a couple, but it’s just two years. The thing is that
you go ahead and do what you have to do and graduate, and get your Ph.D. Both
of my daughters have Ph.D.’s and are very well settled. It makes me and my wife
happy to see how successful our daughters are.
Mr. Granof: And what’s she doing now?
Mr. Murray: Well, she works for the Smithsonian. She’s a program manager in the
Smithsonian oceanographic program.
Mr. Granof: Seems to me she’s done pretty well.
Mr. Murray: I give a lot of credit to my wife because one of the things, when you think about
your life and about all the things you missed, my wife never missed their first day
of class from grammar school – and I’m talking about pre-school, first grade, all
the way through college, she never missed their first day of class, and I was
always doing something. I was always working or had a conflict. Even when my
second daughter, Maria, was born, the great thing was that she was born on a
Sunday. The bad thing was she was born right in the middle of a trial that I was
involved in. Therefore, I couldn’t spend the time that I should have spent in the
hospital. I could only come there at night and I could only stay there a short while
because I had to prepare for the next day. And that’s another thing that my wife, I
knew it got to her. There was one instance where I knew I was in the doghouse
because the lady who delivered around the same time that my wife delivered
Maria, her husband sent her a big bouquet of flowers and all this stuff, and I come
in empty handed, so I did not look good, did not fare well during that time. That’s
one of the downfalls of the profession. Sometimes it consumes you, especially
when you’re in trial, and this was a tough trial, this was a very tough trial in front
of a tough judge, so I was consumed with doing well for the client. You don’t
bring those problems home. I internalize a lot of the problems, try to solve them
myself rather than put it off on other people’s shoulders. When I think about this
oral history, and I think about what a big part and how much satisfaction from my
family, and how proud I am of them, of my daughters, of the job my wife did. It’s
just a remarkable accomplishment where my wife deserves most of the credit.
Mr. Granof: Did she continue to work?
Mr. Murray: Yes, she continued to work, and right now my younger daughter Maria is going
through some problems, and I put problems in quotation marks, because she just
delivered our second grandchild, almost three months ago, and she’s going back
to work this week, so she’s going to experience the separation anxiety which my
wife experienced several times. But my daughter Maria has the flexibility of
doing telecommuting whereas my wife Elodie had to get on a bus, or get in a van
pool, and go to work for eight hours, or seven and a half hours, every day. The
routine was I would drop the kids off for day care, or school, and she would pick
them up. I had more flexibility in the morning, but I didn’t have flexibility in the
evening. Her schedule was rigid. She would get off at a specific time so she
would at the day care place.
Mr. Granof: Was she still working for the VA?
Mr. Murray: She worked for the VA from ’67 to 2012 or 2013, one of those times.
Mr. Granof: That’s full career.
Mr. Murray: That was a full career. I mean my wife, she graduated second in her class at
Xavier and I would say if you weren’t dating me you probably would have been
first. Because I took a lot of the luster away from her. And she was the type, you
know, she studied for exams, but she didn’t cram, she didn’t really burn the
midnight oil like the one who graduated valedictorian. She’s a very, very brilliant
woman. She could have done a lot. And let’s see, she had a very good career but
always put the family first. She could have gone into the government’s senior
Mr. Granof: Senior executive program?
Mr. Murray: Yes, they wanted her, but she didn’t want the commitment. There was a time
when she wanted to go four days a week instead of five days, and if she went to
senior executive service, she wouldn’t have been able to do that. I kind of
encouraged her to go for the senior executive. I thought it would have been a good
experience, it was an opportunity that I wouldn’t have passed up, but she thinks
differently. My wife was not materialistic, she was more grounded about which
things are important. She didn’t want the pressure of the job to take away from
her devotion to the family. So that’s something you must respect. If I were in her
shoes, I would have grabbed that opportunity and run with it, and I would have
suffered the consequences that she was intentionally avoiding, much to her credit.
We’re just different in that way. One should learn to appreciate the difference,
and I learned to do that. I could have been a better husband, I could have been a
better father, could have spent more time doing the things I should have been
doing. But I saw the way my father provided for his family. He worked, worked
and worked. I guess a lot of that rubbed off on me. But I did spend more time with
my kids than my father spent with me. Therefore, I probably tried to change the
trajectory just a little.
Mr. Granof: Well, someone said, famously, the law’s a jealous mistress.
Mr. Murray: Let me tell you, that’s a true statement. That is a very true statement.
Mr. Granof: I think particularly if you’re in litigation. I think that’s really true of litigation
especially. If you’re in wills and trusts, maybe not so much.
Mr. Murray: Yes, because you don’t control your schedule. Judges control your schedule. I
can’t tell you the times I missed vacations because of trials, or because a judge
wanted to set a case for a specific time regardless of my vacation schedule. They
thought that would promote a settlement discussion because I didn’t want to
cancel my vacation, but I always canceled the vacation, and that was unfortunate.
I always put a premium on the client’s interest. I didn’t want to shortchange the
client because of my vacation schedule. You pay a price for that.
Mr. Granof: There’s not much you could do to shortchange the client; you can’t really say go
get another lawyer.
Mr. Murray: That wouldn’t be fair to the client. The client would have to pay the legal costs
involved for the new lawyer to catch up or get to speed on the case. Plus, the idea
of abandoning a client or jeopardizing the client just to go on vacation was
repugnant to me.
Mr. Granof: That wouldn’t have set well with the client.
Mr. Murray: It wouldn’t have set well with me.
Mr. Granof: That would have been hard on you. I agree.
Mr. Murray: So those things you kind of regret when you look back on your life, that you wish
you could have done things a little better, but sometimes it was extremely
difficult, you didn’t have the choices that you would like to have had at the time.
Mr. Granof: Are both your daughters married?
Mr. Murray: Both of them are married. They’re married to excellent guys and I’m very
thankful for that. Michele married a guy by the name of Chris Lewers who’s from
Arizona. Michele got married kind of late in life, she was in her early 30’s.
Mr. Granof: That’s not uncommon these days.
Mr. Murray: It’s not uncommon but she wanted to get married and start a family and she
thought she would never get married, and my mother used to tell her, they were
very close, my mother and Michele. My mother would say, “Your husband is
right in front of your eyes.” My mother always had this sixth sense about her. One
day she was walking a neighbor’s dog, and her future husband was right across
the street. They got to know each other, they fell in love, they got married. First,
they lived in Seattle, and they lived in Baltimore when Michele worked for
Loyola University in Baltimore. Then she got a job as assistant vice president of
Seattle University in Seattle, Washington, and then this job, this opportunity at
Mr. Granof: Holy Cross was, obviously it’s co-ed, I mean they’ve had women there for a
Mr. Murray: It’s co-ed, yes.
Mr. Granof: But at one time, it was all male.
Mr. Murray: All boys. Holy Cross had some great alumni: Bob Cousy; they talk about Chris
Matthews from MSNBC, Hardball; Clarence Thomas, Justice Clarence Thomas;
Ed Bennett Williams graduated from Holy Cross. They have some very
distinguished alumni. They have a great endowment, and my daughter really likes
it there. She gets along with the president, the president likes her, she’s doing
extremely well there.
Mr. Granof: It’s also in a nice area.
Mr. Murray: It’s in a nice area. Then they have a nice house. So, everything looks well.
Nothing brings you comfort like seeing your children do well in their chosen
profession and in their life. Not only professionally, socially, and in the family
thing. And my younger daughter just gave birth to Camille. Her husband,
Woody, they met a Woods Hole. Woody is a brilliant engineer. Woody could
have gone anywhere he wanted to. When Maria finished her education at Woods
Hole, she was trying to decide whether she was going to go to California and
Scripps or University of Maryland. You choose, I’ll get into a school and get an
advanced degree, and I think his appeal especially was oceanographic
engineering. So she got in the University of Maryland, he got into Johns Hopkins,
and he got a Master’s from Johns Hopkins and then they wanted him to stay to get
a Ph.D., but he said no, I have to get out there and earn some money. So he left
there and got a job with the Navy Submarine Ocean Laboratory at Carderock.
Mr. Granof: That’s my neighborhood.
Mr. Murray: Yes. I don’t know what he does because he can’t tell me, but I know he works on
propulsion systems. It’s a nice place to work. From what I understand, he enjoys
it. Sometimes he gets to play with my old submarines, I mean huge submarines.
He’s a special guy. His family’s nice. I mean everybody; it’s a good blend. We’re
very fortunate. We spent this past weekend with them. They live in Kensington.
That’s close by. How nice it is. Enjoyed meeting all of his family. They are all
very good people. His grandfathers were in their 90’s when they died, recently.
Both of them were World War II veterans. One was a Marine, so we clicked right
away. And his other grandfather was a coach at Grinnell University in Iowa. His
last name was Fitch, and they named a stadium after him. He was very prominent
and well respected. Woody is from Wisconsin. We went to the farm after they got
married, and they wanted to give a party for Woody and Maria. A lot of the
people in that area couldn’t make it all the way to D.C. for the wedding. So, it was
at the farm, and I was talking to Woody’s grandfather who was a Marine. His
name was George Curtis. And there was a chin-up bar, and I said “You know,
George, I used to be able to kip over it – they call it a kip where you just swing
and zoom over the bar as part of the obstacle course. And George looked at me
and said, let me see you do that. Now, I was in my 60’s, and George was in his
late 80’s at the time, so I made a run and grab for it and I swung up, and I couldn’t
swing over. I said to myself, I used to do this with ease. Then I said, maybe I
didn’t have enough speed, so I tried again and again, and I couldn’t – and George
was just laughing because he knew that the things you used to be able to do when
you were 20, you can’t do when you’re 60. I had a hard time accepting that, but I
thought it was funny too.
Mr. Granof: That’s very true.
Mr. Murray: And I’m saying to myself, “No, no, that doesn’t apply to me,” and the more I
tried, the harder I tried, the harder he laughed. He was waiting for me to come to
Mr. Granof: Your grandchild here is three months?
Mr. Murray: Yes. Three months.
Mr. Granof: That’s the age you try and coax a smile.
Mr. Murray: She smiled this weekend.
Mr. Granof: And your other grandchild?
Mr. Murray: She’s six. And she loves her grandpa. Her name is Ella. She was named after
Elodie, my wife, and Chris’ mother, Grace, so her name is, her given name,
baptismal name is Elodie Grace.
Mr. Granof: You probably don’t see her as much, but probably through Skype.
Mr. Murray: I see her maybe twice a year. We make an effort. When my daughter Michele, the
older one, was at Seattle, they would send her on recruiting trips, the school
would go on recruiting trips for students in the Pacific Rim, and they would send
her to Hawaii, so we would fly out there and rent a condo and whatnot, so when
she’s finished with whatever commitment she had, we turned it into a small
family mini vacation. So, we got a chance to spend time with them that way. That
Mr. Granof: Six years old. They’re really very open.
Mr. Murray: Oh yes. Well, this started when she was three, two, when she almost about a year
old. We went out there maybe several times. This started when Ella was about a
year old, maybe 10 months old. I taught her to stand up, and I wasn’t, I wasn’t
that careful as her parents were with her. She took her first drink of water out of a
fountain with me because I stuffed her face in the water, the water shot out. I
showed her mother, I said, “Look what I’ve taught your daughter.” Michele just
rolled her eyes back. She knew I did things like that. As an example, when
Michele was about six or seven months old, Elodie made the mistake of going
home for a friend’s wedding, and so I had to take care of Michele, and I did a lot
of things that would probably horrify Elodie if she saw me doing them. I put root
beer in a milk bottle, just to watch her eyes light up when she got the taste of a
little root beer. I gave her candy, licorice candy.
Mr. Granof: Hey, that’s what grandfathers are for.
Mr. Murray: That’s right. All those things I did, we bonded very nicely.
Mr. Granof: That sounds like it still continues, and then you’ll do the same with your youngest
Mr. Murray: I hope to make up for a lot of time that I missed when my daughters were coming
up. But it’s been fun spending time with them and watching them grow, and
watching their success, my daughters’ successes. And it’s still going on. They
have a very bright future ahead of them, both of them, as well as their husbands.
I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well.
Mr. Granof: Hopefully it will. It sounds like they’re on the right path . . .
Mr. Murray: They’re on the right path, and they haven’t given us hardly any trouble at all. My
wife has been more understanding, I’ve been more disciplined. I was not that
much of an empathetic person when you come to a problem. I looked for
resolution as opposed to, you know, empathy, yes, feel sorry. And I didn’t realize
what an impact that was until we were driving back from Woody’s farm one day,
Woody’s family’s farm, and my daughter Michele said, “Dad, do you remember
the time when I called home and I was in college, and I was crying about all the
work I had to do, and mother was on the phone, and she said, ‘Oh, I understand,
you can try, you can do it,’” being very empathetic to Michele’s plight. Elodie
said, “Do you want to talk to your dad?”. Michele said yes. So, I got on the phone
and said, “What’s the matter?” She told me, and she said I said, “Look, stop all
your blubbering and just get to it.” Same thing my dad used to say, “There’s
nothing to it but to do it. You take your first step and you will realize this problem
can be overcome, and you go ahead and put your shoulder to the wheel and do it.
I don’t want to hear your blubbering.” And I hung up.. And she said, “Dad that
was the best advice, because when I hung up, I started doing the work, and I
realized that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. ” I forgot this has
happened, but it sounds just like me. Sounds like something I would do,
something like I would say. Because that’s the way my parents reacted — “I don’t
want to hear your problem, just solve it, you got into it, solve it.” It was that kind
of thing. And that was revealing because I forgot all about it, but I saw that it
made an impact in her life, a positive impact, and it’s like I said in our first
interview, you never know how you influence people because sometimes the
feedback never gets to you. That was a positive feedback that I wasn’t even aware
of, and it affected my own daughter, so I was satisfied with that.
Mr. Granof: Well, at some point your kids, you realize wait a minute, they’re not kids
Mr. Murray: I realized that when they came home from college. You realized that, wait a
minute, they’re 18 years old now. They’ve been independent when they were at
college, so you can’t tell them, “OK, time to come home, I want you home at
10:00 o’clock, 10:30, 11:00 o’clock, 11:30.”
Mr. Granof: Yes, but even beyond that, when they get into their 30s and they have their own
established careers, and you realize, and you try and look back at where you were
at that age, and how you felt about where you were in your life, you didn’t feel
like a kid anymore, you felt like a responsible adult.
Mr. Murray: That’s right. And it’s hard to say OK, they’re no longer kids, it’s hard not to
interfere, but what I try to do is give them options and let them make the decision.
If they come to me for advice, I say well, here are your options, you should
decide. And if they say, well, what to do you think, then I’ll tell them what I
think. I say, “Weigh your options, pick out the best option for yourself, look at the
consequences, and then go ahead and decide, and then make a decision. Don’t sit
on the sideline because you’re afraid of the consequences. No matter what the
consequences are, once you decide, you must live with the consequences, and
then act accordingly.”
Mr. Granof: It’s nice that they still come to you for advice.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes, Michele, she’s got things that come up with her job at school and she’ll
call up and say “I’ve got this problem,” and we’ll talk it out, and I say “OK, this is
the path I see.” You might know of another path, and she’ll mention some things,
and then we’ll talk about it, and she’ll come to a conclusion.
Mr. Granof: Sounds like your family has just worked out wonderfully.
Mr. Murray: I’m very happy because I know other people who are not as fortunate as I am, and
I feel very blessed, quite frankly. Again, my wife was right there, you know,
every time they needed their mother, she was right there. Every single time.
That’s kind of special. I wrote that to my wife in a Mother’s Day card.
Mr. Granof: We’re talking about your family, but I think you also wanted to get on to the
people that have helped you.
Mr. Murray: Yes, the first person that helped me was Judge Murphy, Judge Tim Murphy. I
clerked for him for a year after I graduated from law school. I sent out over a
hundred resumes, and I got a couple of nibbles, but one of the nibbles was Judge
Murphy. And I went to interview him, and he was a Marine, he was active in
Marine Corps Reserves, so the fact that I was a Marine attracted him. We hit it off
in the interview. So he offered me a job, and that was the only offer I had at the
time. I found out later that other judges were seriously considering my
application, but Judge Murphy made the first move.
Mr. Granof: It was not a bad offer.
Mr. Murray: It was an excellent offer because we became good friends as a result of that. I
learned a lot from him. Also, another hard worker. Also a man who was very
decisive, very well respected. I got to know his family, his kids, his wife. I still
see them on occasion even though he died a few years ago. I was there right
before he died, the same day he died. He was surrounded in typical Irish setting
where his sick bed was right in front of the fireplace, all of his family was around
him, and he just sort of slipped away. He had been suffering for a long time, a
long time. In fact, he outlived the medical predictions. By the time he died,
several years before he died, he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t
walk, and sometimes I would go to his house to visit him and it would be a oneperson conversation, but his mind was still sharp, he could still understand things.
Mr. Granof: And what did he die of?
Mr. Murray: He had some kind of neurological degenerative disease that kept him off the
bench. I remember one time I went to visit him when he was still able to get
around in a wheelchair, and he wasn’t good on computer, so he’d say, “I want you
to go on the computer, I want you to find this.” So I start laughing. I knew what
he was up to. He was planning a trip to San Diego, by himself, and so I got the
Marine Corps base in San Diego where he was going to stay – at that time he was
a retired colonel in the Marine Corps, rank has its privileges, so he was going to
be quartered in a nice place, and he had some friends in San Diego. He said,
“What are you laughing at?” I said, “Judge, I know why you’re doing this.” He
said ,“Why do you think I am doing this?” I said, “Because if you can make this
trip by yourself to and from San Diego, you can make a pitch to the court that
you’re ready to go back to work.” And he starts laughing. Because that’s exactly
what he was trying to do. They were telling him now you can’t come back to
work because you got all these physical limitations and whatnot, and he was
going to prove to them that if he can travel by himself all the way to San Diego
and back, he can certainly travel to downtown D.C. in the Superior Court and sit
on the bench. But he wasn’t ready to go back. He was a very self-reliant, stubborn
man. But he was stubborn in a nice way, a very determined way. He was a typical
Marine through and through. Judge Murphy was not easily discouraged.
Mr. Granof: He had a long career.
Mr. Murray: Yes, very long career, very successful career, a very admirable career. He
singlehandedly cleaned up the backlog in the motions court. At the time, before
they went to individual calendars, Superior Court handled motions in a motions
court, and they had a backlog of, I don’t know, hundreds of cases, and he got in
that motions court and he decided motions, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Of
course, most of them went up to the Court of Appeals because there was no
hearing, or whatever — the Judge said your response was due, didn’t come in
time, motion granted. Some motions were denied. Sometimes the motions were
granted, but the point is that the backlog was cleared. Why that was special is no
other judge had the guts to do that. He was the only one that wasn’t afraid of his
reputation being damaged by the Court of Appeals reversing him. His goal was to
clear up the backlog, and that’s what he did, and I tell you they still talk about it.
The other thing, I represented him in a case. The facts are not that important. He
was wrongly accused and he was vindicated. But what I got to find out about
Judge Murphy was how much he meant to a lot of people. This is the kind of man
I worked for. The kind of man that gave me inspiration.
Mr. Granof: But what could he have been accused of?
Mr. Murray: Well, he was handling a high-volume court one day, and one of the defendants
passed out. Judge Murphy called for medical assistance, which was standard
procedure. But the Deputy Marshals thought the defendant was faking it, so they
took him out of the courtroom, put him in a cell, and the guy asphyxiated. He had
an asthma attack. The judge was accused of being insensitive. This was a
completely false statement, and we negotiated a retraction from the Washington
Post. There were other terms in the settlement agreement. But the point was that
in putting all this together, every living U.S. Attorney wrote letters of praise of
Judge Murphy. I had letters from congressmen, senators, ambassadors, Marine
generals. I mean it was like a who’s who writing praises of Judge Murphy. One
important letter was from a sergeant on the police force. The letter said, “Judge,
you may not remember me, but when I was a young, first-year recruit rookie cop,
I saw something that was going on that was wrong, and I was concerned about my
career, and I came to you seeking advice, and you gave me advice, and I took
your advice and did the right thing.” The letter said further that “Although I took a
lot of flak, my career flourished, thanks to you.” Or letters like, “Judge, I was
surprised to see you in an alleyway at 3:00 o’clock in the morning because you
sentenced me to work with the Sanitation Department while I was on probation
and you came around, you took time off to check on me at 3:00 o’clock in the
morning in some alleyway.” Stuff that you don’t hear about. How dedicated he
was, and he would always, when he was sentencing, especially juveniles, he
would make a deal with them, or even young adults. He’d say, “Well, I’m going
to suspend your sentence, but I’m going to suspend it if you promise me to stay
out of trouble. Do we have an agreement?” Of course, the guy is going to say yes
because if he doesn’t, he’s going to be locked up. He’d say, “Well come and
shake my hand. I’m going to take you at your word.” And if that guy broke his
word, off to jail he went. So he’s sending a message, a lesson that when you give
your word to somebody, you must keep it. The only person you have to blame is
yourself if you break that word. Now he was a remarkable man, remarkable man,
and sometimes he doesn’t get the credit. If people would have seen what went on
behind the scenes with Judge Murphy, they would have been even more
awestruck. He’s the only judge I knew that could conduct two, three cases at the
same time. He’d call for a jury, have another jury out, and then hear cases that are
Mr. Granof: He moved the docket.
Mr. Murray: He moved the docket, like nobody could. And he and Judge Braman made a good
pair because Braman was more cerebral, extremely intellectual guy, and Judge
Murphy was the smartest judge on the bench, and Braman would say “Judge
Murphy’s the smartest judge on the bench.” So, you had the mutual admiration
Mr. Granof: And how did you get to know Judge Braman other than he took over the
chambers at one point.
Mr. Murray: Yes, and that’s how I got to know him. He would take a break and he would come
in chambers. Braman was a very formal individual. He was sort of what we called
in the Marine Corps a “by the numbers” person. But his weakness was that he
loved the law. That was his weakness. And I mean he loved good lawyering. I
would talk to Judge Braman about some things, I would sort of yank his chain
about the nice suit he had on that day.
Mr. Granof: This is when you were clerking for Judge Murphy?
Mr. Murray: And, quite frankly, I was overstepping my boundaries, but I did it on purpose
because he sort of got annoyed by it, but he said “Who is this kid talking to me
like that?” But he didn’t tell me “Don’t talk to me that way.” And as long as he
didn’t draw that line, I was always crossing it, always pushing him. As a result,
we became, not friends, but we came closer, and I had a case, a very difficult case
many years later in front of Judge Braman. A legal malpractice case. It was about
19 counts of legal malpractice, and my client was a very prominent lawyer. The
case had been bounced around from judge to judge to judge. No one wanted to
take the time to tackle the issue. I filed a motion for summary judgment on all the
19 counts, and I said to the client, when we went to argument before Judge
Braman, I said, “If we get a good judge” – this was before Judge Braman took the
case – “we’ll get 16 of the 19 counts knocked out. Then I anticipate that we’ll go
to trial on the remaining three counts. If we get a good trial judge, we should get a
directed verdict.” So I called it just like that. Judge Braman got the case, got the
motion for summary judgment, called for an oral hearing. After the hearing he
dismissed 16 of the counts. We went to trial on three. Judge Rufus King was the
trial judge. I made a motion for directed verdict. It was denied. So, my client
looked at me and said “Now, what?”
Mr. Granof: Now we put on our case.
Mr. Murray: Just when I was ready to call the last witness, my expert witness, Judge King said,
“I want to talk about that motion for directed verdict again.” Judge King thought
about it. And we argued it again before my last witness, before my expert witness
was to testify. So, after argument, he granted the motion for directed verdict. My
prediction came true.
A couple of years after that, Judge Braman, who had come in from Florida
to D.C. during the hurricane season, took all the tough cases that they had on the
Superior Court docket. He would ask for the toughest cases, the cases that had the
most challenge to them. I reminded him of that. He said “Yes, I remember that.”
We would go out to lunch. He said “Yes, I remember you said that was good
lawyering, that was good lawyering.” To me that was a great compliment. I had
that prediction, I saw it, and I knew if the right circumstances came together, this
is the thing that should happen, not that it will happen, but it should happen.
Should is not always the thing that comes to pass. We got along pretty well. I saw
him on several occasions at Judge Murphy’s birthday parties. We’d talk.
Mr. Granof: Is he still alive?
Mr. Murray: I haven’t seen him in several years. Every summer I call and ask if Judge Braman
is back because I’d call him up and ask him to go to lunch. I don’t think he comes
in anymore. He’s got to be in his late 80’s now, and maybe, when you’re in your
late 80’s there are better things to do than struggle over a big case, even though to
him reading the law and deciding good cases is a joy, and he’s a judge, just like
Judge Murphy. They would get into a case, they wouldn’t just look at what’s
filed, they would want more information. Judge Braman is the kind of judge,
“Send me the depositions; send me the answers to interrogatories, I want to get a
feel for the case.” In the old days, they used to file that stuff with the court; now
they don’t, so judges have no idea what’s going on other than the complaint, the
answer, and maybe a status report, or pretrial statement. The meat of the cases is
in the discovery, and they don’t get that because the stuff is too voluminous. I
understand that, but when they get into a case they want the meat of the case.
They want the discovery, and they will know that case better than some of the
lawyers that are handling the case. That’s how good those judges, Judge Braman,
Judge Murphy, were at the time. They would take the time to do it because they
loved the law and they liked good lawyering. They wanted to control the case. It’s
always said a good trial lawyer is in constant battle for control of the courtroom
with the judge. A good trial lawyer wants to control the courtroom, but the judge
won’t let him.
Mr. Granof: A good judge is not going to let him control the courtroom.
Mr. Murray: But if you’re good and if the judge lets you, and some judges, they’ll sit back and
watch the show if there are two good lawyers going at each other, in a very
professional way. It’s a thing of beauty to see a well-tried case where lawyers are
doing their best and there’s no chicanery, there’s no hanky-panky going on, just
one good solid shot after the other coming from both sides.
Mr. Granof: I would take it that as a trial lawyer you would feel that if you’re in a situation
where both you and your opponent are trying the case well, you would just as
soon the judge stay out of it.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. Definitely.
Mr. Granof: Let you try your case.
Mr. Murray: Let me try the case. And if the judge is a decision maker, then he or she sits back,
the judge gets all the evidence that he or she needs to make the decision. If the
jury is the fact finder then the judge becomes like a referee, and only steps in
when needed to call a strike, or you’re safe, or you’re out. That’s it. You know,
you don’t see umpires participating in the game. You just see them standing back
making sure the rules are complied with and let the outcome of the game be
determined by participants, and the fact finder. And that’s the way it should be
played. At least that’s the way I feel. So those are two judges. And then after I
clerked, the first guy to give me a job, after my clerkship, was Larry Carr. At the
time the firm’s name was Carr Jordon Coyne & Savits.
Mr. Granof: Was that the firm with the Marines?
Mr. Murray: That’s the firm with the Marines. Yes. And I was the only black lawyer there, the
first black lawyer they ever hired, the first black lawyer doing that kind of work,
but they made me feel real at home. Larry Carr was a great leader, great
individual. He was a former Marine, not a former Marine, but he was a Marine,
excellent leadership skills, and every one of the partners were great trial lawyers.
They had people like Jim Jordan; Mike Coyne, who became a Marine general
later on, very bright guy, very driven; Ed Lopata, who died maybe 10, 15 years
ago. I mean it was a firm that if you had a bad case that was going to trial with a
short fuse on it, that’s the firm you send it to. And we enjoyed that kind of
reputation. We’ll handle anything, we were not afraid of anything, and we’ll try
anything. That’s the kind of reputation we had. But unlike most organizations,
when you have a good combination of people, you try to find a way to keep them
together. Law firms are things that break themselves apart, because of conflicting
personalities, and we lost a lot of good people in the firm’s transformation. Larry
Carr left, Jim Jordan took it over. I became good friends with Jim Jordan. Larry
Carr left twice. The first time he wanted me and a couple other young partners to
come with him. And then he changed his mind. He changed his mind, and I’m
laughing because I didn’t find out — I was the last one to find out — because I was
out of town on a case, and all of this was supposed to happen while I was out of
town. He was going to leave and announce I was going with him, and when I
came back, I thought I was going to be stoned when I got off the elevator for
being a traitor. But as it turned out, somebody said, “Well, maybe you ought to
talk to Larry.” I went into Larry’s office and said, “Well, what’s going on?” He
said, “Well, Dwight, I changed my mind.” I said OK. He said, “Everybody else
changed their mind so they’re waiting on your decision.” I said, “I would have
liked to hear that to begin with. I would have enjoyed going with you and starting
something new, but what the heck, I’ll stay too.” And then, I don’t know, maybe
three or four years later, he left again, but this time it was permanent. And he
started another firm, Carr, Goodson, Lee, and something, that became Carr
Maloney. It’s now Carr Maloney. And our firm became Jordan Coyne Savits &
Lopata. Then Lopata left. Then it became Jordan Coyne & Savits. And now it’s
Jordan Coyne. That’s the firm I retired from in 2012.
Mr. Granof: Could you have stayed? Did you want to stay?
Mr. Murray: Mandatory retirement age was 70, I was 68 at the time, and the nature of the
practice had changed. I didn’t like the changes. I didn’t like how some of the
clients were treating the attorneys, how they tried to control the decisions, the
reporting requirements were onerous, and I tried to stay away from clients that
had reporting requirements, and I just didn’t like the nature of the practice
anymore. I remember calling my financial advisor and asking him, let’s have
lunch, and we had lunch, and I asked him if I could afford to retire? He said,
“Yes, you can afford to retire, you won’t spend all the money you have, not the
way you live.” I said OK. So I thought about it some more, and then on one of
these trips to Hawaii with my daughter Michele and my granddaughter, I was
sitting on a beach in Hawaii after coming from a swim, and I was looking all
around, and I was watching all these people have a great time. I think it was in
2012, July of 2012, I was on the beach with my family and I was looking all
around and I was watching these people enjoying life, and I said if I wasn’t here
I’d be at the office working. And I said how many times have I missed out on
opportunities like this. I started to think more seriously about retirement, and by
October 1, I wrote a memo to my partners, announcing my retirement at the end
of the month. You had to give 30 days’ notice. I gave 30 days’ notice. And I
retired on October 31, but I said I’ll stick around for transitional matters, because
I turned over my cases to my partners. I stayed with them until, through
November and maybe early December, and then I left, and never looked back.
And the same day I retired, the 31st of October, I gave a talk at Judge
Cannon’s law school class at GW, and he said, “Dwight, what are you doing
now?” I said, “Well, today’s my last day, the day I retire officially.” He said,
“You mean to tell me you come down here.” I said, “Yes, you always have to
give back to the profession.” You know a lot of people give to the profession, a
lot of people take from the profession, but a lot of people like Jake Stein, like
Larry Carr, like Jim Jordan, like the guys I worked with, Tim Murphy, Judge
Braman, they always found ways to give back. Whether it’s to talk to young
lawyers, young law students, whatever it was, they always found a way to give
back. This is my opportunity to give back. I said it was a great ride, I enjoyed my
career, I experienced a lot of things that a lot of lawyers don’t get a chance to
experience, but I missed a lot of things that a lot of lawyers did not miss. It’s not a
perfect thing, but I can’t complain. I never thought I would retire from this
business, but there comes a point in time where you have to say there are other
things you have to do. I made the decision and retired.
Mr. Granof: You didn’t really retire.
Mr. Murray: Well, I retired for three years. But while I was retired, I stayed active in
committee work, bar committee work, Council for Court Excellence, so I had
committee meetings just about three times a month while I was retired. I would
come into the city and I knew Jake Stein before I retired. We had cases together, I
knew the firm, this firm, Stein, Mitchell firm, for over 30 years I had cases with
them. I had cases against them, I represented them in some matters, involving
partnership departures and whatnot. I got to know these guys very well. In fact,
the day I announced my retirement, they came to my office, two of the partners
came to my office and wanted me to handle a matter for them. And I said, “Well,
guys, I’m retiring, today is my last day, I’m retiring,” and he said, “That’s OK,
we’d still like you to handle it.” And one of them made the comment, I think it
was Gerry Mitchell, said, “Well Dwight, if you’re looking for a place to stay, we
got room for you upstairs.” This was the same day I retired. I said no, I’m going
to see if I can enjoy my retirement first. And I did. But, you know, you’re used to
running at a hundred miles an hour every day, and all of a sudden you slow down
to 10 or 15. And that was a transition, but I filled it up by visiting every museum
that I always said I’ll get around to doing. I visited every museum, not just once,
but twice. National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Art, and I would bike
around, I bought a bicycle and rode my bike a lot and did a lot of things. Visited
my daughter in Seattle.
But every once in a while I would have lunch with Jake. And Jake said,
you’re too young to retire. I didn’t have a response to that. Jake was close to 90
years old, and here I was, what, 69, almost 70, and I’m telling him, no, no, I’m
retiring right at the right time. He said you got another 10, 15 years left in you. I
said, I don’t think so, but you know, it just shows the attitude that he had, that you
had a lot more to offer, don’t leave anything on the table, give it everything
you’ve got. Then I eventually said OK, let’s give it a try. What could it hurt? I
came back, starting in 2015, September of 2015, when I started working for Stein,
Mitchell as Of Counsel. And it’s been pretty nice so far.
Mr. Granof: Have you tried cases?
Mr. Murray: No, not yet. The first year they were getting used to me. I picked up a couple of
cases, resolved a couple case. In 2019 I’ll probably have, if not one, maybe two
trials. I picked up some cases last year, and I kind of predicted this because I’ve
been in this business long enough to know when the cases are going to mature to
the point where it’s going to require a lot of my time, and for the last several
months, those cases have required a lot of my time. I’ve worked every weekend
since January, and before that, I would work maybe 4, 5 hours a day, take Fridays
off. Now I’m working just about every day. And just like in the old days, late at
night. I’m saying to myself this is not retirement. But you do what has to be done,
no matter what it is. So that’s where I am right now. And that’s more or less my
career, maybe not everything that I’ve told you, but we haven’t spoken about
some key cases, just a few of them, but those cases that I talked about earlier were
the cases that stuck out in my mind. If anybody asks me what are the cases that
stick out in your mind. Well, the cases I mentioned in these interviews are the
ones that come to mind first. There are other cases that I’m sure were just as
important. As a matter of fact, I just finished supplementing Jake Stein’s Closing
Arguments book, and I recounted some cases that I tried as part of the Closing
Argument that I put in there. I was amazed that I remember some of the facts,
because they happened some time ago, but the facts were still close to me. Those
were cases that I worked hard on.
I know I left some stuff out, some of the organizations that I belong to and
how they have contributed to my professional growth.
Mr. Granof: Okay . . .
Mr. Murray: Inns of Court, Council for Court Excellence.
Mr. Granof: This is a good place to stop, and we’ll set a time for next time.
Mr. Murray: OK.
ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
Seventh and Final Interview
July 12, 2018
This is the seventh interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, July 12, 2018.
Mr. Granof: The last time you had mentioned you wanted to talk about your bar association
connections, your experience with the Inns of Court, and the Association of Trial
Lawyers, so any of those that you would like to talk about, or all of them.
Mr. Murray: I got involved with the Bar Association back in the early 90’s. I did some
Mr. Granof: Was this the D.C. Bar?
Mr. Murray: Bar Association for the District of Columbia. It’s an interesting organization
because it was founded in 1870 something. It’s one of the oldest bars in the
country, and it existed before the D.C. Bar, and my understanding is that when the
D.C. Bar, 1970, when there was a court reorganization act and they wanted to
establish a D.C. Bar, there was a question as to whether or not the Bar Association
would perform that function, and they declined. There was some racial
discrimination connected with the Bar Association of the District of Columbia for
quite some period of time.
Mr. Granof: D.C. was a segregated city.
Mr. Murray: D.C. was a segregated city, and African Americans were not allowed in the Bar
Association of the District of Columbia. I don’t know who broke the color line,
but I think Judge Aubrey Robinson was in the forefront, and one of the former
presidents of the Bar Association, Charles Rhyne, was also president of the
American Bar Association, and the Bar Association of the District of Columbia
made a concerted and successful effort in integrating the bar association. I come
along 40 years later after all these battles were fought by all these great heroes. I,
along with a lot of other African American lawyers in Washington, D.C., received
the benefit of the struggles of those who came before us. I got involved in
committee work, litigation, and the tort committee, back in the early 90’s. And
then one day somebody came to me and said, “Dwight, why don’t you run for
office?” And I’ve never been joiner; the only thing I joined was the Marine Corps.
I didn’t participate in college politics; I didn’t participate in a lot of other things.
Maybe I was president of the history club in college, but that’s because I liked
history, but student government I stayed out of, not only in high school but
college as well as law school. So I thought it was interesting, and I liked the
people, so I joined a committee, I ran for office, and it really didn’t bother me if I
won or lost to tell you the truth, but I won, and the next thing you know they
wanted me to run for another office. I ran again, and I won.
Mr. Granof: And what office was that?
Mr. Murray: I think it was Secretary, and then they asked me to run for Vice President of the
Bar, and I ran, and I won, and I was quite surprised because you know in the bar
association you didn’t campaign, so it was mostly reputation that caused people to
vote for you or vote against you. And then the big test was when I ran for
President, and I ran against a well-known lady who was very active in getting the
Women’s Bar to support her, and I won that election as well. I thought that was
interesting. You serve a term as president-elect with the existing president for the
bar association, and then after his term is over with, you slide into the position of
president. The purpose of that is to keep the continuity going.
Mr. Granof: What years are we talking about?
Mr. Murray: It was in ’95, ’96, so it didn’t take me long to get up to speed and to start running
for the high office. I had no ambition to become president; but one thing led to
another. It was a logical turn of events, and in ’96, that was an eye opener because
it was also a busy year for me. I had about four or five trials that year, I was doing
a lot of traveling. But it was a tremendous experience to be president of that great
organization. I learned a lot. I met a lot of great people. Myles Link, who was
president of the D.C. Bar, and I became good friends. We had Ron, I can’t
remember Ron’s last name, who was president of the National Bar Association, so
we were all three presidents at the same time, so we went on a lot of speaking
tours and we got to know each other, and both of these were great people. During
that entire time, I was also a member of the American Inns of Court.
Mr. Granof: Before we leave the Bar Association, when you were secretary, what did you do?
Mr. Murray: Well, just kept notes. I mean it wasn’t really a job or responsibility where you
could have a lot of impact. We tried to increase the membership of the bar
association because at this time, the 90’s, the D.C. Bar was beginning to grow,
and people had less money to spend on activities that were not essential to their
professional development. We tried to make the Bar Association relevant to D.C.
lawyers. What we did, not only under my leadership, but also the leadership of
my predecessor and the leadership of others who followed me, we held seminars
that were relevant to topics. We brought in the Patent and Trade Office, the
people who practice patent law, we gave them a section, we gave them a platform.
Glenn Mitchell, who was at this firm, one of the founders of this firm, had a
platform for antitrust that was his specialty that was well attended. We raised a lot
of money with that platform. Our main goal was to increase the membership, raise
money, and be of service to the members of our association. Those functions,
those missions, we accomplished. But what I could see happening is that the D.C.
Bar was becoming bigger and stronger, and the Bar Association played a relevant
part with the court system because the D.C. Bar had to be neutral, but the Bar
Association could be an advocate for the court. When the Family Division was
started in Superior Court here, the Bar Association led the charge with the court,
lobbied for the court with Congress, lobbied for the court in front of the City
Council. When there was a movement to assess professional taxes on all
professionals in the District of Columbia, we fought that. In fact, I remember
testifying in front of the City Council and we had the figures to show how much
pro bono work the lawyers in the District of Columbia do, and how much we paid
in sales taxes with all of the equipment we buy, the purchases we make, and the
entertainment we do for our clients and for members of our firm. And it was quite
substantial. With those efforts and the efforts of some other individuals who
fought the professional tax, we were able to defeat the professional tax that the
City had planned to levy against professionals like doctors, lawyers and
accountants, etc. The proposal to levy the professional tax was shelved.
Mr. Granof: What’s the difference between D.C. Bar and the D.C. Bar Association?
Mr. Murray: The Bar Association of the District of Columbia is a voluntary bar. You don’t
have to belong to it to practice law in the District. It’s the Association that is over
200 years old. It existed before the D.C. Bar existed, and the D.C. Bar came
around in the 1970’s. That’s the mandatory bar, so every lawyer that practices law
in the District of Columbia is a member of the D.C. Bar. Every lawyer who wants
to practice law in any of the courts whether they live in D.C. or whether they’re
abroad, or whether they’re in one of the other 50 states, they become members of
the D.C. Bar. So that’s the mandatory bar, and that’s essentially the difference.
The D.C. Bar got stronger because they could increase their dues; if you want to
play, you have to pay. In other words, if you want to be a member of the D.C.
Bar, you’re going to have to pay the dues. Moreover, attorneys can just waive to
get admitted to the D.C. Bar. There is no need to pass a bar exam or an attorney’s
exam as a condition for admission. As a result, there are over 100,000 members of
the D.C. Bar, and maybe half those members practice law in the District of
Columbia. The others like to have a D.C. Bar admission on their résumé, I’m a
member of the D.C. Bar, I’m a member of the D.C. Court of Appeals, I’m a
member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which
all the news outlets recognize as the second most important appellate court in the
country. I am also a member of the bar of the Supreme Court. If one can have that
on their résumé that they are a member of the D.C. Bar, that’s big plus for
business development purposes. Also, the D.C. Bar does a lot of fantastic things. I
participated in CLE programs of the D.C. Bar. I was a member of the AttorneyClient Security Fund Committee, which is a fantastic organization. It’s a very
well-run organization. Now the D.C. Bar has its own building. That shows you
how successful they are.
Mr. Granof: And they’re in charge of the attorney discipline, subject to the oversight of the
Mr. Murray: Yes, but the courts are really the disciplining arm, but yes. They have an Ethics
Committee, they have the D.C. Grievance Committee, you know when someone
files a grievance against a lawyer, that’s handled by an arm of the D.C. Bar.
Mr. Granof: And they publish the magazine that your partner Jake Stein wrote a column for?
Mr. Murray: Washington Lawyer, yes.
Mr. Granof: Yes, they do a lot of work and they’re a tremendous benefit to the city, but they
can’t lobby. And the D.C. Bar Association is separate?
Mr. Murray: It’s not the D.C. Bar, it’s the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, The
BADC for short. That’s a separate voluntary bar association. You can be a
member of the D.C. Bar and not be a member of the Bar Association of the
District of Columbia. You can be a member of the Bar Association of the District
of Columbia, but if you want to practice law in D.C., you also have to be a
member of the D.C. Bar.
Mr. Granof: And how many members did the Bar Association of the District Columbia have?
Mr. Murray: When I was president, we had about 5,000 members. Now you got to remember,
back in the 50’s and the 40’s, this was the Bar Association of the District of
Columbia; it was the premier organization that if you were a top lawyer, you
belonged to that organization. It was an invitation kind of thing. That’s why they
couldn’t integrate. You had to invite someone to be a member. All of the top
lawyers who practiced law in the District of Columbia were members of the Bar
Association. This was before they had a D.C. Bar. Now when it became it
integrated, and it became less exclusive, and when the D.C. Bar was formed,
which was the mandatory bar, the BADC had a hard time attracting members
because of competition with the D.C. Bar. Someone would say, “Well, why
should I pay a hundred bucks to be a member in an organization when I have to
pay another hundred plus bucks to be a member of the D.C. Bar., and I really need
to belong to that bar? Why do I have to pay a hundred bucks to socialize with
other lawyers, when I can do that without paying?” It became very competitive to
attract members and to keep members, and we had to make ourselves relevant. I
have to say they did a good job of doing that. Now the Bar Association has its
own office, it’s a condominium office right there on 16th Street, across from the
Capital Hilton Hotel. It’s a small office but it’s very efficient and, like I said, it’s
doing very well. I haven’t kept up with the membership. I used to go to the annual
banquet which was like the social event of the year for D.C. lawyers. That’s
where you got to see everybody, at least once a year. I mean it was usually held at
the Capital Hilton.
When I was president, we moved it to the Grand Hyatt, and I had as my
guest speaker, Attorney General Janet Reno, who was Clinton’s attorney general.
We had a really interesting conversation. When I met her, what amazed me was
how much of a source of inspiration she was to all the young women lawyers. I
was standing next to her and witnessed how the women lawyers, especially,
would come up and express their admiration. These young women lawyers would
express how wonderful Attorney General Reno was. I said, “Holy smokes,”
because I realized how important role models are to young people. Role models
give people a goal, an affirmation that anything can be accomplished if one works
hard enough. President Clinton selected her to be the first female attorney general,
and she did a pretty decent job, until they had the Waco siege. But you can’t have
perfection 100 percent of the time. There are so many people involved, and so
many parts are moving, something’s bound to break down at one time or another.
It’s how you handle the adversity once it happens, and I thought she did a good
When I first was introduced to Attorney General Reno, she was a little bit
guarded. We were sitting up on a dais, just the two of us before the proceedings
started. I don’t particularly like daises, but this is what the organizers put together.
I could tell she was a little bit uncomfortable, so I leaned into her and I said, “I’ve
got a very important question to ask you.” And she looked at me like what is this
guy up to. And I said, “Why did you major in chemistry?” And she just burst out
laughing and at the same time, she looked at her security guard and shooed him
away. After that one little joke, she felt very relaxed, and she said, which was
pretty revealing, given the times, that she had the major in chemistry in order to
hide from her father that she wanted to be a lawyer. If she majored in pre-law or
anything connected with that, her father would get upset. That shows you the kind
of courage that women had to have back in those days to pursue their dreams. It’s
a common story. Ruth Bader Ginsburg would tell similar stories. Judge Sylvia
Bacon, who was one of the first women to be an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C.,
told similar stories. It shows the struggles that people had to go through to
accomplish their goals.
Janet Reno gave a great talk, but the thing that stuck out with me was the
admiration that the other women, no matter what their color, came up to her and
expressed their admiration for her, and I’m sure that happened every time she
went to a public event, you know where women would come up to her and say
how much they admire her and how much she inspired them. I thought that was
We had some great speakers for the Bar Association. The only time my
wife went to one of those banquets was one that Thurgood Marshall was the guest
speaker, and she had to listen to him. He was a great speaker. My experience with
the Bar Association was very good. It was a tough year when I was president of
that organization because, like I said, I had five trials that year, and I was like a
man on fire. I had the presidency of the Bar Association, I had the commitment to
the clients, and I had these trials coming up every now and then. That was one
tough, tough year.
Mr. Granof: I can imagine.
Mr. Murray: But like all tough moments, they end. Sooner or later the case is tried and it’s over
with, and you move to the next one. The Bar Association is a great organization,
and I was glad to be part of it. I wish I could participate more in it. I haven’t been
to an annual banquet in several years because I have a client who gives a
Christmas party the same date as the Bar Association’s annual banquet. This
client is an organization that does actuarial work for pension funds. It is one of
those stories that gives a lawyer tremendous professional satisfaction in helping a
client. Anyway, I helped this client during a very difficult time. These guys were
kicked out of their big multi-national organization because of pension fund
liabilities that the multi-national company, who were my clients’ employer, did
not assume because the liabilities for mistakes in handling pension funds could be
astronomical. There was a serious disagreement between my clients and their
employer, the multi-national corporation. The corporation fired my clients after
locking them out. There was a huge bitterly fought lawsuit, I mean a huge lawsuit,
and I know I backtrack, but this is an important story. This is why I can’t go to
these annual banquets.
This multi-national company came after them with probably the most
vicious attack I’ve ever witnessed in any litigation I’ve been involved in. They
were out to destroy these people, and they hired a big law firm to do it. We were
able to hold them back. We were able to stop the onslaught. One day, after an
evidentiary hearing in court, I was sitting with the clients, there were just six of
them, just six people. They showed me a computer program that they put together
that can project the health and sickness of a pension fund, and if it’s sick, how to
make that pension fund better. I looked at these guys and I said, “Why are you
fighting this lawsuit? I know you’re being attacked; and I understand how you are
taking this personally.” But I told them “You’re sitting on a gold mine. Let’s
settle this suit and start your own business and start making money.” They said,
“But Dwight, what they did to us was . . .” I said, “Forget about that. Ten years
from now, it won’t matter. Focus on making money.” Those six people are now a
100-person firm. They represent pension funds all over the country that they’re in
charge of, and they’ve grown tremendously. Now they’re well respected, they
have an excellent reputation, so that’s why they invite me to their banquet.
Mr. Granof: A nice banquet, too?
Mr. Murray: Nice banquet. Always in a nice place. They have nice offices. These guys are
millionaires now. Millionaires. And it’s always good to look around to see new
faces when I go there, to recognize the growth that they’ve experienced. Now
they have me on the Board of Directors. After I retired, they said, “Well, Dwight,
why don’t you join our Board of Directors.” I said OK. I get to see them on a
regular basis, at least once every couple of months. That’s one of the pluses of
being a lawyer, when you can tell stories like that, when you’ve helped clients and
make a difference.
Mr. Granof: Yes. No question about it.
Mr. Murray: It makes you feel good. Not only do they benefit, but their families benefit and
other people who come into their organization benefit. But getting back to the Bar
Association, that’s why I haven’t been able to go to the annual banquets. But
being president of the Bar Association increased my profile, I can’t deny that, and
so judges got to know me better, and it’s always a plus when you put down on
your résumé, or you see something in your byline, or your CV, where you were
president of an association.
Mr. Granof: The Bar Association, 5,000 or more lawyers, it’s a recognition.
Mr. Murray: Yes, it’s a recognition, it’s an accomplishment, and it’s like I tell young
associates, I say “Join something, get involved in something, get to know the
judges, go to these happy hours when you see a judge in a different light, and the
judge will see you in a different light, and your reputation will be enhanced, get to
know the young lawyers now who will be the future leaders tomorrow.” Some of
them took my advice, some of them didn’t. The ones that took my advice were
happy for it. They did get involved, they did learn; and they benefitted from the
Mr. Granof: And it’s good for business.
Mr. Murray: And it’s good for business. Right. Not that lawyers will send you business
because you’re a member of a committee. That happens every once in a while, but
it won’t be a steady stream of business that comes, but occasionally it will
happen. The important thing is that when a potential client looks you up, now they
Google you, or if they looked you up in Martindale-Hubbell in the old days, or if
they go to your website, they can see your bio, they can see that you didn’t just go
to law school and practice law. They can see that you have positions of leadership
in the Bar, that you’re responsible for making changes. They equate that with
decision making abilities and leadership abilities. I thought that was a big plus.
And I didn’t have any problems making decisions, or leadership, you learn that in
the Marine Corps, but I also honed those experiences I learned in the Marine
Corps, and those experiences made me better. It’s different in a civilian world
than it is in the military world. If you outrank someone, you can tell them this is
an order, you do it. No questions asked. But in a civilian world you have to be a
little bit more persuasive and logical, in bringing people along. So that was a
The next area is the American Inns of Court. American Inns of Court was
started by Justice Burger, Chief Justice Warren Burger. He went over to England
and saw the system they had over there where young lawyers would sort of
associate, affiliate, and congregate with more seasoned lawyers. The barristers
would be with what they call the silk, the guys who were really accomplished.
They would learn. They would eat together. They would talk about cases together.
He thought that was a good system and wanted to adopt it in the District of
Columbia, and throughout the United States. As a result, several Inns were
started. One was the Charles Fahy Inn, which was named after Judge Fahy. And
Sherman Cohn who was my Civil Procedure professor at Georgetown was
instrumental in starting that particular Inn. Professor Cohn was also instrumental
in working with Justice Burger. The Inn that I belonged to was called the William
Bryant Inn, and in the William Bryant Inn, since I had been practicing law maybe
15, almost 20 years, I was asked to join as a Master. There are several categories.
You have associates, who were the lawyers who were practicing between 1 to 3
years. The next category was the barristers. The barristers were lawyers who were
practicing 5 to 10 years. The last category was the masters. The masters were
lawyers who had over 10 years of experience, the guys who were really
experienced. In that Inn they had some of the top trial lawyers in the District of
Columbia. I mean people from Williams & Connolly, the top trial lawyers from
Williams & Connolly; the top trial lawyers from Arent Fox; the top trial lawyers
from Arnold & Porter; the top trial lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s office. All
these people were members of this Inn. Can we give demonstrations on how to do
cross-examination, how to do an opening statement, how to do the closing
arguments for the young lawyers? First, we would have dinner, usually in the
judges’ dining room in the federal courthouse, on the 6th floor. You would get to
mingle with law students, third-year law students; one or two-year associates; and
then people who had been practicing for about five years.
Mr. Granof: And how do you become a member of one of the Inns of Court?
Mr. Murray: The first group was by invitation. They put it all together. They made a list of
lawyers. They went to judges, and said, “Who would you recommend,” and
somehow my name came up, and I was one of the first, part of the first group.
Mr. Granof: And that’s at the formation of it.
Mr. Murray: That was at the formation of it. I stayed in that organization for 25 years. We had
meetings, not during the summer months, but from September to May, we had
meetings once a month.
Mr. Granof: And after the initial group, could you join, could you ask to join, or is it still by
Mr. Murray: It was mostly by invitation. We would keep our eye on somebody. Young
associates who were interested, young lawyers who were interested, people in the
government who were interested in honing their skills and becoming better trial
lawyers. We would look for them especially. We had no problems filling the
ranks, no problems at all. We had a waiting list of people who wanted to join. We
had some tremendous programs, some tremendous speakers. In fact, the present
senator who just won election from Alabama, Doug Jones, came and spoke to us.
He was one of the individuals that brought to justice one of the Ku Klux Klanners
who murdered, the bombing incident in the church in Alabama. Tremendous
speaker. Nice person, and I was really gratified to see him win that election for
the Senate seat because I think Alabama will have a great Senator. What he did
took a lot of guts, let me tell you, it took great courage to do what he did. He
brought justice to the families of those little girls who were killed in that church
bombing in Alabama. We had other great speakers.
One program that we put on one year, we did research and we got
transcripts of the great trials that were tried in the American judicial system. One
was the Sacco Venzetti trial. We did the Scottsboro boys trial. I was in charge of
that trial, and we did such a good job they wanted to submit it for an award. I’m
not like that, so I didn’t push it. But it was a great, great presentation that the
entire team did. All I did was just moderate it. The people did a fantastic job. I
learned about the Scottsboro case, I knew a little bit about it, but to read the
transcript and to know what this lawyer Leibowitz did from New York, here’s a
guy that had a 77 won and 0 record in capital cases. In other words, he won 77
capital cases, got a hung jury in one, and did not lose one case. Talk about a
tremendous trial record in capital cases. A New York Jewish lawyer who came
down to the deep South, the “Heart of Dixie” to try a case in Scottsboro,
Alabama. Do you realize what guts that took? What was interesting about that, I
read into it, there was a struggle between National Labor Party, which was a
communist front organization, and the NAACP. The NAACP turned down the
opportunity to finance the legal defense fund for the Scottsboro boys. Remember
this was in the 30’s.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: In reading and researching the Scottsboro case I leaned something about the social
mores and political atmosphere at the time. It explained why some prominent
black figures in America explored the Communist Party. For example, people like
Paul Robeson, and Langston Hughes. The Communist Party saw them and treated
them as equals. The Communist Party didn’t see them as black individuals.
Unlike the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Comprised of people who
were victims of social prejudices. I began to understand why these guys, Paul
Robeson especially, all American football player, opera star, Phi Beta Kappa, you
name it, he had it, why a person like him was drawn to the Communist Party and
was later ostracized for his involvement.
Mr. Granof: And he had a wonderful voice. I am old enough to remember hearing him as kid,
listening to him sing at a concert.
Mr. Murray: Precisely. You know he had that stamp on him. That just ruined him. I always
asked myself why did he do that. From the Scottsboro case, I found out why. Here
the national labor organization, whatever that front was, whatever the name of
that front was, financed the defense of the Scottsboro boys when no one else
would do it. The NAACP was afraid of the publicity because they thought they
had these guys dead to rights, and he did a phenomenal job against overwhelming
odds; he kept the fight up. Now the Scottsboro boys lost because the deck was
stacked against them. But their lawyer kept them out of the electric chair, and
through sheer persistence got them eventually released from prison
Mr. Granof: There was no way the Scottsboro boys were going to win.
Mr. Murray: And I would have told him that if I had been there, there’s no way you’re going to
win this case in Alabama. But he kept at it. This is what is great about the legal
profession. You got stories about guys who have been saved from wrongful
execution, wrongful imprisonment for the rest of their lives, just by the sheer will
and talents of some of the lawyers who like a hungry dog with a bone, they didn’t
let go until their client was finally vindicated. And that’s the same way that Sam
Leibowitz was. Despite the prejudice, despite the threats, despite the lifethreatening situations he faced on a regular basis, and despite the judges who were
against him, the town was against him, press was against him, everybody was
against him. Eventually he prevailed because none of those guys was executed, a
couple of them died, and then later on it came out that this was all a hoax and
these guys spent all that time in jail or on death row, for nothing, for absolutely
nothing, just because of the color of their skin.
Mr. Granof: You know there was a movie, an award-winning movie about that.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was aware of that. In fact, I was asked to invest in that. I said no. I didn’t
know anything about investing in movies, so I turned it down. The great thing
about the American Inns of Court is the experience you had with other lawyers
who were at the top of their game. I mean some of these guys were just absolutely
fantastic. You see a demonstration, and you put it in your repertoire, and that’s
what lawyers do.
Mr. Granof: I’m sure you did a fair number of demonstrations.
Mr. Murray: I did a fair number of demonstrations. I thought I did pretty well, but some of
these guys were just absolutely incredible, and sharp, I mean we had guys that
tried Watergate cases, we had a guy that was in the Abscam cases. That shows
you the type of experience level that they had belonging to the American Inns of
Mr. Granof: And so, for a young associate who was interested in trying cases, being a trial
lawyer, this was an invaluable experience.
Mr. Murray: Yes. I remained in the organization until I retired. When I retired, I still came to
the meetings on Tuesdays, and then I said, “Dwight, why are you doing this?”
So I stopped, but I would go to a dinner, they had the annual dinner in May, I
would go to that every once in a while. It was a fantastic experience. I got to
know a lot of great lawyers through that experience. One time when I had the
responsibility to get guest speakers, I invited Jake Stein, Plato Cacheris, and
Sherman Cohn, to speak to the group. This is like murderers’ row. All these guys
were at the top of their game when this happened, I don’t know, 15, 17 years ago.
Plato represented just about every spy that was ever caught by the government
and prosecuted in the Eastern District. Jake represented Ken Parkinson and got
the only acquittal in the Watergate trials. Jake was also special counsel for the
Meese investigation. Of course, he and Plato represented Monica Lewinsky. He
represented a lot of politicians who got in trouble. Everybody recognized Jake’s
name because not only was he president of the D.C. Bar, but he was also president
of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. And then Sherman Cohn,
world renowned, nationally respected expert in civil procedure from Georgetown.
It was like a trifecta; everybody was really impressed. I knew these guys, and I
was impressed. I’d call them up and say, “Hey, you want to . . .” “Yes, we’ll do
that.” And I thought that was quite an accomplishment, after the fact. I didn’t
think it was quite an accomplishment while I was doing it, but when I was sitting
there, it suddenly hit me. I thought these guys are heavy hitters and they came just
because I asked them to. Of course, I did favors for them, too. I would go to their
class, like Jake had a class, or Sherman Cohn would have a class, and I would go
and speak at the class. I would refer a criminal case to Plato at one time. I was
really impressed that I was able to get these three heavy hitters in to speak to our
group, and I thought it was just fantastic, and it was very successful.
As time went on, the William Bryant American Inns of Court became
more and more of a speaking organization. When we’d meet, we’d have speakers
that would come in and talk about esoteric topics like fingerprint analysis,
voiceprint analysis, DNA analysis, and we got away from the trial
demonstrations. For the old guys like me, that turned us off a little bit. Not that
the speakers were not good. All of the speakers were excellent.
Mr. Granof: But they weren’t the same thing as a live demonstration by trial lawyers.
Mr. Murray: They weren’t the same thing as a live demonstration, right. Slowly but surely
guys began either to retire or drop out or whatever, and it just became a different
organization, but I still enjoyed it, and I still went to the meetings, I still learned a
lot – because it’s all about learning.
Mr. Granof: And still a live organization which is thriving?
Mr. Murray: Yes, and it’s named after a great jurist, William Bryant. In fact, he was there,
William Bryant was there, Judge William Bryant was there when the Scottsboro
demonstration was done, and he congratulated everyone on a good job. Even
though the Inn was named after him, he didn’t appear too often, but he was there
for that presentation.
Mr. Granof: They named the courthouse after him.
Mr. Murray: Yes, they named the annex, and I was very glad that happened. One of the guys
that was very instrumental in that was Roger Adelman; I became good friends
with him. Roger was one of the founding members of the William Bryant Inn of
Court. Roger was a career prosecutor, and he was the guy who prosecuted
Hinckley who shot and attempted to assassinate President Reagan. I believe
Hinckley was acquitted by reason of insanity. Roger and I went to lunch quite
often, and that case, that case crawled under his skin. I would say, “Roger, the guy
was nuts. No person in their right mind would attempt to shoot the President of
the United States to impress a movie actress.”
Mr. Granof: Jodie Foster.
Mr. Murray: Yes. He said he should have won the case. He hated to lose, and he was
absolutely a great trial lawyer and an expert in evidence, an expert in the mental
health defense, and the diminished capacity defense. Roger and I became good
friends. We were both trial lawyers and Roger had an office on the 7th floor; we
were on the 6th floor. He would come in and use our library, come in and talk and
we’d exchange war stories, we’d go to lunch, but that loss still grated him. I said
Roger, “Hinckley will never see the light of day, don’t worry about it.” Roger
died a couple years ago, and he died maybe a year or so before Hinckley was
released to his folks. Poor guy if he were alive to see that, oh, he would just have
a fit, he would have a fit. But I thought the right decision was made because
Hinckley definitely wasn’t in his right mind when he did that, his parents were
able to afford Williams & Connolly to represent him, and I forget who the trial
lawyer was, but Williams & Connolly is a great firm and they do excellent work.
If there was a way to prove not guilty by reason of insanity, they would find it.
And Roger put up a great case, a great prosecution, but if you just look at the
facts, you’d say this guy, he just wasn’t in his right mind when he did what he did,
in open public too.
That’s an example of the type of people I met in this American Inns of
Court. We became friends through the American Inns of Court. Earl Silbert was a
Watergate prosecutor and some of the other Watergate prosecutors, some of the
Abscam prosecutors, and defense lawyers. I became friends with those guys
because of the exposure that the American Inns of Court gave. It was a great
organization. What’s the other organization? Yes, the American College of Trial
The American College of Trial Lawyers, I never thought I would be a
member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. The reason why is because if
you look at the directory, there are not only people from big firms, or people who
knew people who were members of the American College of Trial Lawyers. You
had to have a sponsor, it’s by invitation only. No one in my firm was a member.
Several of my partners, senior partners, wanted to become a member, but for
whatever reason, they never made it for the first review process. I was nominated
and you’re not supposed to know that you’ve been nominated. I didn’t know. All I
knew was my secretary started collecting my calendars to see what trials I had and
how far back they went. She collected the calendars; she had to put together a list
of my cases. Somebody called her up and said this is confidential, we’re trying to
do something, but we don’t want Dwight to know about it. She was a good
secretary, Janice Connor, so she collected all the information – she was the
secretary I had the longest in my career – and provided it to this guy who was
doing the investigation of me. They contacted not only the lawyer that you went
up against, but the judge that you tried the case in front of. If there’s one negative
comment about you, then you’re taken off the list. You don’t move to the next
level. So it’s a pretty stringent requirement. I mean given the fact that they’re
asking your adversaries and the judges about your professionalism and your
capabilities, and the fact if there’s one negative comment you’re blackballed. I
made it through the process, and I got a call that I was invited, and would I come
to the swearing in ceremony. I was too busy. They give you several chances, and
finally after two times, I went to Seattle to get sworn into the American College of
Trial Lawyers, but I never knew who nominated me. At first, I thought it was Don
Bucklin. Don Bucklin was the previous president of the Bar Association that I
followed, and we got along pretty well. He was a member of the American
College of Trial Lawyers. He was from a big firm. He had his ticket punched in
all the right places. But Don wasn’t the one. I found out it was a judge who I had
tried a case in front of. I’m not going to mention his name, but later on I thanked
him for that. It was a legal malpractice case. I represented a lawyer and I guess
what impressed him was that I was about to cross-examine this woman, and she
had her daughter sitting in the courtroom, and I asked to approach the bench. I
told the judge, I said “I’m about to get into some sensitive information here and I
see her daughter is in the courtroom. I don’t want to do this in front of her
daughter.” The judge talked to the lady, and the lady said, “I don’t care, I don’t
care if my daughter hears this.” And I put it to her. I mean I really put it to her.
Mr. Granof: What kind of a case was it?
Mr. Murray: It was a legal malpractice case.
Mr. Granof: And you were defending the lawyer.
Mr. Murray: I was defending the lawyer, right. A good lady that I was defending. The only
other time I was hesitant on pulling the trigger on cross-examination was a case
that I had, this was in front of Judge Gasch. There was an auto accident case
where this lady hit a pedestrian. The pedestrian was about 72, 73 years old. It was
New Year’s Eve night on Pennsylvania Avenue. The weather was atrocious.
Heavy rain coming down. He was walking across the street in the dark with black
pants and a black raincoat, so she didn’t see him, she hit him. She told me he got
up and he tried to leave. Nothing’s wrong with him. I said OK. I get his medical
records. Broken hip, broken leg. I said, well how did this guy get up and try to
walk away, it just didn’t make sense, and he’s in his 70’s for crying out loud. I
called the client up again, and I said, “Are you sure he tried to get up and walk?”
“Yeah, he said ‘I’m OK, I got to go catch the bus, I’m going back to the Old
Soldiers Home.’” That’s where he lived. I take this guy’s deposition, and I asked
him, I knew he had prior military service. He said, “Yeah, I retired from the Air
Force.” I said, “What did you do before that?” He said, “I was with Merrill’s
Marauders during World War II.”
Mr. Granof: Oh, yes, from World War II.
Mr. Murray: From World War II, which meant that, he was part of a group that went behind
Japanese lines in the jungle, and if you went down, you were dead. There was no
medivac back then. In other words, if you got sick and you straggled and got
behind, you were dead. So that instinct, I know about that instinct that just kicked
in, after all those years, just kicked right in, he sprung right up and he was ready
to move, and I said I have to see if I can settle this case. But the other guy wanted
too much money. So, I had this old soldier on the stand, and I was getting ready to
put it to him, and I just hesitated and suggested we have a break. The judge said,
and the judge could see it coming, you know you build up to the knockout punch,
you don’t just pow!, you must build it up so the courtroom gets silent and
everybody’s paying attention, and you’re waiting for the axe to fall, and the axe
was about to fall, and I said time out. I said can we have a break. I took the
attorney outside. I said I don’t want to do this to your client, your client doesn’t
deserve what is about to happen to him.
Mr. Granof: What would you have done?
Mr. Murray: I had some impeachment material that I was going to use on him, and it would
have been rough because he was in his 70’s, and he wasn’t as sharp as he once
was, and it would have been a catastrophe for him. Normally I don’t care, that’s
my job, but not to this guy. So, I held back, asked for a brief recess. The judge
knew what I was doing. Judge Gasch was a pretty savvy judge, and I stepped
outside. I said, “You know what’s going to happen. I’m going to impeach your
client; I don’t want to do this.” I said here’s what I can offer you, and he took it.
We settled the case right then. This guy was so happy he didn’t realize that he
escaped being humiliated, and I didn’t want to tell him. I said I’m so glad you
settled, I’m so glad everything is resolved. Now you can go back and have a good
time. He invited me to the Old Soldiers Home to have some drinks. I mean, he
was a good guy, he was a really good guy.
Mr. Granof: But did it come out that he was really injured in that accident?
Mr. Murray: There was no doubt that he was injured, but he was jaywalking, number one;
number two, it was difficult for anybody to see him; and three, it was almost
contributory negligence, but he was in a hurry to catch a bus.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: It was almost like a dart-out case. And it would have been devastating if he went
to all of this trouble and lost and didn’t walk away with some money in his
pocket. I made that possible. Those were the only two times I ever hesitated.
Evidently this left an impression on the judge that I had the decency to think
about the well-being of the child before I went in there with guns blazing and
crucify the mother on the witness stand. I didn’t think the child should witness
this. If I were a mother, I would have told the child, my daughter, to step outside
the courtroom, I’ll come get you when I’m finished. But she didn’t care, and
when she said I don’t care, she said it in such a nonchalant way. I didn’t either.
Mr. Granof: Do you recall what the nature of the cross-examination was?
Mr. Murray: I used to remember all that stuff, but I had a lot of trials, which meant a lot of
cross-examination. All I know, it was devastating. And it was embarrassing to
her. If it was just a question of inconsistent testimony, that’s one thing, but this
was embarrassing testimony, and that’s why I was concerned about the well-being
of the child. You don’t want to see your parents humiliated in a courtroom. But
the lady didn’t care.
Mr. Granof: That’s odd.
Mr. Murray: I put it to her, gave her both barrels, and we won the case, so the client was very
happy about that. That more or less summarizes Inns of Court, the Bar
Association, and the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is a fantastic
organization. I’ve only been to one of their meetings, and that’s the one that I got
sworn in. They have some exotic meetings in some exotic, expensive places, and
whenever it comes up, I’m always busy, I always have a conflict.
Mr. Granof: One of these days you’ll get there.
Mr. Murray: Yes, one of these days. It’s a great group, it does great things for the legal
profession and lawyers. It’s a reference book that I use. I had a case, lady called
up, she lived in some small town in Pennsylvania, she was having problems with
a brother, the estate that her husband left and whatnot; she was in her 80’s, and
the lawyers that she hired were really trying to take advantage of her. So I picked
up my book, American College of Trial Lawyers book, and figured anybody in
that book has to be not only ethical, but good, and I found somebody close to that
area and I called him up, and I said can you, or can you recommend somebody,
that can help this lady out. He said yes, talked to this guy, gave him the
information that he needed, next thing I know the client is calling me up thanking
me profusely, everything’s resolved.
Mr. Granof: Good outcome.
Mr. Murray: Yes, good outcome. And that’s happened just about every single time I’ve used
that book as a reference because the people in that book are so good. There’s a
collegiality when you’re against someone who’s also a fellow in the American
College of Trial Lawyers. You play fair. You try to play fair all the time, but
there’s an understanding that you’re going to be fair, there’s no gamesmanship,
and so that’s appreciated. That doesn’t happen too often in litigation, especially
with young lawyers, lawyers climbing their way up to the top. It’s a dog eat dog
Mr. Granof: I think we talked about this before where you have two top notch lawyers, say
two, say American College of Trial Lawyers members, and they’re so
professional that the case would go a lot more smoothly.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. The judge sits back and watches the show. He, or she, watches the show
because they have two very competent lawyers who know what they’re doing and
very seldom does the judge have to make a ruling on anything, and judges like it
when you have two lawyers that really know what they’re doing in trying a case
in front of them. It makes their job a lot easier, and it cuts down on any mistakes
that may go up on appeal. So, yes, it’s very helpful. This firm, the Stein Mitchell
firm, they have a number of people who are in the American College of Trial
Lawyers. I was the only one in my firm, my old firm, who was a member.
Although I tried to get some other guys in, they didn’t have enough trial
experience to make it, which I thought was strange, or something else happened
that defeated the nomination, they didn’t make the first cut so to speak, and I
thought that was interesting. Like I said, the investigators go to your opponents,
and if you try to pull fast one, or if you weren’t truthful at any time, that would
come back to haunt you, and perhaps that’s what happened. But my old firm,
especially the senior partners who knew what that meant, they were very happy
that I got in. I think I was the first one in the history of the old firm that got to that
Mr. Granof: I guess we’re pretty much at the end, but looking back on your career is there
anything else you want to add, or any advice for younger lawyers?
Mr. Murray: Well, I believe the law is an excellent profession if you like to help people. I mean
it can be a lucrative profession, there’s no doubt about that, there are some
lawyers who are making a lot of money. And some lawyers who are just as good,
if not better, who are barely getting by, and there are a lot in between. But the
thing about the legal profession is that it’s a profession designed to help people,
people who are in trouble, like doctors help people who are sick, lawyers help
people who are in trouble. I’m not a big fan of lawyer jokes, and I hear my share
of them. But I tell people that most of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence were lawyers, and they had a lot to lose by signing the Declaration
of Independence, but they knew what freedom meant, and I if you look around,
every right that people enjoy, every safety device that you have is probably the
result of some lawyer. We drive better cars now because some lawyer filed suit
against one of the manufacturers demanding that certain things be done. We have
better medicine because some lawyer filed suit. We don’t have toxic
environments now because some lawyer picked up the sword and went to battle
for one of his/her clients to get asbestos removed, to get things like silica
removed, to get better protection for people working in dangerous environments.
So when you look at it that way, most people don’t see it that way, but when you
look at it that way lawyers serve a valuable function in society. In the Henry VI
play that Shakespeare wrote “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers,” the rest
of that line is because in order to accomplish what we want to do, we have to get
rid of the people who defend the defenseless, and that’s what lawyers do.1 The
fact that lawyers come in and take up these lost causes like for people who are on
death row and wrongfully convicted, and fight the battle that no one else wants to
fight and get these people released because they’ve been wrongfully convicted. I
mean it’s in a headline today and gone tomorrow, but somebody’s freedom has
been restored, and somebody’s life has been restored, and that will last a long
time, and that affects people for a long time.
I’m very proud to be a lawyer. It’s hard work. I mean, I am a guy who
never liked school because I didn’t like homework, and I get a job where I have
homework every night, but it’s different because you see a reason, a purpose, a
mission behind it, and you’re helping someone; the harder you work, the better
the outcome. So sometimes there’s a reward at the end of a long journey, the
hard-long journey, and that’s what I like about it.
In reference to the review of ”Guilty Conscience” (May 20), Leah D. Frank is inaccurate when
she states that when Shakespeare had one of his characters state ”Let’s kill all the lawyers,” it was
the corrupt, unethical lawyers he was referring to. Shakespeare’s exact line ”The first thing we
do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” was stated by Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV,
Scene II, Line 73. Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he
disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to
attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.
Mr. Granof: I have three concluding questions. I think I know the answer at least to one of
them. Would you do it again, that’s one; would you do anything different, that’s
two; and three, would you advise young people to go into law today?
Mr. Murray: Answer to your first question, yes, I would do it again, without hesitation, because
I believe I have the talent for it. The answer to the second question, would I do
anything differently? That’s a difficult question to answer because I thought about
my time at Georgetown Law School. Not knowing lawyers, I didn’t know what
path to take to get to my objective, and I wish I would have had somebody to talk
to, to steer me in that direction. I should have applied for other clerkships, federal
clerkships. Whether or not I would have gotten them, I don’t know, but I’m glad
things worked out the way they did because I thought clerking for Judge Murphy,
Tim Murphy was a very valuable experience, and I got that primarily due to the
Marine Corps, because Judge Murphy was a Marine, and I was a Marine, and
Marines sort of stick together. Judge Murphy taught me a lot. We became close
even after the clerkship. We saw each other often after my clerkship. I would go
pick him up for lunch when he retired and became disabled. I went to his funeral.
Judge Murphy and I became very close.
Mr. Granof: And so if you had a different kind of clerkship, it may not have worked out as
Mr. Murray: It would have been maybe a different judge, but not like Judge Murphy.
Mr. Granof: That was an unusual, a good relationship for both of you.
Mr. Murray: Yes and the firm I went to work for after the clerkship, the Carr Jordan firm, it
wasn’t an extraordinarily well-paying job, but the other side of it, I got a
tremendous amount of experience, tremendous amount. I mean it was decent pay,
but we were probably the medium level of salary scale. Nevertheless, it was a
terrific place to work and learn.
Mr. Granof: But at that time, lawyers did not make what they make today.
Mr. Murray: No, they didn’t make that kind of money.
Mr. Granof: So, the differentials weren’t so huge.
Mr. Murray: Yes, but the experience, you couldn’t beat the experience. I mean that was
priceless. And I loved the job. I remember coming in and saying “Man, I thought I
died and went to heaven.” You try cases all the time, you’re in court all the time.
It was fun. I don’t know if I would have done things differently because the way
things turned out was very beneficial to me. Plus, I liked what I was doing and the
people I was working with in the firm.
I was happy doing what I was doing. One of my law school classmates
came to me in 1978, ’79, which means I was still an associate, and he was in
communications law, and he said, “Dwight,” his name was Russ, and Russ said,
“Dwight, come join his firm.” He was starting a small communications law firm.
He said, “We’re on the ground floor of something that’s going to really take off
like wildfire.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Cell phones.” He
sat down and drew these towers, and he showed how cell phones were going to be
connected. He said, “Right now the only people who have phones are big shot
government workers in their cars.” He said, “One day” – this was in 1978 – “one
day everybody’s going to be walking around with a phone.” He said, “We’re
going to make a lot of money. I guarantee you’ll be a multimillionaire.” I asked
what’s the work like? He said it’s dull. And you know the guys that went with
him, there were three of us, the other guys that went with him, became
multimillionaires. One became the Ambassador to Portugal because he was a big
friend of Clinton, when Clinton was in office, and Russ became a very wealthy
man. But I don’t regret that decision, I really don’t because I enjoyed what I did,
probably would have been financially a lot better off had I gone with Russ, but
when I close my eyes I see the same thing that they see when they go to bed at
night. It’s just a smaller bedroom, that’s all. I wouldn’t have done anything
differently. I’m glad I made the decision I made. I still get together with these
guys, and I think I’m a lot happier for taking the path that I took.
Mr. Granof: Well, beyond a certain level, I think the research is, beyond a certain level, the
incremental amount of happiness is dubious; that is, you don’t get a huge amount
of satisfaction and maybe not much at all, if any, after you achieve a certain level.
Mr. Murray: I always believed happiness was a state of mind. I mean, of course, if you’re not
in want of anything, you can be happy. But I grew up next to a real poor family. I
mean this family was very poor, but they were happy, because they were together.
They were so poor that at Christmas they had nothing under the Christmas tree.
The mother had to wait until after Christmas when the toys were brought back.
But she never complained, they never complained. So, happiness is a state of
mind. You can be very rich and be very miserable.
Mr. Granof: Sure. You know, if you have a nice house, and you have four bedrooms, and a
couple of bathrooms, and a quarter of an acre of land in a nice neighborhood,
would you be happier if you had a mansion with 15 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms
and three acres of land? Maybe, maybe not.
Mr. Murray: Why don’t you ask somebody? Yes, maybe, maybe not. You don’t know. A lot of
rich people that I know are not very happy, not because they didn’t want for
anything, it’s just that their lives did not turn out the way they wanted.
Mr. Granof: Maybe the things that provide happiness are human contact, companionship,
relationships, which don’t necessarily improve with a lot of money; in fact, they
may get more complicated and more difficult.
Mr. Murray: Yes, when I look at my daughters, their husbands, and my granddaughters, and
you see that they’re happy, that makes me happy. When you see your children
happy, that makes you happy. That doesn’t have anything to do with money.
When I see they have become successes in their own lives and that they have
happy marriages, that makes me happy. You don’t have to worry about them. You
don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen, when’s the next shoe going to
drop. I mean people have a lot of problems with their kids, not because of their
fault but sometimes societal pressures interfere with parental ability to bring up
their kids and raise their kids. Let’s face it, two-thirds of the time your kids are
away from you. They’re either in school or they’re with other friends, so they can
get influenced by the wrong elements. My wife, from the time our kids started
school to the time they graduated from college, I’m talking about graduated with
PhDs, she was there for everyone of our kids’ first day of class, every single day,
no matter what. And I was always too busy to do that, but I always admire that
because it showed that somebody cared. It showed that our kids were loved. They
knew their old man was there if they needed him, but that was a demonstration
that showed sincere deep love, not only with words but with conduct. So those
kids, my two daughters, they knew it, and now the grandchildren, they’re
beginning to see that too. So that makes me happy.
Mr. Granof: That’s wonderful. How about would you advise young people to go into law?
Mr. Murray: It depends on what they’re looking for. If they’re looking to be rich, I would say
find another profession. You have to really love this profession to put up with the
demands of the profession. You can become very well off if you have the talent,
the brains to go to work for one of the top notch law firms, they will work you
like a dog, and if you have the gumption to hang in there, for five, ten years, then
yes, you will wind up making a lot of money. Will you be happy? I don’t know.
But you wind up making a lot of money. You have to know what kind of person
you are, what your goals are, and how you want to think of yourself 10, 20 years
from now after you enter into the legal profession. I was surprised to find out
when I went back for my 25th reunion at Georgetown that most of the top students
were no longer practicing law.
Mr. Granof: That’s interesting.
Mr. Murray: Yes. Why? Because they were looking at the monetary rewards. Not that they
didn’t love the law, they were looking at using it as a vehicle to make money, and
it you love the law, you don’t mind paying a price. If you don’t love the law, the
price is too high. So that’s why a lot of them got out. Not because they couldn’t
hack it, it’s just that they realized that the love wasn’t there, they wanted to do
something else, so a lot of these guys got into business where they made money.
They still made money but not practicing law. Most lawyers are not filthy rich,
not from the practice of law. They’ll get their money from some other venture, but
most lawyers will not get filthy rich from practicing law. You have a comfortable
lifestyle, you probably will not want for anything that’s essential, but if you’re
lucky you might hit a big case, you might hit several big cases. You’ll be like
these class action lawyers that have their own jets and whatnot, but those are few
and far between. The chances of that happening are very small. You know, given
the competition you have to be in the right place at the right time as well as have
the talent and the luck.
Everything has to fall into place. If that’s your expectation, then no, don’t
practice law. But if you want to help people and you love the law and you don’t
mind the sacrifices, because it takes up a lot of your time, yes, I’ll recommend
without hesitation, and if you have the tools and the talent. Even if the market is
soft for lawyers, if you’ve got the tools and the talent you’ll find a job someplace,
and all you need is that first job. Then you start making your mark, and then the
next job will come a lot easier. People will get you; they will know you; your
reputation will speak for itself and they will want you on their team. But without
that passion for the law, no, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s just like anything else. I
used to speak to D.C. high school students on May Day, which would be Lawyers
Day. We would go to high schools and talk about what it’s like to be a lawyer.
First thing, first question they want to know, how much money you make. That’s
the first question, and I say that’s the wrong question. Then the second question,
how long does it take to be a lawyer? So, you tell them 19, 20 years. They say,
holy smoke, that’s too long. I would say, wait a second. At that time Michael
Jordan was the top basketball player. I said, do you think Michael Jordan, when
he jumps up to take a shot, do you think he hits that basket by luck, or do you
think he works at it, works at it, takes a thousand shots, you know, to make that
one shot to win the game. I said, nothing comes easy.
Mr. Granof: That’s right.
Mr. Murray: I said, you look at the best football player, best basketball player, best baseball
player, best doctor. I said, they all paid their dues.
Mr. Granof: There have been some studies on that, and the dedication and focus, whether it’s
Tiger Woods or an author, artists, musician, the focus and dedication and time are
Mr. Murray: The Outliers, the book, where they talked about people with equal talents. The
ones that put in what they call the 10,000 hours were the ones that usually
succeeded – like Bill Gates. They put all these guys in the same category. Being
in the right place at the right time. They came along when computers were just
beginning to start, and these universities would open up their computers where
these guys would come in and do a program. And that’s how they got their start.
They were in the right place at the right time.
Mr. Granof: And Gates was so focused; he said, “I’m going to give up Harvard because this is
what I want to do.”
Mr. Murray: Because he knew what he wanted to do. And people have to know what they want
to do. My older daughter, Michele, I got so upset with her. She went through
University of Virginia and she came out, “Dad I don’t know what I want to do.” I
said, “What!” I said, “You were at UVA for four years; you’re supposed to figure
that out in four years.” Well, she got a job as a paralegal in a law firm, and then
she got a job at Oakcrest, which was a Catholic school for girls, and she found her
niche, not in teaching, but in school administration, so she figured out what she
needed to do, where she needed to go, to be an administrator in college, so she got
into this Master’s program at the University of Vermont. As soon as she got her
degree, she got a job, at Loyola, then Loyola led to Seattle University in Seattle,
and that led to Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. Michele is now a vice
president at Holy Cross College. You just have to like what you do. But I couldn’t
understand. To me, you make a decision and you follow it, and everything sort of
leads in that direction. With her, she was a good student, she enjoyed college, she
enjoyed UVA, and when she came out, she said, “Now what?” But everything
Mr. Granof: Well, that’s good advice. Anything else before we conclude?
Mr. Murray: No, sir. That’s it.
Mr. Granof: That’s wonderful.
Mr. Murray: I enjoyed it, Gene, really enjoyed it.
Oral History of Dwight D. Murray
3M See Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company
3-MAF See Marine Corps
Abscam, 152, 223, 226
Adelman, Roger, 225
Alexander, Harry, 118-19
American College of Trial Lawyers, 226-27, 231-32
American Inns of Court, 152-53, 157, 159-60, 162, 165, 208, 222-24, 261
William Bryant Inn of Court, 153, 157, 218, 225
Arent Fox, 218
Arnold & Porter, 218
attorney discipline, 211, 223
Bacon, Sylvia, 213
Bar Association of the District of Columbia (BADC), 206-07, 210-11, 223-24
African Americans/racial discrimination, 206
Berrigan, Father Philip, 21-23, 42
Korean War, 20, 21, 64
Braman, Leonard, 122, 195-98, 202
Brown v. Board of Education, 41
Bryant, William, 47, 153, 218, 224, 225
Courthouse Annex, 157
See also American Inns of Court
Bucklin, Don, 227
Bunker, Archie, 44
Burger, Warren, 157, 218
Cacheris, Plato, 159, 223, 224
Cannon, Jonathan, 202
Carr Jordon Coyne & Savits, 118-20, 125-26, 199
Carr Maloney (formerly Carr, Goodson, Lee), 201
Carr, Larry, 211, 214
Central City Park, 13, 37, 40
Civil Rights Act, 10, 36
Clinton, Bill, 46, 213
Clinton, Hillary, 46
Closing Arguments (Stein), 204
Cohn, Sherman, 105, 107, 159, 218, 223, 224
Connor, Janice, 227
Continuing Legal Education (CLE), 126
Coyne, Mike, 200
Curtis, George, 187
D.C. Law Students in Court, 113
discrimination, 36, 43, 48, 206
District of Columbia Bar, 206, 208-12, 223
District of Columbia Court of Appeals, 142, 193-94, 2103
Dunford, Joseph, 51
Fahy, Charles, 218
Fifth Streeters, 151
Flagel, Frank, 103, 107
Gardner, Father, 28
Gasch, Oliver, 228
Georgetown Law, 4, 21, 54, 59-60, 62, 102-05, 115, 119, 129, 145, 159, 161, 165, 218, 223, 235,
clinical programs, 113-15, 134, 136, 141-42, 163
draft deferment, 54
student body, 102
Gesell, Gerhard, 132-33, 143-44
Gilliot, Mrs., 42
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader, 213
Goldstein on Trial Techniques (Goldstein, Lane and Lane), 136, 141
Gray, Pamela, 122
Greene, Henry, 123
Hamilton, Eugene, 170
Henry VI Part 2 (Shakespeare), 234
Hinckley, John, 225-26
Ho Chi Minh, 82, 95
Hughes, Langston, 221
Jim Crow, 37
Jones Day, 158
Jones, Doug, 219
Jordan Coyne & Savits, 127
Jordan, Jim, 200, 202
Kelly, John, 51
Kennedy, Robert, 49
King, Martin Luther, 49, 52
King, Rufus, 197
Lake Pontchartrain, 11, 38, 69
Leibowitz, Sam, 153-54, 220, 222
Lewers, Chris (son-in-law), 184
Lewinsky, Monica, 159, 223
Link, Myles, 208
Long, David, 111
Lopata, Ed, 200
Lucas, Russ, 109
Marine Corps, 4, 14, 21-23, 37, 49, 51-53, 55, 66, 68, 70, 72, 76,-78, 96, 99, 101, 104, 128, 186
Marines Third Division Marine Amphibious Force, 87
Marshall, Thurgood, 214
Mattis, James, 51
McGovern, George, 46
McGowan, Jerry, 109
McManus, Father Eugene (“Father Mac”), 28, 42
Mencher, Bruce, 123
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M), 113, 166, 167, 170, 171, 173
Mitchell, Gerry, 203
Mitchell, Glenn, 209
Mueller, Robert, 50-51
Mundy, Ken, 123
Murphy, Tim, 110, 116- 25, 128-29, 152, 191-98, 202, 235
Marine Corps Reserve, 191
Murray, Bernice Cagnolatti (mother), 1
Murray, Dwight D. – Personal
Basics School, 66-67, 70-73, 75, 85, 97-98
Bayou Boys’ State, 2-3, 31
pursue a legal career, 3
Boy Scouts, 8, 12-15, 30, 33-34, 85
brother, 4-5, 39
Vietnam, 55, 78
Choctaw Indian tribes, 4
civil rights movement, 11, 12, 42, 60
Corpus Christi, 1
D.C. Law Students in Court, 113
District of Columbia segregation, 218-19
FSR (First Marine Logistics Group), 85
Georgetown Law, 4, 21, 59-60, 62, 102-05, 115, 119, 129, 145, 159, 165, 218, 223, 235
clinical programs, 113-15, 134, 136, 141-42, 163
draft deferment, 54
student body, 102
Ho Chi Minh Trail, 88
intern, State Department Bureau of Economic Affairs, 3, 57, 59
Marine Corps, 15, 22-25, 39, 55-59, 64, 76, 80-82, 93, 95-96, 99, 104-10, 112, 124, 137, 143,
184-85, 187, 203, 219, 230, 249
Basics School, 66-68, 70-71, 73, 86
discipline, 89, 102
OCS (Marines Office Training School), 4, 54, 66, 68, 70-71, 75, 77, 84-85, 97-98, 108, 175
PFT test (physical fitness test), 68
PRU (Provisional Reconnaissance Units), 100
Student Demonstration Troops, 97
New Orleans, Louisiana, 1
Pontchartrain Beach, 11, 38
segregation, 11, 13, 30, 44
Okinawa, 83-85, 186
Quantico, 66, 68, 71, 97, 100-01, 108, 174-75
Quantico Hill Trail, 72
school discipline, 17-21, 29, 31, 69
self discipline, 114, 131
Saint Augustine High School, 2, 20, 23, 40
Vietnam, 1, 22-24, 52, 58-59, 68, 73-74, 78, 82-86, 91, 92, 97-102, 106-11, 116, 184-86
Xavier University, 3, 4, 59, 67, 127
Murray, Dwight D. Professional
American College of Trial Lawyers, 226-27, 231
American Inns of Court, 152
Bar Association for the District of Columbia, 206
CLE programs, 210
Council for Court Excellence, 202
Defense Contract Audit Agency, 117
discovery, 131, 132, 198
Harvard Law, 160
insurance companies, 126, 145
medical malpractice, 121, 125, 151, 162
Mitchell as Of Counsel, 204
National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 164
Navy Court of Military Review, 117
Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, 203, 232
of Counsel, 204
trial evaluation, 129-31
trial techniques, 152
cross-examination, 32, 123224, 136-37, 141-43, 153, 157, 160, 164, 219, 228, 230
leading questions, 142
witness control, 113, 131, 141-42
Murray, Elodie (wife), 3, 60, 108, 174, 176, 181, 183, 189, 214
Veterans Administration, 61, 66, 91, 174
Murray, Maria (daughter), 178-79, 181-82, 186
marine biology, 178
Scripps Institute of Oceanography, 179, 186
Murray, Michele (daughter), 1, 91, 175-76, 177-78, 184-85, 188-89, 191, 201, 241-42
Holy Cross College Vice President, 178
Oakcrest Girls’ School, 177
university education, 177
Murray, Patrick, 170
Murray, Robert Walthall (father), 1
Army Corps of Engineers, 6
Great Depression, 8
Merchant Marines, 5
NAACP, 154, 220-21
National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA), 165
Obama, Barack, 50
Outliers (Gladwell), 241
Perez, Leander, 42
PLC law program (Marine Corps Leader’s Class), 57, 58, 69
plea bargaining, 123, 159-60
Pontchartrain Lake, 11, 38
Quantico, 66, 68, 71, 97, 100-01, 108, 174-75
Quantico Hill Trail, 72
racial bigotry and hatred, 44-45
Reno, Janet, 212, 214
Rhett, Father, 28
Rhyne, Charles, 207
Robeson, Paul, 155, 221
Robinson, Aubrey, 206
role models, 213
Rummel, Archbishop Joseph, 42
Sacco Venzetti trial, 220
Saint Augustine High School, 2, 20, 23, 40
Scottsboro trial, 153-54, 157, 220-21, 224
segregation, 12, 41, 97
Silbert, Earl, 226
Smithsonian Institution, 180
Socratic method, 106-07
Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, 215, 256
Stein, Jake, 168, 214-7, 223, 236
Superior Court of the District of Columbia, 114, 121, 129, 132, 193, 197, 209
Time (magazine), 26
Times Picayune (newspaper), 43
Trump, Donald, 46, 49-51
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 210
Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), 140, 151
Verrett, Father Joseph, 16, 28
Washington Lawyer, 211
Washington Post, 194
Watergate, 49, 152, 223, 226
Weisberg, Frederick, 122
Williams & Connolly, 153, 218, 226
Women’s Bar Association, 207
Wood v. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (case), 166
World War II, 1, 5, 22, 64, 68, 94-95, 175, 186, 228, 229
Wright, J. Skelly, 41
Younger, Irving, 135-36
Oral History of Dwight D. Murray
Table of Cases and Statutes
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), 41
Glen Wood v. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, 112 F.3d 306 (8th Cir. 1997),
Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964), 11, 38
DWIGHT D. MURRAY
6943 Cottontail Ct.
Springfield, VA 22153
Dwight D. Murray was born in New Orleans, LA on June 20, 1944 to Robert W. and
Bernice C. Murray, who were also native New Orleanians. He attended schools in New
Orleans and graduated in 1968 with a BA degree in history with a minor in economics. 1968
was a very eventful year.
In that year, he married Elodie Rousseve and entered the Officer’s Candidate School
for the United States Marine Corps. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine
Corps in December 1968. Upon graduation as an infantry officer from The Basic School in
Quantico, VA., Dwight received orders to the Republic of Vietnam in June 1969. After a tour
of duty in South Vietnam, Dwight received orders to report to Quantico, VA. where he served
as a platoon commander for troops training young lieutenants at The Basic School.
In August 1971, Dwight was released from active duty from the Marine Corps and on
the same day of his release from active duty he entered Georgetown University Law Center.
While attending Georgetown, Dwight participated in the D.C. Law Students in Court
Program where he represented indigents in the local court. He received the Jeffrey Crandell
Legal Aid Award,
After graduating from Georgetown in 1974, Dwight served as a law clerk to the
Honorable Tim Murphy, Associate Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Following his clerkship, Dwight joined the law firm of Carr, Jordan, Coyne & Savits, that
later became Jordan, Coyne & Savits where he later became a partner and remained at that
firm until he retired in October 2012. After being retired for three years, Dwight joined the
firm of Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, LLP in Washington, DC.
During the time Dwight practiced law, he was a member of the bar of the United States
Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the United States Court of Appeals for the
Eighth Circuit. He also participated in the following:
Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers since 1997
Adjunct Professor of Law, Catholic University Law School 1981-1985
Master, in the William Bryant Chapter, American Inns of Court, 1988-2012
Member, Civil Justice Reform Advisory Group for the United States District
Court for the District of Columbia
Member, National Conference of Bar Presidents
Member, House of Delegates, American Bar Association (1996-1997)
Member, Executive Committee for the Council of Court Excellence
Member, Lawyers’ Club
President of The Counsellors – 1990-1991
President of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia – 1996. Dwight was
the first African American elected as president since the founding of the Bar
Association in 1871.
Member of the Legal Ethics Committee of the District of Columbia Bar
Chair of the Client Security Trust Fund for the District of Columbia Bar 2017
Chair of the Committee on Grievances for the United States District Court for
the District of Columbia – 2018.
In the teaching field, Dwight has lectured on trial tactics for the D.C. Bar and the
National Institute for Trail Advocacy at Georgetown University School of Law Continual
Legal Education Program and served as a Teaching Team Member of the Harvard Law
School’s Winter Trial Advocacy Workshop from 2000-2009.
In 2006, Dwight received the Lawyer of the Year Award from the Bar Association of
the District of Columbia. In 2007, he received The Lever Award in “special recognition to his
commitment to the access of justice and excellence throughout his legal career.” Dwight was
also recognized as one of Washington, DC’s Super Lawyers in the Super Lawyers’ publications
from 2008 – 2012 as well as one of Washington’s Top Lawyers in the Washingtonian Magazine.
Dwight and Elodie are the very proud parents of Michele who has a Ph.D. and is vice
president at Holy Cross College and Maria, who also has a Ph.D. in marine biology and is a
program manager at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. and grandparents to two
granddaughters Ella and Camille.
EUGENE B GRANOF
6410 Bannockburn Drive
Bethesda, Maryland 20817
1984-2006 Air Line Pilots Association
Managing Attorney, Legal Department
(retired in March 2006)
1977-1984 Vedder, Price, Kaufman, Kammholz & Day
Partner, resident in Washington, D.C. office
1972-1977 U.S. Postal Service
Assistant General Counsel, Labor Law
1964-1972 National Labor Relations Board
Supervisory Attorney, Appellate Court Branch
1959-1964 U.S. Navy
Member of the Bar of the District of Columbia and the Bar of New York (currently
Admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S.
Courts of Appeals of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth, and
Member of the American Bar Association and (until retirement) of its Labor Law
Section and Railway Labor Act Subsection
Harvard Law School, LL.B. (cum laude) 1959
Hamilton College, A.B. (Phi Beta Kappa) 1956