– 108 –
these left-wing organizations and all the formal
organizations on legal aid and so on and had presented the
matter simply on its own merit, individually, to these
guys on and in connection with the White House with whom I
was able to get access.
That really was quite a victory. Why don’t we stop for today.
Mr. Westwood, it’s April 17, 1992. We’re back together after a
two-month or so hiatus and, again, I appreciate your taking the
time to spend with me and this project. We left off when we
last broke off at the point where you had described your
involvement in Legal Aid. That was in the period roughly in
the early to mid-1970s and, what I would like to focus on a
little bit this morning, if we could, is your practice after
that period of time.
Okay. It’s a little difficult because I find that my
memory has really gone to pieces and we’re talking now
about a time, it was about 20 years ago.
I must say that your comments that I’ve taped so far don’t
reflect a memory that has gone to pieces.
[Laughter] Well, maybe that’s because I was always
more interested in the things I was talking about than the
practice of law. [Laughter] After I got through the
– 109 –
crisis of Nixon having approved the measure instead of
vetoing it, I just gave up on legal aid. I’d been at it,
as I’ve probably said before, I’d been at it for, I don’t
know, 20 years or more and I’d been in it up to my ears in
all sorts of different ways and I just was kind of fed
up. Furthermore, I have been wanting to spend spare time
on writing about the Civil War, something I’d wanted for a
long time to do. I’d done some but I was terribly,
terribly interested in it and I wanted to do a lot more.
As I recall from our earlier sessions, you first came to have
your interest in that, was it in Boston?
Oh, it was way, way back. Oh yeah. Way back in very
early days and over the years of my law practice, it built
up gradually and as of 1974, it had gotten to the point
where it was just bursting. Well, in any case, I did
then, although I felt a little guilty, in effect, made up
my mind that I had had enough of legal aid and I was going
to spend what I could devote other than to the practice of
law to the Civil War. But there was still some law
practice. And one thing that I was very fortunate about
in this law firm is that I was in a position here where I
was consulted a good deal by other lawyers, younger ones,
and I’d had a great deal of involvement in firm management
and carrying out basic plans for, oh, organization of the
firm, organization even of the physical facilities and so
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on. And that I found not only of some interest, but also
it was a sort of rewarding thing, or aspect, of being here
because it made me feel as though the firm I was working
for was in part my own creation and I don’t want to
exaggerate that. There were others who were, obviously
Mr. Ellison was far more important than I. But I had
always been given an opportunity here to, in a quiet way,
to involve myself in basic decisions as to the way the
firm should be organized and run and so on. That doesn’t
mean I was deciding, but I was participating in the
deciding in a way which, to me, was very satisfying.
What were some of the more significant decisions that you can
Well the, of course there was one absolutely basic.
When Mr. Ellison died, I mean when he got old, and he
wasn’t old until about 90, up to that point the firm had
been run virtually as a dictatorship; not on the face of
things but practically speaking. Whatever Mr. Burling
wanted to do was done because we knew the man was wise and
absolutely completely unselfish and knew a lot more about
how to do things than any of the rest of us. But when, as
he grew older, on into his 80s, right after the War, he
began shifting responsibility to Newell Ellison. I don’t
know whether I’m repeating what I’ve said before or not,
but it was peculiar because, you see, in 1950, Paul Shorb
– 111 –
died in early July, Spencer Gordon died in early
September; Dean Acheson was soon, well let’s see, I’ve
forgotten now whether Dean was here at the time or, but
Dean had almost ended his real practice of law, you see,
before World War II, when he went on just before World War
II, he went into the State Department and he was back
after the State Department sojourn for only a year before
he was made Secretary of State and by the time he ceased
being Secretary of State, he was getting pretty far
along. So that Newell Ellison was in a peculiar position;
he was just, he was the one man from that generation that
succeeded Judge Covington and Mr. Burling who had been
practicing right along and who knew the firm and so on.
And furthermore, he had great tact, or a knack, of being
able to give people the impression they were participating
in decisions, but at the same time decide things by himself
in the right way. [Laughter] The guy was, he was very
That is a great knack.
And, ultimately, the firm governing went through, oh
various forms, there was to be, we had, at one time we
actually had some partners’ meetings and it was
ridiculous. You know, you get more than four or five people
in a room and everybody starts making speeches to each
other. It was absurd. And what we, the first thing we
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did was to, instead of having full partner meetings on
occasion, we had what was called an Executive Committee.
And it wasn’t supposed to be very big but it was too big.
It was about, oh I think about a dozen or more. And that,
that actually functioned during Mr. Ellison’s regime as
the head of the firm. But, its functioning was kind of
funny because, literally, even with cutting down the
number of people who would be, we’d meet about once a
month or maybe sometimes once a week for lunch on a
Monday. Even 12 people sitting around a luncheon table,
nobody can speak without making a speech.
That’s a particular problem with lawyers.
Oh sure. But with great skill, Mr. Ellison would be
able to maneuver around and ultimately do the thing that
he’d thought was right. And I was very close to him and I
helped him a lot on some of the firm problems. And that
took, it not only took a certain amount of time, but it
took, as far as I was concerned, a lot of interest. But,
ultimately, as I say, Mr. Ellison began to decline and he
got old and we never, it was apparent, to me at least and
I think probably to some of my brethren, that anything
like having a ten- or a dozen- or 15-men Executive Committee
running the firm was absurd. And with Mr. Ellison having
been unique in that he was the only one really of his
generation who was involved in things. He could get away
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with what amounted to a dictatorship in the form of
democracy and everybody got along fine. But if, once Mr.
Ellison passed out of the picture, then we get down to
people who ain’t by themselves and there’s several of
them. And the possibility of a dictatorship such as we’d
had with Mr. Burling and then a democratic dictatorship
such as we had with Mr. Ellison, that was disappearing.
The danger was that in the running of the firm, we’d have
a bunch of people sitting around every week or every month
making speeches at each other and nothing would ever get
done. So I got the idea that maybe what we ought to have is
a new kind of setup and I began talking about. The net of
it all was that there evolved a five-man management
committee that had absolute dictatorial power and it, each
member of the committee has a five-year term and they’re
staggered so that there’s a new, a term ends each year.
In fact, over the years, there’s been a kind of tradition
that once on the committee, one does not succeed himself.
Now that’s not been adhered to absolutely but generally.
The result is that we have had, let’s see, the firm
agreement setting up the Management Committee, well it was
a long time ago, must have been about 1975, around there.
The result is that over these years, a lot of the partners
have had a good deal of experience in connection with the
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How were people selected for the Management Committee, by vote?
By vote of all the partners.
By vote of all the partners?
Yeah. And it had just really worked out very, very,
very well and then the Management Committee themselves,
the five of them, they choose their Chairman and the
result is that the Chairman of the Committee is, in
effect, the head of the firm.
Is that a position that rotates every year or it just depends?
Well, I’ve kind of forgotten. I think theoretically
they have an annual election. Well, for example, after
Mr. Ellison, Mr. Ellison was on this Management Committee
for one year and then off he went and lived out his life.
Tommy Austern became the head of the five-man Management
Committee. Tommy, who is a very prominent lawyer and had
been very much involved in the firm from about, he came
about 1931 and was a superb person. Completely unselfish in
firm decisions and so on and he just automatically became
Chairman and the other four members of the Committee would
meet with him regularly and they would exchange ideas and
instead of making speeches, there was real, genuine
consultation and the thing just worked like a charm and
has continued to work perfectly, wonderfully. I’ve always
figured that one of my, perhaps my biggest contribution to
this firm, was, well I don’t know that I dreamed it up
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completely, but I’m the guy who really gave the push and
it went through, to my amazement. I thought there would
be a lot of opposition but there wasn’t. I really wonder if
there is another law firm in the world that is run as
smoothly as this one. And the smoothness has been a
consequence of this five-man Management Committee. We
have full meetings of partners, oh, maybe once a year and
we have Monday lunches, every Monday. And frequently, the
Chairman of the Management Committee, about once a month,
on such occasions, he’ll make a report to the partners
telling them what’s been decided and what’s going on. But
we don’t, we don’t do the kind of partners’ meetings that
other law firms do.
Nor do we and I’m glad because I was a partner at a firm that
did have those kinds of meetings and they’re endless and
You, of course, did serve on the Management Committee?
Yeah, I was on it for, I can’t remember now whether
it was two or three years. Of course, the original
members, although the terms were five years, the original
members, one had to be for just one year, one for two
years, and so on. This must have been done around 1971 or
1972. I’d have to check it. But the point is that I was
getting, I felt, old and I was opposed to the older people
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hanging on and, although there was a lot of pressure to
have me hang on to the Management Committee position
longer, I just refused to do it. And I think that helped,
maybe, establish a kind of tradition in the firm that it
isn’t the old men who are going to run the place, it’s the
guys who really count. And it’s worked out real well.
Well, I got off on . . . .
Well, that certainly is a significant decision that you were
involved in . . .
Well, in the meantime, as I said, having put legal aid
behind me, there were a number of things in the law
practice. We were doing some very important work for
Westinghouse which required a lot of attention and this
was government contract work of one kind or another and
very, very important; and there were other things that I
was involved in that were of importance that had to be
carried on. But I just very deliberately aimed at
knocking off the law practice and cutting way back and I
would say that from about the age of 65, I was 65 you see
in the year 1975. From about that age, I was really
stepping down kind of rapidly in the law practice and
spending more of my time on other things. Notably on the
Civil War. In the new firm agreement that we had set up,
it was provided that there would be, in a partner’s take
from the firm, there would be a step-down from the year in
– 117 –
which he was 65 down to the year in which he was 70, a
step-down in his compensation. And then there would be
a floor at the age of 70 which would be, in effect,
continual and so I figured with that step-down I could
sort of justify maybe . . .
A comparable step-down [laughter].
A step-down a little in the practice of law.
Did you have, obviously you had planned to do this and had you
planned to pass off your clients to people you had worked with
closely and others in the firm?
Oh sure. Let’s see, that happened very naturally.
What you always did was to build up younger guys and kind
of push them to the floor and then recede into the
background so that the matter of transition was never any
particular problem. But I had a lot of fun.
When you began to work, presumably almost full-time on the
Civil War, did you still, was that at a point where you had
stepped down to the point of having stepped virtually out of
practice or were you still, for a while, overlapping?
Well, for a while it would be back and forth. But by
the time I was 69 or 70, there was, I was really finding
good excuses for spending minimal time on any actual law
practice. And by that time, any time I would be spending
would be essentially consultation with one of my brethren
trying to give him the benefit of some background that I
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knew about or something of that sort. I very deliberately
tried to avoid getting into situations where I would have
to do travel out of town on client’s work or appearances
in court or anything of that nature. And it worked.
So that by 1979 or 1980, you were really a full-time Civil War
Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how that works?
Well, this evolved, as I say, way, way back there at
the beginning. I stumbled on to Stonewall Jackson and I
became a Confederate and then later I stumbled on to U.S.
Grant and that unedged me. But I’d always found it pretty
fascinating and by . . .
Did you find it fascinating as a matter of military history or
social history or political history?
Both, the whole expanse. Because it was a unique
war. There’s really never been another war anything like
it anywhere in the world and it has such tremendous social
involvements and implications. Tremendous economic
aspects and the military aspects, of course, particularly
for that day were damn near completely unique. The idea
of having a warfare going on over such a vast expanse.
You look at Napoleon for goodness sake, he wasn’t fighting
over any such vast expanse. He was going from here to
there. But here, the north/south conflict and the
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Prussian War coming right, just a few years after our
Civil War wasn’t anywhere near as extensive as our Civil
War. It was a very important military event. So from
every aspect, I found it absolutely fascinating. And it
happened that my interest got particularly sparked by my
hearing about the Civil War Roundtable. I just stumbled
onto that. I hadn’t heard anything about that.
What is the Civil War Roundtable?
This is an organization. I joined it in 1955. It
was started locally here along about 1953, I’d say. It’s
a group of people who are interested in the Civil War and
who meet once a month. They have a dinner together. And
then one of them, or some outsider, will give a paper.
The first meeting will be in September and then each month
after that through May. And then they’ll suspend during
the summer. Here in the District of Columbia there is
such a Roundtable. The original Civil War Roundtable was
in Chicago and it had been formed I think around maybe the
mid-40s. Washington was one of the early ones though. By
now, there must be a couple of hundred roundtables all
around the country, from coast to coast; big cities and
little cities. They are not connected with each other.
They all have the same name, but there’s no affiliation.
But they all do the same thing — meet once a month and
talk about the Civil War or things related to the Civil
– 120 –
War, maybe reconstruction or what was leading up to the
Civil War or what not. And I just stumbled onto this
thing. Someone told me about it and asked me to come to a
meeting and after having gone to a meeting, I figured
“Geez, I’d like to join this place.” From there on, I was
really stimulated because it gave me a forum. Here it was
possible to deliver a paper and if it is possible to
deliver a paper, that kind of gives incentive to the
researching and so on. In a sense, even more than simply
seeking to have an article. After all, articles, you
can’t turn them out necessarily quite as you will. But
giving a paper to a bunch of people who have no choice but
to sit and listen, you can do just exactly what you
Well, in any case, when I originally joined the
Roundtable, it was a very, very small group and it was
delightful and they were good people. I don’t think we,
in those days, I don’t think we had more than about 15 who
would attend each meeting and the result was that there
was an intimacy and a seriousness. This was no showoff.
Do you still participate?
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
How big a group is it now?
Oh, well, of course, it peaked during the Centennial,
the Civil War Centennial. I think the peak was, I think
we had something like 600 or 800 members.
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And there would be as many as 300 who would come to a
particular meeting. Today, it’s slacked off. The same
thing happened all around the country. It slacked off
right after the War and today the Roundtable here has, I
think about 150 members and there will be 60 people,
sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.
Was there any peak in interest after the PBS series that was so
widely acclaimed and several books . . .
Not particularly. No.
Did you happen to see that series on PBS?
I watched a little of it.
What did you think of what you saw?
It was alright.
Yeah, it was alright. It wasn’t, I mean, after all,
if you know a hell of a lot about it [laughter],
there’s no particular reason to sit there staring at the
Right, and you’re not so easily impressed as some of the rest
of us were by the way it was put together.
But in any event, I began having, of course, the
beginning years, when I first began going to the
Roundtable, I was still damn busy practicing law and so
on, didn’t have too much time. But pretty soon, I began
getting to the point where I’d cook up papers and, in the
– 122 –
meantime, I was also trying to write articles and I was
beginning to have some success.
Articles on the war?
Yeah. And the, I guess along about, I’d have to
check dates, I just don’t remember. Along about, I think
my first paper must have, to the local group, must have
been given about 1960 or ’61 or ’62, somewhere around
there. But in a relatively short time, just a few years,
I was doing one a year and then it turned out that I could
be most certain that I wouldn’t be interfering with any
engagement out-of-town or whatnot that I might have, if I
would give the opening paper each year at the September
meeting. I could pretty well count on always being here
in September. So, I’ve forgotten the year now, it was 17
or 18 years ago, I began giving the opening paper and
continued that through last year. I’m not quitting that.
I’m just too old, decrepit and run down to maintain.
As I keep telling you, that’s not the way you strike me.
It’s been a lot of fun and the people, my brethren in
the Roundtable, they’re now “sisteren” too, we finally
ceased being for men only a few years ago, now there’s
some women around. But they’ve been awfully good to me
and they have responded very, very well to a lot of the
things that I’ve dished out. Well, not only was there the
local Roundtable, but I began also to be invited to give
– 123 –
papers to other roundtables, in Chicago, in Milwaukee, in
St. Louis, in Cincinnati, no not Cincinnati, in Cleveland
and Fredericksburg, Harpers Ferry, Carlisle. I never could,
around quite a bit.
You said you were interested in the whole expanse of the Civil
War, did your papers cover the whole expanse as well,
political, social, military?
Yeah. Oh, yeah. I never . . .
You never got pigeonholed?
No. Now most of it, obviously, does involve military
because that, to the average audience, that’s the fact
that is the most interesting. But I didn’t confine myself
I know one of your recent collections has to do with the black
soldier in the Civil War. How did you happen to develop your
interest in that?
Well, you can’t get much involved in the Civil War
without getting god damn interested in blacks. That’s
what the War almost became all about. In a very short
time, the north was fighting for the Union for three
months and then began to figure, well, we better end
slavery. [Laughter] But I don’t know that there’s any
particular thing that elicited my special interest in
blacks. But if you get, if you begin digging into the
Civil War, you’re hitting blacks real soon. And it was a
terribly important aspect.
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How about the black soldier?
Oh, sure. See, the blacks, actually it was a
Confederate, free blacks in Louisiana were in the
Louisiana State Militia under the Confederates and when
they . . .
One of the many things I didn’t know about the Civil War.
This was the original, the first blacks in the Union
Army were blacks who had been in the Confederate State
Militia in Louisiana.
That’s interesting. That wasn’t the famous Massachusetts
regiment that was . . . ?
No, the Massachusetts regiment was by no means the
first. The first blacks authorized by the Union were in
South Carolina, at Beaufort. They, however, they did not
begin to be organized until October. In the meantime, in
New Orleans, in August of 1862, Ben Butler was in command,
couldn’t get any reinforcements from the North. He was
isolated there; he had to have more men and he had been
turning down one of his officers who wanted to make
blacks, slaves and so on, make them Union soldiers and
he’d been turning them down because the North wasn’t doing
it at the time. But then you saw that there were a lot of
free blacks around and that they’d been in the Confederate
militia. So he began organizing. They actually called
– 125 –
them the Louisiana Native Guard. The first black unit
that was in the Union Army was with the first Louisiana
Native Guard which was organized and Butler brought them
into the service in September of 1862.
And when was the Massachusetts regiment?
Not until oh, about February or March, 1863.
And so it was quite a bit after that?
Oh, yeah. But it, I really have had a lot of fun and
in the meantime, not only was I giving these papers
around, but I was really trying to turn out articles and,
with some success. I’ve had 30, yeah, at least 30 and
maybe 31, I’ve kind of lost track, articles published and
these are not popular, crappy things. These are the, all
these articles are really, really good pieces of research
and writing and they’re in the Civil War History which is
one of the leading history journals in the country; it’s
done out of Kent State, South Carolina Magazine which is
done in the University down there, Mississippi, Louisiana,
Texas, oh, I don’t know, some others. And then there’s
the popular magazine called Civil War Times which is not
annotated, but the stuff is very good and I’ve had several
articles there; in Illinois, the State Journal of
Illinois and it’s given me a big kick.
And, see my, those are my papers and articles up
– 126 –
Yeah, it really is an amazing body of work that you’ve been
able to put together.
Yeah. It’s been a lot of fun. Right now, I’m in a
state of crisis because my health, something went bad last
fall and I’ve been having a lot of trouble and I just have
not had the drive and the strength to keep at it. And it
may be that I’ve reached an end. I don’t know.
Well, hopefully, it’ll return and you can keep adding to that
body of work that you’ve put together. Let me ask you this,
with all of the time that you’ve spent, as you put it once
before, fighting the Civil War since you began the step down
from practice at Covington & Burling, have you had any time to
reflect on the current state of the practice of law as you see
Well, actually, not very much. I wrote a history of
the firm which was published in 1986, I guess, yeah. And
it essentially was the history of the firm from the
beginning up through 1985. In working on that history, I
got in touch with people and got sort of a feel for the
way things were going.
How did you feel about the way things were going then?
I was sort of surprised at the extent to which,
seemingly, in other law firms, there was a preoccupation
with making them kind of business enterprises, it seemed
to me. Now I, I think one of the things that makes me
– 127 –
rather proud of this firm is that that sort of thing has
been minimal here. We are not as different today from
what we were 50 years ago in the nature of the activities,
except for having too damn many people around. We’re not
as different as a lot of other law firms are. And when I
was working on the firm manual, I talked to a lot of
people, a lot of lawyers, friends, people that I knew and
I could talk to them confidentially and they became very,
very candid telling me about what was going on in their
own firms and knowing that I would respect the confidence
and I was amazed at the extent to which, in many firms
that I’d always regarded as fine firms and maybe nearly as
good as Covington & Burling, not quite, but nearly. I was
surprised at the extent to which, in recent years, there’s
been a preoccupation to making them sort of business
enterprises and, I don’t know, trying to make a lot of
money or something. And it, to me, is just disturbing
because, and I will say this, that one of the great things
about this law firm is from way back at the beginning,
making money was not the thing that was driving and the
thing that was driving was the desire to have an
interesting kind of activity and sure, we’d be rewarded,
but there was just, we were never making decisions on the
basis of how much money would be involved. And, look for
example, at the way we alone have maintained lawyers,
full-time, in the legal services office.
– 128 –
That’s true and one of the few firms that has. After so many
years in practice, is there anything that you look back on, any
one thing that you look back on and say this was my crowning
achievement or this is something that if I had it to do all
over again, I would do it very differently? Is there anything
that you can point to that fits into one or both of those
Well, I suppose that I regard as my greatest
achievement the extradition of Perez Jimenez. That was so
unusual and remains so.
And that was a great story.
It took a lot of doing. There were other things that
I did in the way of law practice that I enjoyed
tremendously. I just had an awful good time from the very
beginning. It was just great fun as far as I was
concerned to practice law. And I was so fortunate in
being exposed to interesting stuff. After all, that
aviation stuff in those early days, that was damn
interesting and it continued that way, right up to the
end. I don’t know that there’s anything in the way of a
particular achievement or anything of that sort that I,
that in my memory I become occupied with. It was, I just
feel an enormous obligation to Judge Covington and Mr.
Burling and Newell Ellison and the others who set this
thing afloat and then to all the people who have come
– 129 –
along in more recent times and have kept it, kept that
paddle wheel just turning to beat the devil.
Well, I’m certain a lot of those people owe a considerable
obligation to you and . . .
Well, I think so and I think also that the D.C. Circuit
Historical Society owes a debt of gratitude to you for being
willing to take the time to spend with me in these interviews.
They’ve turned out to be, from what I initially thought would
be a couple of hours, to probably seven or eight or nine hours
and it is a lot of time and I appreciate your giving it up and
thank you very much.
Well, thank you.
– 108 –