Paul O'Dwyer

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Paul O'Dwyer (June 29, 1907 – June 23, 1998) was an Irish-born American politician and lawyer and the younger brother of Mayor William O'Dwyer and father to New York City lawyer Brian O'Dwyer.[1]

Life[edit]

O'Dwyer was born in Bohola, County Mayo, Ireland, and emigrated to Brooklyn, New York.

During World War II he was a staunchly vehement opponent of American involvement in the war and traveled the United States (until Pearl Harbor) to speak with and rally like-minded pro-neutrality (particularly Irish-American) groups.

As a lawyer — he was a founder of the firm O'Dwyer and Bernstien in Lower Manhattan — he made a reputation for himself as a defender of progressive causes, from striking workers to African Americans struggling for civil rights. Some of his more renowned cases were those involving people accused of Communist activities. Active in the National Lawyers Guild, he became its president in 1947 and served on its national board from 1948 to 1951.

O'Dwyer also took a passionate interest in his home country and supported both constitutionalist and physical force Irish nationalist initiatives. His influence protected several Irish Republican Army gunmen from deportation, including "The Fort Worth Five" and Vincent Conlon.

In addition, O'Dwyer was an ardent supporter of Zionism, undertaking missions on behalf of the Irgun to smuggle arms to Zionist fighters against British colonialism in Palestine. As an attorney, O'Dwyer was also prominent in securing acquittals for a number of Jewish Americans prosecuted for helping to smuggle arms to Jewish fighters for the Zionist cause.

Active in New York City politics, O'Dwyer ran for political office several times. In 1948, he narrowly lost an election for the U.S. House of Representatives to incumbent Jacob K. Javits. He gained election to the position of New York City Council President, which was then one of three city-wide elected positions. He served in that capacity from 1974 to 1977.

In 1968, running in opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, he won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator from New York, but lost in the general election to the Republican incumbent Jacob K. Javits. In 1970, he ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator against Ted Sorensen, Richard Ottinger and Max McCarthy, but was defeated by Ottinger.

O'Dwyer was the youngest sibling (of 11), and sometime law partner, of his eldest brother, New York City Mayor William O'Dwyer, who was 17 years his senior. The O'Dwyers were maternal uncles of Frank Durkan.

Paul O'Dwyer died several days before his 91st birthday in 1998. His son, Brian O'Dwyer, is also a noted New York City lawyer and former national President of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Clines, Francis X. (June 25, 1998). "Paul O'Dwyer, New York's Liberal Battler For Underdogs and Outsiders, Dies at 90". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
Preceded by
New district
New York City Council, Manhattan At-large
1964–1965
Succeeded by
Carlos Rios
Preceded by
James B. Donovan
Democratic Nominee for the U.S. Senate from New York (Class 3)
1968
Succeeded by
Ramsey Clark
Preceded by
Sanford Garelik
President of the New York City Council
1974–1977
Succeeded by
Carol Bellamy