John Kilkenny

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John Kilkenny
Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
September 16, 1969 – 1971[1]
Nominated by Richard Nixon
Preceded by new position
Succeeded by Alfred Goodwin
Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Oregon
In office
July 30, 1959 – September 26, 1969
Nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Claude C. McColloch
Succeeded by Alfred Goodwin
Personal details
Born (1901-10-26)October 26, 1901
Heppner, Oregon, U.S.
Died February 17, 1995(1995-02-17) (aged 93)
Beaverton, Oregon, U.S.

John Francis Kilkenny (October 26, 1901 – February 17, 1995) was a United States federal judge in the District of Oregon and then on the Ninth Circuit.

Early life[edit]

Kilkenny’s father and uncle immigrated to Morrow County, Oregon, from County Leitrim in Ireland in the 1890s.[2] They worked for the railroads until they had saved enough money to buy land.[2]

John Kilkenny was born in Heppner, Oregon on October 26, 1901.[2] He was raised on a sheep farm and attended the one-room Alpine School before being sent to Portland, Oregon, where he attended the private boys' boarding school Columbia Preparatory.[2]

After graduation, Judge Kilkenny went on to the University of Notre Dame Law School, graduating in 1925 with cum laude honors earning an LL.B..[2] At Notre Dame, Kilkenny tried out for the football team, then coached by Knute Rockne, but a knee injury kept him from playing.[2] He helped manage one of the teams and was assigned by Rockne the task of acquiring four horses for the Four Horsemen photograph in 1924 due to his experience growing up on a ranch.[2]

Legal career[edit]

Upon graduation he became a practicing attorney in Pendleton, Oregon, until his appointment to the federal bench in 1959. In 1931 he married Miss Virginia Brannock in Pendleton and had two children: Michael John and Karen.[2] While in private practice he served as president of the Oregon State Bar from 1943 to 1944.[2] He then was a trustee from 1956 to 1958 of the Oregon State Library and the University of Portland.[2]

Judicial career[edit]

Kilkenny was nominated to a judgeship on the District Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 19, 1959, to a seat vacated by Judge Claude C. McColloch. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 28, 1959, and received his commission on July 30, 1959. Upon appointment to the federal district court, Kilkenny became Oregon’s first Roman Catholic federal judge since Oregon had become a state in 1859.[2]

In 1969 he was nominated for a promotion to the Circuit Court by President Richard Nixon on May 12, 1969, to a new seat created by 82 Stat. 184. He was confirmed by the Senate on September 12, 1969, and received his commission on September 16, 1969. Kilkenny assumed senior status on November 1, 1971, serving in this capacity until his death. He was succeeded on both courts by Judge Alfred Goodwin.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

In 1984, the federal courthouse in Pendleton, Oregon was renamed in his honor and is now the John F. Kilkenny U.S. Post Office and Courthouse.[2] While on the bench, Kilkenny worked to preserve Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Courthouse, receiving an award for this work in 1974 from the American Association for State and Local History.[2]

Kilkenny was a student of Irish American history, and wrote Shamrocks and Shepherds: The Irish of Morrow County (1981), about the history of Irish settlement in Eastern Oregon. In the same year, he received an award of merit from the Oregon State Bar. He donated funds to both Blue Mountain Community College and his alma mater, Notre Dame law school.[2]

Kilkenny died in Beaverton, Oregon, at the age of 93 on February 17, 1995. He was buried is at Olney Cemetery in Pendleton.[2]


  1. ^ Continued as a senior judge until death
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Judge John Kilkenny, 93, Dies". The Oregonian. Oregonian Publishing Co.: B01 February 20, 2000. 


Further information[edit]

  • Kilkenny, John F. "Oral History with John F. Kilkenny." Interview conducted on June 12 and October 3, 1984, by Rick Harmon. U.S. District Court of Oregon Collection, Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Oregon, 1984. Audiotape, 15 hours, 10 minutes.

Legal offices
Preceded by
Claude C. McColloch
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon
Succeeded by
Claude C. McColloch
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Alfred Goodwin