Henry C. McDowell

Henry C. McDowell

Henry Clay McDowell (August 24, 1861 - October 8, 1933) was a Virginia lawyer and federal judge. McDowell was a grandson of Henry Clay, Jr., a great-grandson of Henry Clay, and brother of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, McDowell graduated from Yale University in 1881, and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1887. That same year, McDowell began a law practice in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, setting up a partnership with Joshua Fry Bullitt, Jr., that continued to 1894. McDowell and Bullitt organized the Police Guard of Big Stone Gap.

The New York Times reported in 1901 that the author John Fox, Jr., also from Big Stone Gap, based a character in his book "Blue-grass and Rhododendron: Outdoors in Old Kentucky" on McDowell. [cite web|url=http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9904EFDA1E39EF32A25752C2A9649D946097D6CF&oref=slogin|title=Editorial No. 2|publisher=The New York Times, December 21, 1901|accessmonthday=October 2 |accessyear=2007] The book is dedicated to McDowell, Bullitt, and Horace Ethelbert Cox, as "The First Three Captains of the Guard." [cite book
last = Fox, Jr.
first = John
title = Blue-grass and rhododendron: outdoors in old Kentucky
publisher = Scribner's (accessed via Google Books)
date = 1901

On the recommendation of Fox and Campbell Slemp, [cite web|url=http://vagenweb.org/wise/HSpubl33.htm|title=COLONEL CAMPBELL SLEMP, By Rose Slemp Quillen|publisher=The VaGen Web Project|accessmonthday=April 4 |accessyear=2008] McDowell received a recess appointment from Theodore Roosevelt on November 12, 1901, to a seat vacated by John Paul on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on December 18, 1901. As judge, McDowell had a home in the Diamond Hill section of Lynchburg, Virginia. [cite web|url=http://www.diamondhill.org/index.php?page=clay|title=Clay Street|publisher=Diamond Hill Historical Society|accessmonthday=April 4 |accessyear=2008]

In 1902, the Times reported that Judge McDowell had sentenced a labor organizer to jail for eight months for organizing activity aimed at the Virginia Iron Coal & Coke Company. [cite web|url=http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9C02E7DD1E3DEE32A25751C1A9669D946397D6CF|title=LABOR ORGANIZER CONVICTED: Sentenced to Eight Months in Prison for Organizing in Works Already in Hands of Federal Receivers, October 12, 1902|publisher=The New York Times|accessmonthday=October 2 |accessyear=2007]

The late Judge H. Emory Widener, Jr., in the foreword to the Washington & Lee Law Review's 1998 remembrance of Fourth Circuit judges, noted that Fox had helped convince Roosevelt to give the judgeship to McDowell, and went on to tell this story about a trial at the federal courthouse in Abingdon, Virginia:

Judge Henry Clay McDowell was presiding and, after a strenuous trial of several days, directed a verdict in favor of the defendant. The lawyer representing the plaintiff was Dan Trigg, a giant of the bar and the leading lawyer in Western Virginia. Judge McDowell bent over to tie his shoe, and the bench, at that time being elevated some two feet above the floor of the courtroom, screened him from the sight of everyone in the room. “Damn a federal judge anyhow,” Mr. Trigg exclaimed, being audible to all. Judge McDowell, of course, heard the remark, but remained stooped over and left the courtroom by a door just behind the judge's chair so that no one knew he was in the room. He later summoned all the other lawyers in the courtroom to his chambers and said that he had heard Mr. Trigg's remark. He asked the lawyers if anyone in the room knew that he had heard it. When the lawyers advised him that no one had, he stated the rule that lawyers had a constitutional right to cuss the judge and, since Mr. Trigg didn't know he had been heard, he was not going to be fined. ["Remembering the Fourth Circuit Judges: A History from 1941 to 1998," 55 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 471, 473 (Spring 1998).]

John S. Mosby while working in the Justice Department supported McDowell for nomination to the Supreme Court, or at least to the Court of Appeals. [cite book
last = Mosby
first = John S.
title = Take Sides With the Truth: The Postwar Letters of John Singleton Mosby to Samuel F. Chapman
publisher = University Press of Kentucky (accessed via Google Books)
date = 2007
isbn = 0813124271

McDowell assumed senior status on September 1, 1931, and was succeeded by John Paul, Jr., son of his predecessor.

He died in Lexington, Kentucky at the age of 72.

Notes and references

External links

[http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=1545 Federal Judicial Center, biographical listing for Henry C. McDowell]
[http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9B06E4D81E39E733A25750C1A9679D946097D6CF "CLAY'S GREAT-GRANDSON APPOINTED, New York Times, November 13, 1901]

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