Brooklyn, New York , United States
|| June 29, 1907
|Died||June 26, 1998
Mar 12, 2008 12:48am
Irish - Catholic - Straight -
|Info||In his ninety-one years, Paul O'Dwyer accomplished more than most dream of. Born in Bohola, near Swinford, County Mayo, in 1907, his young experiences of poverty both steeled him for a life of determined achievement and inspired him to causes of the less fortunate. |
On coming to the United States as a young man, he made the City of New York his home, where he raised a family, established a successful law practice, and became a much-loved local politician. He only barely lost a seat in the U.S. Senate to Jacob Javits. At the pinnacle of his political career, in 1973 he was appointed as President of the City Council of New York. And all the while, he never neglected his Irish heritage and indeed took every opportunity to provide support to Irish people both in Ireland and the U.S. Among other esteemed endeavors, he served as President of the Mayo Society of New York and of the United Irish Counties of New York. He founded the Irish Institute. He created a National Park in County Wexford in honor of President John F. Kennedy. Particularly admirable is the magnificent edifice in his native Bohola known as the O'Dwyer Cheshire Home, a place of refuge and comfort for the disabled and afflicted of that region.
During his lifetime, with no concern for his personal harm or reputation in any given era, he pursued a host of controversial but extremely worthy causes. Displaying tremendous courage, at the height of the anti-communist frenzy, he accepted the presidency of the National Lawyers Guild, adamantly opposing the communist baiting tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy. Long before it was fashionable, he marched in Mississippi and Alabama in support of the African American right to vote. He vehemently and publicly opposed the Vietnam War. He went to Russia to denounce the treatment of Soviet Jews, and to Spain to speak for the victims of Franco's fascist regime. And always, he was an implacable foe of British presence in Ireland.
At a party in New York celebrating his ninetieth birthday, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani honored him for "making a better life for tens of thousands of other people," and called him "an exceptional example of a great New Yorker." Rep. Peter King described him as "the most decent, honorable human being I've ever met."
Following his death, in September 1998, the Paul O'Dwyer Peace and Justice Award was established, and its first recipient was President Bill Clinton. Clinton was so proud to receive the award that he invited over 700 Irish Americans to the White House to witness his acceptance of the award from Paul's son Brian.