Harrison Tweed
Harrison Tweed, was a New York City lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and civic leader.

Life and career

Tweed was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 on October 18, 1885. He was the son of Charles Harrison Tweed, the general counsel
General Counsel
A general counsel is the chief lawyer of a legal department, usually in a corporation or government department. The term is most used in the United States...

 for the Central Pacific Railroad
Central Pacific Railroad
The Central Pacific Railroad is the former name of the railroad network built between California and Utah, USA that formed part of the "First Transcontinental Railroad" in North America. It is now part of the Union Pacific Railroad. Many 19th century national proposals to build a transcontinental...

, Chesapeake and Ohio and other affiliated railroad corporations, and his wife, (Helen) Minerva Evarts. His maternal grandfather was William M. Evarts
William M. Evarts
William Maxwell Evarts was an American lawyer and statesman who served as U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator from New York...

, who served successively from 1868 to 1891 as United States Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

, United States Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

, and United States Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 from New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, and was one of the leaders of the American Bar Association
American Bar Association
The American Bar Association , founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation...

. Tweed graduated from St. Mark's School
St. Mark's School (Massachusetts)
St. Mark’s School is a coeducational, Episcopal, preparatory school, situated on in Southborough, Massachusetts, from Boston. It was founded in 1865 as an all-boys' school by Joseph Burnett, a wealthy native of Southborough who developed and marketed the world-famous Burnett Vanilla Extract . ...

 in Southborough, Massachusetts
Southborough, Massachusetts
Southborough is an affluent town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. It incorporates the smaller villages of Cordaville, Fayville, and Southville. Its name is often informally shortened to Southboro, a usage seen on many area signs and maps. Its population was 9,767 at the 2010...

, and received a B.A. from Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 in 1907. At Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

, he served on the law review
Law review
A law review is a scholarly journal focusing on legal issues, normally published by an organization of students at a law school or through a bar association...

 and was awarded an LL.B. in 1910.

His career at the bar began with a clerkship in the office of Byrne and Cutcheon in New York City. After service as a captain in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, he joined one of the predecessor firms to Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP is a United States law firm headquartered in New York City. It also has offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, London, Frankfurt, Munich, Tokyo, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Singapore and Beijing.Milbank is a global law firm, with approximately 550 lawyers who...

, where he remained as a partner the remainder of his life. Milbank, Tweed was the outside legal arm of Chase Manhattan Bank
Chase Manhattan Bank
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., doing business as Chase, is a national bank that constitutes the consumer and commercial banking subsidiary of financial services firm JPMorgan Chase. The bank was known as Chase Manhattan Bank until it merged with J.P. Morgan & Co. in 2000...

 and the Rockefeller family. Tweed specialized in drafting wills
Will (law)
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...

 and trust agreements
Trust law
In common law legal systems, a trust is a relationship whereby property is held by one party for the benefit of another...

, for the administering of major estates. He wrote briefs in litigation arising out of them and argued, and won, several notable appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

s in the New York courts and the United States Supreme Court. Because he was born partially deaf, he never tried a case. In conferences with other lawyers he usually spoke last, and his views generally became the group's consensus. Imitating Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932...

, he had no desk in his office, instead writing at a lectern.

Tweed's appointment as chairman of the legal aid committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in 1932, led to a continuing involvement in bar organizations. He became an enthusiastic convert to the necessity of providing competent legal services to all people. Legal aid, he wrote, was "operation equal justice," "an obligation of the bar," and essential to secure the success of the adversary system. He served as president of the Legal Aid Society
Legal Aid Society
The Legal Aid Society in New York City is the United States' oldest and largest provider of legal services to the indigent. It operates both traditional civil and criminal law cases.-History:...

 of New York from 1936 to 1945, later publishing a history of its first seventy-five years, and of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association
National Legal Aid & Defender Association
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association is the oldest and largest national, nonprofit membership organization devoted to advocating equal justice for all Americans...

 from 1949 to 1955.

In 1945, Tweed was elected president of the New York City bar association
Association of the Bar of the City of New York
The New York City Bar Association , founded in 1870, is a voluntary association of lawyers and law students. Since 1896, the organization, formally known as the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, has been headquartered in a landmark building on 44th Street, between Fifth and Sixth...

. To rejuvenate the staid organization, he brought in younger lawyers, established a bulletin, reorganized committees that issued reports, and created the position of executive secretary. All of this was done in a spirit of openness, equality, informality, and fun (a recurring word with Tweed). In this way, Tweed transformed a stuffy club into a strong progressive force for public service. C. C. Burlingham, the doyen of the New York bar, said that Tweed was "the best president the Bar Association has ever had."

In 1947, Tweed became president of the American Law Institute
American Law Institute
The American Law Institute was established in 1923 to promote the clarification and simplification of American common law and its adaptation to changing social needs. The ALI drafts, approves, and publishes Restatements of the Law, Principles of the Law, model codes, and other proposals for law...

 (ALI). He was a guiding force in its major labors--the updating of the institute's published Restatements, as well as the preparation of the Uniform Commercial Code
Uniform Commercial Code
The Uniform Commercial Code , first published in 1952, is one of a number of uniform acts that have been promulgated in conjunction with efforts to harmonize the law of sales and other commercial transactions in all 50 states within the United States of America.The goal of harmonizing state law is...

, model codes and statutes on penal law and taxation, and the first restatement on the foreign-relations law of the United States. He took a light, subtle approach, usually talking around the matter at hand so as to envelop the object of his attention; only occasionally did he take a direct part in the proceedings over which he smoothly presided.

Starting in 1947, Tweed was chairman of the ALI - American Bar Association
American Bar Association
The American Bar Association , founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation...

 (ABA) joint committee on continuing legal education. Refreshment of the law, Tweed believed, was a professional responsibility. He wrote articles, spoke to lawyers' groups, buttonholed bar leaders, and organized conferences. For many years, a colleague noted, he "was the committee." The number of administrators of state continuing-legal-education programs increased markedly during his tenure.

Educational matters and public service occupied much of Tweed's time. He served as a trustee of Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in the United States, and a leader in progressive education since its founding in 1926. Located just 30 minutes north of Midtown Manhattan in southern Westchester County, New York, in the city of Yonkers, this coeducational college offers...

 from 1940 to 1965, including eight years as chairman of the board of trustees (1947 to 1955), and was interim president of the college in 1959-1960. In his term as interim president, he is credited with saving the college from bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

 by increasing the number of students. He also served as an overseer of Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 from 1950 to 1956, and from 1951 to 1967 he was a trustee of the Cooper Union
Cooper Union
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly referred to simply as Cooper Union, is a privately funded college in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, United States, located at Cooper Square and Astor Place...

 Center for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.

New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey in 1953 appointed him chairman of the state’s commission to study the reorganization of the judicial branch (courts); many of its recommendations, including the formation of a new judicial conference of the state's judges, were later adopted by the state. In 1963, at the request of US President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

, Tweed became co-chairman of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a position that he held for two years.

Tweed believed that lawyers' training to define complicated issues enabled them to play a special role outside the practice of law: "Even if he contributes nothing more than a sense of orderliness and an ability to organize thought and to pose the right questions, the lawyer will have pulled his weight in the boat." Of his year as president of Sarah Lawrence College, he wrote, "I think that I did manage to bring to the faculty an organization and an understanding of democratic procedures which no one but a lawyer could have done."

Tall, erect, and lean, Tweed was "the most democratic of aristocrats."He was the only lawyer to be awarded medals for distinguished service from the New York City, New York State, and American bar associations. The ABA tribute noted that his was "the Horatio Alger story in reverse." "I have a high opinion of lawyers," Tweed said in 1945. "With all their faults, they stack up well against those in every other occupation or profession. They are better to work with or play with or fight with or drink with than most other varieties of mankind." He died in New York City. -- Roger K. Newman


Tweed was married three times and divorced twice. By his first marriage on June 14, 1914 to Eleanor Roelker, he had two children. Following his divorce in 1928, he married Blanche Oelrichs Barrymore
Blanche Oelrichs
Blanche Oelrichs was an American poet, playwright, and theatre actress known by the pseudonym, "Michael Strange."-Biography:...

, the former wife of John Barrymore
John Barrymore
John Sidney Blyth , better known as John Barrymore, was an acclaimed American actor. He first gained fame as a handsome stage actor in light comedy, then high drama and culminating in groundbreaking portrayals in Shakespearean plays Hamlet and Richard III...

 who used the name Michael Strange in her acting and writing careers. They were divorced in 1942. He married Barbara Banning on 21 November 1942; they had one child.

His daughter Katherine Winthrop Tweed married Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, Jr.
Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, Jr.
Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, Jr. , the first child of Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt and grandson of US President, Theodore Roosevelt, was a soldier, scholar, polyglot, authority on the Middle East and a career CIA officer. He served as chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's stations in Istanbul,...

 in 1940 and was divorced in 1950. She had one son, Tweed Roosevelt
Tweed Roosevelt
Tweed Roosevelt is the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt via Roosevelt's son Archie. He is Chairman of Roosevelt China Investments, a Boston firm. He occasionally lectures and writes on the topic of his great-grandfather...

, born in 1942. His other daughter, Eleanor Winthrop Tweed, married Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich.

Further reading

Tweed's history of the Legal Aid Society was published as The Legal Aid Society, New York City, 1876-1951) (1954). See his chapter, "One Lawyer's Life," in Albert Love and James Saxon Childers, eds., Listen to Leaders in Law (1963). A series of interviews dealing largely with his law practice are in the Columbia Oral History Collection, Tributes to Tweed appear in the 1969 Association of the Bar of the City of New York Yearbook and the 1970 American Law Institute Proceedings. George Martin, Causes and Conflicts (1970), deals with Tweed's activities in the New York City bar association. An obituary is in the New York Times, June 17, 1969.]

External links

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