THE PENULTIMATE IRISHMAN\
The 11th Circuit’s own Parnell Donohue
So help me God
The “Irish curse” always intrigued me. Those Irishmen who are “cursed” by strong drink always brought a smile when I recalled their antics.
My boss, Attorney General Parnell Donohue was the personification of the “Irish curse” Try as he might to hide the affliction, Parnell could get drunk by always sneaking a long slug of whiskey.
Like my law school friend P.J. O’Boyle he was the typical Irishman who was a Saturday night devil and a Sunday morning High Mass Saint.
With the help of his secret friend, John Barleycorn, Parnell knew how to put the world in its proper place, outspokenly unafraid of his words and actions.
An Irishman ,would like my friend, P.J. O’Boyle, who drinking with a fellow student who came to law school after retiring from the army, gave the retired General a piece of his mind.. The retiree told P.J. he had been a National Guard General.
“Can you prove that” P.J. said taking a long pull on his bottle of beer.
“Here’s my card” the retiree said.
PJ took it in hand squinted out of his eye and said “fuck you General”
I ducked thinking that a fight would erupt.
“Don’t take it personal" ‘PJ said "I always wanted to tell a General where to go.”
If that shocks you consider my Irish client who was picked up for DWI by the Highway Patrol.
After he had taken a seat in the patrol car the patrolman turned and said” Would you please identify yourself?”
“Fuck you and the horse you rode up on” came the reply
That illustration may be-labor the point but Irishmen would rather die than to retreat or apologize in order to live another day.
That was my boss and friend, Parnell.’
And who among you, upon receiving a ruling from an autocratic judge had not wished that you had replied “Yes your honor” but “Rumpole style” whispered to yourself and “Fuck you judge”
And if you were in the old 11th circuit would have added “and the horse you rode up on.”
With the election of Ralph Herseth and Parnel l Donohue in 1958 Marshall Gerken, Bob Haeder, Bob Krogstad, Charles Poches , yours truly, John Simpson and later Carl Quist, Carl Bohn and Jerry Reade , all recent graduates of USD joined Jack Wilds, Wally Dunker, Walter Weygint and retired professor Vernon Vrooman in Parnell’s attorney general’s office.
Carl Quist and Carl Bohn were old high school and college friends and Reade was a classmate of theirs. Yes, Quist and Reade were registered republicans, yet Parnell whowas regarded by many as a “Bill Srstka “ kind of politician.
Parnell had also kept a legendary prosecutor,E. D. Baron , who advanced in age yet was able to provide a continuity of office structural memory. . E.D. was a was a prosecutor’s prosecutor)
We all learned more than we ever knew we cou E. D. Baronld. Everyone knew that this was just another enjoyable stop along the journey to a better thing- private practice itself.
I was put in charge Workers’ Compensation. I heard all the comp cases in South Dakota. I had a secretary and a part time file clerk. I also handled other cases and volunteered for civil trials where ever I could. There I met those legal aces, Joe Butler, Ellsworth Evans, Dudley Herman, Don Bierle, Joe Barnett, Stan Seigel, Donald Shulz, George Johnson, Bob Riter, Warren May, Ramon Roubideaux and others.
From “Crash” Crandall who represented Sunshine Mutual Insurance I learned that that it’s better to be sublime than ridiculous.
The Government had condemned Old Fort Sully a large tract of land north of Pierre. The case was already in motion with John Larson of the Sharpe firm representing Bernard Linn and the Department of School and Public Lands. John was a great mentor to my second fiddle.
I think we set a record for the number of weeks of trial. The condemnation matter was tried before a three judge panel and it seems we tried that case all summer long.
Our appraisers, including Earl Sonnenschein, had been properly schooled by the Warren May school of appraising and testifying. Another legend, Horace Jackson, who incidentally had been raised in Kennebec where his father had been county judge, always lawyered like a great poker player and never tipped his hand. He was also kind to a second fiddle player but showed no mercy for John Larson and Larson for him. Where could a young lawyer find better teachers?
The most important lesson I learned from John and especially from Horace was that notwithstanding the judges or commissioners role it was the trial lawyer that was the main cog in the judicial process and a good judge always understood their role was to impartially judge. Horace would not let anyone ever think that it was not he who was in charge of the government’s case.
Bernard Linn,a state UPI reporter, and I became lifetime friends. We would go to state basketball tournaments together get in trouble and since Bernard was a Republican office holder I could never ,even to this day, tell you what that little bit of trouble was. Although you might guess it was related to the same problem that haunted Parnell. Bernard would even give me special mention in his annual report.
Another recent law school graduate, George Cunningham, became H erseth’s personnel director. He might have been responsible for Herseth's defeat- but more pf that later.
Six young bachelors, Cunningham, Gerken, Haeder, Krogstad, Poches and Simpson rented that Cudmore house on north highway 14 across from the A@W. It was a democrat nest in the middle of a strongly republican city.
Our backdoor neighbor was Frank Norton and old time democrat who thought he had died and gone to heaven with such a group as a neighbor. He was also Parnell’s best friend.
Frank told me that Parnell was so afraid that the teetotaler Herseth would discover Parnell’s secret problem with John Barleycorn that if the Governor would call asking for Parnell when he was visiting at Frank’s home that Parnell would gargle with mouthwash before he talked to the Governor on the phone..
Parnell never failed to help us. When one of our number was arrested in Pierre for DWI it was none other than Parnell himself who personally appeared and bailed him out.
But as one of my bartender friends would say, “You guys didn’t need a lawyer—what you really need is a guardian.”
Perhaps the most I important lesson that Parnell taught me was that you didn’t squeal on any one, not even your political enemies, until after their death, making sure the statute of limitations had run and if you had in anyway represented them in the process-never.
I also soon learned judging worker compensation cases that if an attorney wanted to argue a point you let him. After all he knows more about his case than any judge who is hearing it for the first time and although a judge should ask questions he should seldom if ever argues with the advocate unless its purpose is to elucidate but never muzzle free speech in court or tell them to “sit down and shut up”. or like a 90 year old cantankerous C.C. Puckett tell me:“Simpson why don’t you go back west of the river where you belong”
As an aside, Justice Sabers, CC is the reason they passed the age related judicial retirement statute.
Parnell was always a secret drinker.
That’s how he discovered Mount Donohue.
Alone or with his friend Frank Norton he would park his car on one of the hills in Fort Pierre on a Sunday afternoon and drink beer. In retrospect it s not a bad idea, if your emergency brake works.
One Sunday afternoon we received a call from Mr. Fackleman who was part owner of the Silver Spur Bar, fortunately a loyal democrat.
“Boys” he said “you better come and get your Attorney General”. “What’s he done now?” Fackledman answered that Parnell was parked on “ Mount Donohue' and his emergency brake failed and he and his beer came crashing and rolling down the hill through Mrs. Fackelman’s fenced in back yard and landed right side up in the middle of her tomato patch.
“Please come and get him and bring a tow rope” he said.
Now we rescued Parnell from the tomato patch and never breathed another word until this day. So help me God.
Senators McGovern and John F Kennedy and Aberdeen
George McGovern had decided to run against the pipe smoking communist hunter, Senator Karl E. Mundt. Senator John F. Kennedy had agreed to a campaign appearance in Aberdeen.
Parnell, I think, started for Aberdeen and must have succumbed to his Irish ways because Bob Haeder and I received a call from Huron from Parnell. Would Bob and I like to be his guests at the Kennedy rally in Aberdeen?
Parnell had figured out the necessity of a “designated driver” long before it became in vogue. When we got to Huron I drove. Upon arriving in Aberdeen Parnell was in 7th heaven what with meeting John F. Kennedy, soon to be Mr. President and the first Irish Catholic ever and didn’t that make him a reason for our Irish Catholic Parnell to celebrate.
Driving that Attorney General’s car home- no Governor Janklow I did not turn on the flashing red light- I wondered how we could make Parnell understand he had a problem, especially when he drove the State’s Attorney Generals car.
Why I did it I really can’t tell you but sometimes impish thoughts come throught your mind and you fail to recognize the boundaries that society demands.
On the way back to Pierre I noticed a growing corn field that had an unfenced approach. I raced the motor and I turned off. the highway and went crashing about 30 feet through that corn field, honking my horn and yelling “We've done it now, Parnell!"
Parnell, who was a sound asleep beer drinking bundle of joy in the back seat jumped out the door and proceeded to hunker down and hide in the corn field, hoping to escape the investigation by the Highway Patrol that was sure to follow this “accident”
Bob Haeder, the more reserved and perhaps more intelligent of us two calmly talked Parnell back into the car apologizing for Simpson’s crude joke.
Did Parnell learn his lesson? Read on .
The money saving campaign trip
Parnell would be defeated in the General election of 1960 by our old friend A.C.Miller.
Prior to that election Parnell came to me and said “Jack” you have a bunch of hearings set for Yankton, Mitchell and Sioux Falls.”
“Is it all right if I ride along and campaign in those cities while you are having your hearing?’ Thinking nothing of it at the time, after all he was my boss, I agreed.
I checked out a state car and remembering how many times “rat faced” Shultz of John Penne’s office had redlined my vouchers in the past, never mentioned that I would have Parnell as a ride along.
I drove to Yankton and had a hearing with Don Bierle. After the hearing I left the courthouse with Don and looking around told Don that my car was missing.
“Ill call the Sheriff” Don said.
Now Don was a loyal republican, but I trusted him.’ That's back when the loyal opposition could ne trusted. "I can’t call the sheriff, Don" and I explained my dilemma. Beside I guessed that Parnell had probably left town and was headed for Sioux Falls where one of the Kennedys would speak at a near by “plowing contest”.
Don found an old law school friend, of mine , John Kabeiseman who drove me to Sioux Falls for my hearings. My files were all with my checked out state car, but I fumbled through the hearings with the help of the lawyers on both sides.
I couldn’t’ explain to them how the files were lost so I had to play the part of just being absent minded like A.C, Miller. I could not find Parnell. Two days had gone by and he had my checked out state car and files.
My next stop was Mitchell. I called the Sheriff of Davison County, who was a friend of Parnell’s and he came and drove me to my next hearing in Mitchell. I was able to have the hearings and at the end Tom Foye of Rapid City took me back to Pierre on his return to Rapid City.
Fortunately Parnell and the state car turned up. With some busy arithmetic, I was able to submit my travel voucher and got past the all encompassing eyes of “rat faced” Schultz.
SO HELP ME GOD
Bob Frieberg and Travis Lewin have sent a story about AC and my old claasmate Travis Lewin is sending some Parnell stories when they both worked in Bud Doyle’s US Attorney office.
Johnson and Johnson, Herman and Simpson, Day and Maule with a sprinkling of Freddie Cozad-and turtle soup next.