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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of John Russell Young, Journalist, Author & Diplomat

John Russell Young, Irish American journalist, author, diplomat, and the seventh Librarian of the United States Congress from 1897 to 1899, is born on November 20, 1840, in County Tyrone. He is invited by Ulysses S. Grant to accompany him on a world tour for purposes of recording the two-year journey, which he publishes in a two-volume work.

Young is born in County Tyrone but as a young child his family emigrates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enters the newspaper business as a proofreader at age fifteen. As a reporter for The Philadelphia Press, he distinguishes himself with his coverage of the First Battle of Bull Run. By 1862 he is managing editor of the Press and another newspaper.

In 1865 Young moves to New York City, where he becomes a close friend of Henry George and helps to distribute his book, Progress and Poverty. He begins writing for Horace Greeley‘s New York Tribune and becomes managing editor of that paper. He also begins working for the government, undertaking missions to Europe for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In 1872, he joins the New York Herald and reports for them from Europe.

Young is invited to accompany President Ulysses S. Grant on Grant’s famous 1877-79 world tour, chronicled in Young’s book Around the World with General Grant. He impresses Grant, especially in China where he strikes up a friendship with Li Hongzhang. Grant persuades President Chester A. Arthur to appoint Young minister to China in 1882. In this position he distinguishes himself by mediating and settling disputes between the United States and China and France and China. Unlike many other diplomats, he opposes the policy of removing Korea from Chinese suzerainty.

In 1885 Young resumes working for the New York Herald in Europe. In 1890 he returns to Philadelphia. In 1897 President William McKinley appoints him Librarian of Congress, the first librarian confirmed by Congress. During his tenure, the library begins moving from its original home in the United States Capitol building to its own structure, an accomplishment largely the responsibility of his predecessor, Ainsworth Rand Spofford. Spofford serves as Chief Assistant Librarian under Young. Young holds the post of librarian until his death.

Young dies in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1899, and is interred at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Young’s brother is Congressman James Rankin Young. His son is Brigadier General Gordon Russell Young, who is Engineer Commission of the District of Columbia from 1945-51 and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.


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Birth of William O’Dwyer, 100th Mayor of New York City

william-o-dwyerWilliam O’Dwyer, Irish American politician and diplomat who serves as the 100th Mayor of New York City, holding that office from 1946 to 1950, is born in Bohola, County Mayo on July 11, 1890.

O’Dwyer studies at St. Nathys College, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon. He emigrates to the United States in 1910, after abandoning studies for the priesthood. He sails to New York City as a steerage passenger on board the liner Philadelphia and is inspected at Ellis Island on June 27, 1910. He first works as a laborer, then as a New York City police officer, while studying law at night at Fordham University Law School. He receives his degree in 1923 and then builds a successful practice before serving as a Kings County (Brooklyn) Court judge. He wins election as the Kings County District Attorney in November 1939 and his prosecution of the organized crime syndicate known as Murder, Inc. makes him a national celebrity.

After losing the mayoral election to Fiorello La Guardia in 1941, O’Dwyer joins the United States Army for World War II, achieving the rank of brigadier general as a member of the Allied Commission for Italy and executive director of the War Refugee Board, for which he receives the Legion of Merit. During that time, he is on leave from his elected position as district attorney and replaced by his chief assistant, Thomas Cradock Hughes, and is re-elected in November 1943.

In 1945, O’Dwyer receives the support of Tammany Hall leader Edward V. Loughlin, wins the Democratic nomination, and then easily wins the mayoral election. He establishes the Office of City Construction Coordinator, appointing Park Commissioner Robert Moses to the post, works to have the permanent home of the United Nations located in Manhattan, presides over the first billion-dollar New York City budget, creates a traffic department and raises the subway fare from five cents to ten cents. In 1948, he receives The Hundred Year Association of New York‘s Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York.” In 1948, he receives the epithets “Whirling Willie” and “Flip-Flop Willie” from U.S. Representative Vito Marcantonio of the opposition American Labor Party while the latter is campaigning for Henry A. Wallace.

Shortly after his re-election to the mayoralty in 1949, O’Dwyer is confronted with a police corruption scandal uncovered by the Kings County District Attorney, Miles McDonald. O’Dwyer resigns from office on August 31, 1950. Upon his resignation, he is given a ticker tape parade up Broadway‘s Canyon of Heroes in the borough of Manhattan. President Harry Truman appoints him U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. He returns to New York City in 1951 to answer questions concerning his association with organized crime figures and the accusations follow him for the rest of his life. He resigns as ambassador on December 6, 1952, but remains in Mexico until 1960.

O’Dwyer visits Israel for 34 days in 1951 on behalf of his Jewish constituents. Along with New York’s Jewish community, he helps organize the first Israel Day Parade.

William O’Dwyer dies in New York City on November 24, 1964, in Beth Israel Hospital, aged 74, from heart failure. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 2, Grave 889-A-RH.