John McCourt Biography


        John McCourt was the son of James and Emma (Farncomb) McCourt. He was born at Listowel, Canada, February 26, 1874. The family went to California during that year and from that state came to Oregon in 1890. He attended Willamette University and the law school of that institution, graduating in law in 1896. He was admitted to the bar of Oregon with the June class of 1896.

        From 1896 until 1900, he practiced his profession at Salem; during part of that period he was associated in the practice with Mr. Jay Bowerman. June 28, 1898, he was married to Miss Veva Boothby, of Salem. In 1898, at the age of 24, he was elected to the legislature from Marion County, serving in the special session of 1898 and the regular session of 1899. He was for a time assistant attorney general, under Mr. D. R. N. Blackburn.

        In 1900 he moved to Pendleton, where he practiced law for eight years. He was associated with Mr. John J. Balleray, under the firm name of Balleray & McCourt, and later with Mr. Gilbert w. Phelps, under the firm name of McCourt & Phelps. He served as city attorney of Pendleton and was deputy district attorney for Umatilla County from 1905 until 1908.

        On March 17, 1908, he was appointed United States District Attorney for the District of Oregon, by President Theodore Roosevelt. In addition to the usual duties of that office, he was called upon to serve in several important cases as special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. In February, 1913, he resigned to resume private practice at Portland, as a member of the firm of Veazie, McCourt & Veazie. During the world war (I) he served actively for six months, and in an advisory capacity throughout the war, as a legal representative of the Fosdick Commission; and in that work rendered distinguished and arduous service.

        On December 1, 1919, he was appointed to succeed Judge Calvin U. Gantenbein, on the Circuit Bench for Multnomah County; and he was again chosen for that position in the election of 1920. On October 8, 1921, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon, following the resignation of Justice Charles A. Johns, and he was continued in that office by election in 1922.

        His death occurred at Salem, Ore., September 12, 1924, at the age of fifty years. He was survived by his widow and their son John B. McCourt. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church. Republican.

        His distinguished career was the fair reward of high character and marked ability. He had the gifts of sound judgment and a clear and sane outlook upon men and affairs. In the preparation of litigation and in dealing with the problems of clients he was most painstaking, seeking always a thorough understanding of the law and the facts bearing upon the matter in hand. This habit of thoroughness, his alert and retentive mind, natural aptitude for the law, and a personality which inspired confidence, brought merited success in his private practice and honor and distinction in the public positions which he held.

        As a jurist, the Bench and Bar of Oregon regarded him as a man eminently fitted in ability, character and legal attainments, and he rendered distinguished service as a circuit judge and also as a justice of the Oregon Supreme Court.

        While he found his chief pleasure in his devotion to his family and the happy association of his home, he had a marked capacity for winning and holding the friendship of other men. His quick understanding of the needs and moods of others, his ready sympathy and kindly courtesy made him always a welcome companion, and with the fine qualities of his mind and character, gained and held the confidence, respect and affection of a multitude of friends.

Arthur F. Benson's Original Biography Document