McGrath, James Howard

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 15

James Howard McGrath, a three-term governor and U.S. senator from Rhode Island, served as SOLICITOR GENERAL and attorney general of the United States under President HARRY S. TRUMAN.

McGrath was born November 28, 1903, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and reared in nearby Providence. His father, James J. McGrath, worked as a knitter in a woolen mill before venturing into real estate and insurance. He rose to prominence through his association with the Independent Order of Foresters (a fraternal insurance organization), handling the company's affairs in the New England states. His mother, Ida E. May McGrath, used her training as a bookkeeper to manage the family's financial affairs while her husband was on the road.

As a young boy, McGrath set out to win a subscription contest at a Providence newspaper by targeting his father's business colleagues as potential subscribers. He sold a record number of new subscriptions and, in the process, captured the attention of the newspaper's owner, Rhode Island senator Peter G. Gerry.

When he was not selling newspapers, McGrath attended Providence's La Salle Academy. He completed his undergraduate studies in 1922 and enrolled at Providence College. During his college years, McGrath was a founding member and the first president of the Young Men's Democratic League of Rhode Island.

By graduation day in 1926, McGrath knew he wanted a career in politics. While waiting to attend law school, McGrath approached Senator Gerry and asked for a summer job. Gerry remembered the young man and put him to work in his senate office. McGrath worked for Gerry until his graduation from Boston University Law School in 1929. Following his ADMISSION TO THE BAR, McGrath joined a Providence law firm and decided to marry. He and his wife, Estelle A. Cadorette McGrath, had one son, James David McGrath, in 1930.

Though 1929 and 1930 were years of change and new beginnings for McGrath, his interest in politics remained constant. He had been named vice chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee in 1928; by 1930, he was chairman of the committee and ready to make his own place in the political arena. McGrath's first political appointment came in late 1930 when he was named city solicitor of Central Falls, Rhode Island. He served in that post for four years before resigning to accept a second appointment as U.S. district attorney for Rhode Island in 1934.

With McGrath's growing prominence in legal and business...

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