Cullinan may be named Governor's Executive Secretary
by Anne Whelan
He is likely to be named
executive secretary to Governor Cross, to succeed Kenneth Wynne, his intimate personal and political friend, when
the latter assumes his place on the Superior Court Bench.
In fact, selection of John Thomas Cullinan, Bridgeport
youngest political leader, most youthful Democratic Town chairman, to succeed Wynne has been strongly urged upon
the governor, as much as dare be, for an office which is so largely a personal, non-political appointment, as
secretary. Judge-elect Wynne would like to see Attorney Cullinan his successor, which is augury of promise for the
young Bridgeporter, only 28 years old.
He Like Youth
The governor has a penchant for
promoting and advancing young men, and his personal entourage is more likely to be made up of this type of
political worker than the veteran. It would be interesting to probe the reason of psychology therefor. Whether
the sage old campaigner likes to observe, as a scientist, under his microscope their mental reactions; whether
dogmatism of the former teacher, never entirely submerged, likes to impose itself upon youngish political minds;
whether he enjoys the deference of youth, to which he was long used as a college teacher, likes to think there is a
glow and veer of the moth to the flame; all this is speculative enough to dilate upon interminably.
likes the mental resiliency of youth, its idealism, a certain comporting with progress, and at least, a pulling
away from the past and its traditions which has not been alien to his own youthful and progressive attitudes and
The governor likes young men.
This is prophetic encouragement for John T. Cullinan, and
unless we miss our guess and tricks, he'll succeed Kenneth Wynne.
Route to the
Well you know the traditions of the governor's secretary. From the time of Federal Judge Edwin S.
Thomas, it has been tradition that the governor's secretary becomes judge, either on the Federal or State bench.
Judge Thomas started the tradition, when Governor Simon E. Baldwin whose secretary he was, unfalteringly suggested
Thomas, as compromise candidate, when the present Old Guard leaders, at that time could nto agree upon their
Chief Justice Malbie, who inveighs against the present system of appointing minor court judges, was
secretary to Governor Marcus L. Holcomb.
Kenneth Wynne, secretary to Governor Cross, also, has been elevated to
the bench. What more nature, if Democratic plans gang nicht agley, if the governor runs again, as he desires, then
that Secretary Cullinan be named to the bench like his mentor in Democratic politics, Judge John Cornell. It's in
the stars for John Thomas. It's in himself as well, for no more credible candidate for the judiciary graced by
such as Cornell, Wynne, O'Sullivan and McEvoy could be suggested.
And nothing would please the scholarly Wynne as
well, and though association with the governor is relative cloistral, compared with the hurly burly of politics,
it is a pivotal position for any one.
Too, Cullinan is a former newspaper man, like Wynne.
One is inclined to
wax almost unduly eloquent, about John T. Cullinan, particularly if one is a woman, which is not strange, either,
in view of the fact that the women of this party in Bridgeport have proved a salient and potent force in pushing
headlong into politics the young man. He is darling of the sex in politics here. He believes sincerely in women
and their political judgement unlike so many of the old time leaders.
There is just some strange suspicion in the
mind of this chronicler that his esteemed father would not seriously approve his activity in the political arena.
He had been more or less drafted into political service not entirely against his will, yet with a subdued
waivering. Young John has been more or less "pulled" into the mawlstrom, too, which is not saying that he does not
relish the buffeting. But in considering his own wishes, one is convinced that such job as secretary to the
governor would be infinitely more to his liking than any other position.
Career March of
His career in his short life of 28 years has been a march of triump. He may be said to have
ridden the full tide to fortune, secure, at least in the estimation of his admirers, that nothing can stem his
advancement. Probably, too, in his secret soul, there is a dream of party presferment, logically and rightfully
conceived by reason of his scholarly background, his political tradition and the competence of mind and fortune,
which has made his path thus far more or less of a bed of roses.
His family is an old and learned and influential
one in the community, one of the first Catholic families in the city and state, the finest flower of Catholic
His grandfather, John Cullinan, born in Ennis, County Clare, the Ennis of legend and beauty, emigrated
to Springfield and then came to this city. Here he was in the undertaking business, and knew every family of his
faith and race in the city.
Father Named for Mitchel
John T.'s father, Thomas Mitchel was born
about the time the great Irish leader, John Mitchel, grandfather of the ill-fated Mayor John Purroy Mitchel of New
York was faring forth as the champion of Young Irish freedom. Grandfather Cullinan, like every son of Erin of the
day, was interested in Home rule. John Mitchel, born in Londonderry in 1815, educated at Dublin's famed Trinity,
dying in Ireland, whence he returned after strange interlude in America, was idol of the young Irish patriots. He
was assistant editor of The Nation, and sentenced to Van Diemen's Land, theEnglish penal colony. He escaped, like
John Boyle O'Reilly, and other Fenians, whom James Reynolds of New Haven afterward rescued in the Fenian ram, and
landed in New York city.
Here he edited the diocesan organ, The Citizen, until a religious controversy with
Archbishop Hughes, then went to Richmond, where he edited its Enquirer, as a partisan of the south. Returning to
Ireland in 1875, he was elected to Parliament, but was declared ineligible, and died shortly afterward. There is
singular parallelism between the Mitchel and Cullinan families, in their devotion to public service, their loyalty
and patriotism, their scholarliness and impeccable political rectitude. John J. Cullinan, John T's uncle, son of
the patriarch John, never got into politics. He was elected member of the Board of Education by the members to
succeed David M. Read and later elected in popular election, serving nine years. To this branch of the family
politics was rather distasteful.
Sons Yale Men
The two sons of John, the elder, undertaker,
who had in the meantime married the sister of Attorney Bernard Keating, father of Vincent J., matriculated at Yale
academic, establishing in the Cullinan and related families a yale tradition which was only broken after years, by
John Thomas' graduation from Notre Dame. The female side of the family established a Smith College tradition, at a
time when few women went to any higher institution of learning. John J.'s sister, daughters of the Bridgeport
founder of the family, Catherine Cullinan Sullivan, aunt of young John, was graduated from Smith and taught Latin
in the Bridgeport high school. Miss Ellen Cullinan, another sister, who died recently, leaving a handsome fortune,
attended Smith, and taught a short time. Young John's sister, named for her aunt, graduated from Smith and is now
teaching English in the Bassick high school.
John's father, Thomas M., born in this city, was graduated from
Yale academic in 1889, and the Yale Law School in 1891.
In Class with Pinchot
was in his class at Yale, and Chief Justice John W. Banks, in his law class, along with Chief Justice Joseph
Caveganof the New York Supreme court. Unusual in the extreme was it in the eighties, for even the best
circumstanced youth to take up an academic course, preparatory to law, for there was no compulsion, as now, but the
erudition and scholarliness of the Cullinans insisted upon fundamental backgrounds. While studying law, Thomas M.
taught night school a few days a week in the Strong School in new Haven. He was to establish the tradition of
teaching in the family, which was fortified by marriages with members of the profession, so that down through the
three generations of Cullinans, there will alternate the love of teaching, the flair for the law and the
outcropping flair for newspaper work, until in some it will emerge and become insistent as in Helen Cullinan,
Albertus Magnus graduate, who, too broke Smith traditions, by going to New Haven.
John J. Cullinan, now only
member of the firm Cullinan and Cullinan established by the two brothers, was a Yale academic and Columbia Law
School graduate. He too, taught, during his Law school career in a famous private tutoring school in New York
The two brothers established the firm Cullinan and Cullinan and when their nephew, Vincent Keating, now a
member-elect of the State Board of Finance and Control, was graudated he was taken into partnership, later
dissolved, which became Cullinan, Cullinan & Keating.
John T. was thus brought up in a family of scholarship
attainments, quiet elegance and taut religious atmosphere whose only element of an intolerance, if it could be
called such, was an impatience with political opportunism, with slovenly ideals of service and mentality and
Good books, good plays count for a great deal with the young attorney, and young John is one of the
best conversationalists to be found in any gathering. Like all the Irish back-grounded, he likes to talk, in
private and public. And he talks wittily and ingratiatingly, with a suave deference to every vagrant opinion. He
is an elegante, without that type's pose of affection. The invincible charm of the Gael is the patina for a sound
understructure of commonsense. he has irresistable personal charm.
St. John's Graduate
gets a bit ahead of our chronology. John T. educated at St. John's school, Danvers, matriculated, not at Yale
academic, as might be supposed from his family and its traditions, but at Notre Dame University where he was
graduated in 1928. Meeting up with some cousins of his on the coast, he had become saturated with Notre Dame and
foreswore Yale allegiance for it. He is president, incidentally of the Danvers Bridgeport Alumni association.
was graduated form the Yale Law School in 1931, and immediately went to the office of Judge John Cornell, then
chairman of the democratic party in the city.
Clerk for Cornell
His youthful clerkship in the
office of Judge Cornell, coincided almost with the flush of Democrats over return of Mayor Buckingham from Elba.
This was a fortunate association for young John, inculcating a knowledge of politics and law. Naturally his falir
for the former was enhanced over a period of years, when as a small schoolboy he used to visit his father's law
office, in the Security Building, on Sunday mornings after church, where such stalwarts as Larry Gill, George M.
Coughlin, and the late Frank D. Anderson, among others, harking back to the days of the Old Purity League
organization squabble, in the party were gathered for their morning powwow.
Association with Cornell, of course,
continued his liking for the subject. He in fact, got into the thick of Democratic campaign doings. He developed
as an excellent radio speaker, and stump speaker.
Did Newspaper Work
In the meantime he had
become so enamored with newspaper work, that it was a bit doubtful whether he should take it up, or law. Atavism
and the law won.
However, since his thirteenth year, when he got $6 a week on the old Bridgeport Times he did
news work. He covered Fairfield during the summer and wrote the best obits ever turned out of the office. He
worked every summer until his second year in law school on the Times, when Frank Quinlan, "Bill" O'Brien, now of
the New York World-Telegram, "Fax" Ludlow, Vincent Sexton and such newsmen were in harness.
secretary to Former Mayor Buckingham, still in the game says: "John was accused by his contemporaries of getting
that assignment sought by every reporter, namely covering Fairfield Beach in a bathing suit."
The last year in
the law school he was clerk for Judge Cornell, and remained in the office after his graduation. When Cornell was
named to the bench Joseph Devine succeeded him as city attorney of the Buckingham administration. John was named
Devine's assistant, the youngest yet appointed to the job, following partially in footsteps of his illustrious
father, who had ever been valiant champion of police and fire department employees when their pensions were
jeopardized. The elder Thomas Cullinan was of irreproachable personal and public life, tall, like his son and
often compared, in reminiscence, at least, with the late Senator Walsh of Montana. He had in his youth the same
walrus mustache, which Walsh continued to wear during his lifetime. Cullinan shaved it off. John, the grandfather
of John Thomas, named for his grandfather and father was an ardent reader of the Springfield
Educated in his early days to it, he swore by it, and like the late Senator Dawes' daughter, whom
this chronicler knew her Pittsfield nonage, could not begin the day without it. It had to be on his breakfast
table, with other local morning papers.
Thomas M., as utterly different from the stoker mayor, Dennis Mulvihill,
as can be easily conceived, polished, erudite, suave, like young John, was a faithful supporter of his chief who he
served as city attorney.
Thomas M., drafted into service as Democratic candidate for mayor against the victor
Behrens, felt grievously his defeat. He had never before run for public office. He had high ideals of service,
always and an intense pride, and though not embittered by the experience, would doubtless have said with Jacques,
"thou bitter wind, nothing is more biting than ungratefulness."
New Guard Adherent
New Guardism became dominant in Bridgeport and the party was able to get such acquisitions later under John's
chairmanship, as Dr. Andrew McQueeney, never hitherto in politics, to run for the Board of Education. Mrs.
McQueeney had been active politically since the Al Smith campaign. Such as she and Mrs. John T. Ryan wielded
strong influence in the party, which, reenforced by Dr. Dolan and Fannie Dixon Welch from upstate, completely
eliminated the Old Guard leaders.
Meantime John T.'s ability had plumbed. A common-sensible young neophite, he
developed and showed powers of leadership, which marvelled the older leaders, with whom he shought to keep a
harmony, equivocal as it may seem. He approved giving women equal vote on the town committee, and has otherwise
stood for progressive measures.
As party chairman, an office to which he was
elected, during the most trying days of Democracy, after the coal scandal, he has succeeded in certain purging of
the party. he represents the best type of youth who is not unmindful of his elders in the temple, with whom he
consults. He has brought a new lease of life to the party, and a reinspired confidence that could not possibly be
engendered by an ordinary type of chairman.
His forte is not for politics alone. He knows his law and is
accredited with being one of hte best trial lawyers before the bench. He has been to the Supreme Court many times.
In the pension cases involving police and firemen of Bridgeport, he prepared the city's appeal to the Supreme
Court, and argued them as special counsel. During the Buckingham administration he wrote many of the city's
As manifest of the esteem of the party leaders for this young Bridgeporter is fact that Attorney
General Homer S. Cummings has offered his position as assistant attorney general which he has as yet
The governor at the Groton convention, insisted upon Attorney
Cullinan heading the platform committee, to steer his program to success. He feared emasculation in committee, but
thanks to the young chairman, his platform came out intact. He has often been considered by the goveror for
important positions but his youth has mitigated against him.
It is our best bet that
he would be happier in the governor's private office than in any other niche in the Democratic party.
all things to all men, we think he should develop such Talleyrandish efficiency for his master as would persuade
even the belligerent Bob O'Connell, of Hamden, whom all the king's horses cannot keep from the governor, which he
bursts in to the executive officers, to wait, always, another day.