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Two articles by Joanna McGaughey (my mother) in the Port Jervis Gazette

by William McGaughey


Selection of Supreme Court justice article in mother’s ”My View”column on July 15, 1994


Frankly I’m beginning to have serious doubts about President Clinton’s nomination of Judge Stephen Breyer of the First Court of Appeals in Boston as the best there is to replace Justice Harry Blackmun on the United States Supreme court.

For two reasons.

First, I can’t understand why Judge Breyer didn’t pay his taxes on his “part-time” $50-a- week cook until his nomination caught up with his neglect. Where did he get her at that price anyway - off a boat out of Haiti? Was reporting the minuscule tax on her $50 per week just too much trouble for what is was worth to the U.S. Treasury?

And I don’t care if Judge Breyer is insured against personal liability, as it’s reported. I feel he ought to make it perfectly clear he’s recluse himself from all cases against Lloyd‘s or any other similar company when environmental or other liabilities are involved. Family investments of somewhere between $3 and $8 million (as reputed to be for the Breyers) in such a company or companies is way too much “vested interest” to ignore.

Granted, as I’ve considered the Breyer nomination I’ve kept finding myself comparing him unfavorably with the one Supreme Court Justice I have known - whose biography I’ve just finished reading - a biography by a man who knows his subject very well because he served him close-up as a clerk.

In MY VIEW„ “Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., by John C. Jeffries deserves to be a staple on every law student’s reading list. It’s thorough. It’s honest in reporting variations in personalities, even biases. I don’t know of any other book that gives such a complete picture of what happens in the court and even to those who serve as justices.

When we moved to Washington in 1972, we bought n apartment at Harbour Square in the southwest section of the city. It turned out to be next to the one in which Justice and Mrs. Powell lived.

We met for the first time by exchanging greetings from our respective Potomac Riverside balconies. Gradually our neighborly greeting became more extensive. One that’s memorable took place on the day my husband broke a soft drink bottle while tugging at grocery bags to get them inside the front door against extremely heavy blustering winds.

“Lucky it wasn’t Chivas Royal,” quipped neighbor Powell as he came to our rescue.

Not long afterwards I decided to enlarge my understanding of our Capital City by trying to do a “Washington Go-Around” column by describing what went on inside the 1936 marble edifice just east of the congressional complex.

I was ushered to a seat in the press box located at right angles at one end of the long table behind which sat the nine black-robed justices when they were “in session”. I tried scrounging down into my seat, hoping my neighbor wouldn’t spot me, but I needn’t have worried. For soon Powell and Thurgood Marshall and another justice were in an intensive huddle, oblivious to everything else.

The huddle was especially interesting to me because I’d read that Powell and Marshall had begun their relationship coolly - and also because John Conyers Jr, the Congressman from our one-time hometown of Detroit, Mich., who was then head of the Congressional Black Caucus, had given Powell’s confirmation a very hard time.

We retired to Milford in 1985, so I changed the title of my column to “Beyond the Beltway” and shifted focus to what those residing outside the interstate highway that surrounded Washington might be thinking. Several situations came into orbit involving efforts to “render justice under law.” I tried writing a “What is Justice?” column but found myself mired down by my lack of background.

I wrote to Powell asking about appropriate resource material. The letter I received in answer is such a treasure I keep it in our safety deposit box.

Lewis Powell retired from the court a few years ago. So did Thurgood Marshall, as well as a couple of others.

Replacements have been and continue to be inevitable.

But to maintain the calibre of those selected candidates must be found who are sticklers about “the letter of the law.”

A candidate who who tends to let things slide until he or she is cornered by circumstances just won’t do in MY VIEW.

Searchers need to try, try again until they find one who is fully appropriate.”


Joanna McGaughey is a graduate of Depauw University in Greencastle, Ind. and received a degree in journalism from Columbia University. She was one of the first three women to become a member of the New York State Associated Press. She lives in Milford, PA, with her husband, William.



A Mantle of Memories article in mother’s ”My View”column on November 25, 1994


“It’s that time of the year when we give thanks.

High time, too - for we need a break from Bosnia-Serbia, Pataki- Giuliani, and O.J. Not to mention the school and hospital turmoils in our area and the tax-collection shortfall brought on my Brennick and Schirm in our borough of Milford.

This year I find myself especially thankful for a little snapshot in a homemade frame on my mantle. The five people pictured in it fortuitously gathered a few years ago on a family dock at Twin Lakes, epitomizing nearly everything of importance in my personal life - the solid comfort of continuity, of stabilized philosophies and happy memories.

The five people in that snapshot are my husband, my California sister and her husband, the beloved son who has been hospitalized for nearly three years because he was struck down as a pedestrian on Jan.1, 1992, in Maryland, and “Aunt Gret”, my sister who was killed last May when her Camry flew off the interstate near Dayton, Ohio, as she was on her way to her summertime log cabin on Little Lake.

Never again can that group of five be photographed together. So I'm very grateful to have the pictorial record.

Im thankful, too, for the other photographs and small mementos on our crowded Pennsylvania bluestone mantle. For the portrait for our daughter walking down the aisle on the arm of her father in her Mexican, fan-sleeved dress. For the picture of her eye-patched husband and herself cutting into their wedding cake. (The detached retina operation he underwent shortly before couldn’t convince him to delay the ceremony.)

For the shining faces of the three children they’ve since had - in the miniature pewter fames balanced in front of the early American wooden mantle-clock.

It’s incredible to me to remind myself that I really AM their grandmother.

The other evening as I watched Channel 13’s “Great Railway Journey” into China I found myself glancing up at the picture on the mantle corner of our eldest son, Bill, taken in 1989, as he conversed with a 24th descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius in the ancient Confucius Forest.

Next to that is the snapshot of Andrew, our second son, happily hawking Reed Irvine’s “Accuracy in Media” newsletter along Washington’s Mall on a long ago day before he went to Minnesota to be near his care-giving brother Bill.

The far end of the mantle is populated with images of friends. They include the snapshot of the three French Bosquets and their spouses. Each visited us, one at a time, nearly a quarter century ago. We were still living in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., when Nicholas, the eldest, came. I can see him now - laughing his head off as he sat in front of the television in the family room watching “You’re on Candid Camera.”

Christine, his younger sister, brought along with her the first black bikini any of us had ever seen - causing my mother to order me to “Tell that girl to come in off the float.”

Daniel, the other brother, hurried back to Paris from his stay with us - to marry a longtime girl friend, then go to work at Renault, where his father was an executive.

There’s a trio of photos of ex-neighbors at Harbour Square in southwest Washington, taken before our retirement to Milford in 1985. They include one of Mrs. Arthur Radford, widow of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after World War II. She will become a centenarian next February. Last February she called me on her birthday - much to my surprise and delight.

Just behind Marianna Radford (she insists on friends of all ages calling her Marianna) is a picture of the actress Elizabeth Taylor in conversation with my husband and me taken while she was married to Virginia’s Senator John Warner and she was struggling to become just a housewife.”

What it all adds up to for me - this photo gallery on our mantle - is a reminder that in this country of ours almost anybody who wants to can “relate” to anybody else, regardless of class, status or circumstance.

For that we can and must, in My View, truly give thanks.”

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