Obituary: Francis J. McNamara Jr.
Francis J. McNamara Jr., a former longtime Darien resident, who was a prominent Connecticut trial attorney and philanthropist, passed away Friday, June 8, in Vero Beach, Fla., at the age of 84. During his illustrious 35-year career in litigation, he rose to managing partner of the law firm Cummings & Lockwood in Stamford and argued cases in courts from the Connecticut Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as in federal courts in many states.
During the same time period, he also led the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation in New York City as it disbursed over one hundred million dollars in charitable funds to worthy health, educational and cultural institutions. Mr. McNamara was a voracious reader of history as well as a passionate student of Irish genealogy, loved writing and had just recently completed a comprehensive memoir of the McNamara family. He was also an avid golfer and sportsman.
Mr. McNamara is survived by his loving wife of 26 years, Lois Magner, as well as his six children, three stepchildren and 20 grandchildren.
Francis J. McNamara Jr. was born in Boston, Mass., on Nov. 30, 1927. He spent his early years in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Gonzaga High School in 1945. He served in the U.S. Navy as a seaman in 1946. He attended Georgetown University, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in 1949 and completing his college education in three years. Mr. McNamara considered pursuing a career in radio broadcasting, but at the urging of his father entered law school and subsequently received a bachelor of laws degree from Georgetown in 1951.
He was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 1952. Recalled to active duty as a Navy lieutenant in early 1952, he served as a communications officer on a destroyer and later as assistant personnel officer at the U.S. Naval Station, Newport, R.I., until late 1953.
Mr. McNamara served as assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut from January 1954 until December 1956. He prosecuted a wide variety of cases and called his time as a government lawyer “one of the best positions I ever had.” In 1957 he joined the law firm of Cummings & Lockwood and became a partner of that firm in 1960. Mr. McNamara handled many important cases on behalf of Cummings & Lockwood in the Connecticut Supreme Court and Superior Court, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He also argued before the Supreme Court of the U.S.
During his career he tried cases in almost every field of the law but in later years he specialized in corporate litigation with a particular specialty in the area of trade secrets and unfair competition. Prior to his retirement from Cummings & Lockwood in 1991 he was a managing partner in charge of the firm’s litigation department and was a member of the Finance & Executive Committees of the firm.
Mr. McNamara was a member of the bar of the U.S. District Courts for the District of Connecticut, the Southern and Eastern Districts of Virginia, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second and Fourth Circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Tax Court of the U.S. and the U.S. Court of Military Appeals. In the early 1980s he was among the first Connecticut lawyers appointed as attorney trial referees by the Chief Justice of the State of Connecticut. In this capacity, he heard and decided many non-jury civil actions in order to relieve docket congestion.
From 1983-89, Mr. McNamara was chairman of the Grievance Committee of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. He was a Fellow and former state chairman of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was a former member of the House of Delegates and the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Bar Association as well as the former chairman of its Federal Judiciary and Long Range Planning committees and of a committee formed to relocate the Bar Association offices. A fellow of the American Bar Foundation and also past president of the Stamford Bar Association, Mr. McNamara lectured on legal matters in this country and in Europe.
Mr. McNamara was elected chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation in 1968 and remained in this position while maintaining an active law practice with Cummings & Lockwood until 1991 when he became president and chief executive officer of the foundation. He retired on July 1, 1999, and the foundation was then merged with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of New York City. During over three decades in active charge of the philanthropy of the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation Mr. McNamara had a major role in the disbursement of over $120 million in charitable funds to worthy beneficiaries. These beneficiaries included undergraduate institutions of higher learning as well as hospitals, medical centers and medical schools, arts and culture activities and legal programs. During the period of his leadership of the foundation its assets grew from $8 million in 1968 to over $200 million when he retired.
Following his retirement from the practice of law at Cummings & Lockwood, Mr. McNamara served as a mediator and arbitrator in numerous matters both by referral from the courts of Connecticut and from the American Arbitration Association and the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution as well as by direct request of parties to disputes.
A devout Catholic who attended daily Mass for many years, Mr. McNamara was a Knight of Malta and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1983 he was designated a Knight of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II. He was also a member of the legal fraternity Phi Delta Phi, and the U.S. Navy League. He received the Outstanding Philanthropic Service Award from the Fairfield Foundation of the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1984. Mr. McNamara was a Trustee of Fairfield University from 1969 to 1981 and was elected trustee emeritus. In May of 1983, an honorary doctor of laws was conferred on Mr. McNamara by that university. He was also a trustee of the Stamford Foundation, now part of the Five Town Foundation, in Connecticut.
A fan of horse racing since his early days in Washington, D.C., Mr. McNamara bred and raced thoroughbred horses for many years. He was also a skier who enjoyed weekends with his children on the ski slopes in Vermont. In his later years, golf became a passion and he was a member of the Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, and the Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club in Vero Beach, Fla.
Mr. McNamara’s first wife, Noreen, died in 1984. He married Lois L. Magner of Norwalk in 1986. Mr. McNamara and Lois spent time together traveling throughout this country and overseas, making Florida their permanent residence in 2004 while spending summers in Connecticut to see family. He delighted in seeing his grandchildren grow up and never missed recognizing their birthdays with a card, or missed a Christmas gathering where he could dispense some of his accumulated wisdom.
Mr. McNamara leaves his wife, Lois M. McNamara, six children: Francis J. III (and Lisa M. McNamara) of Wenham, Mass.; Moira P. (Mrs. Lance F. James) of Marblehead, Mass.; John A. (and Christa S. McNamara) of Darien; Kathleen L. (Mrs. Robert J. Hugin) of Summit, N.J.; Martha J. (Mrs. James Bordewick) of Boston; Mark J. (and Karen Peterson McNamara) of League City, Texas; three stepchildren: Michael J. (and Leslie) Magner of Weston; Maribeth (and Joe) Hemingway of Sandy Hook; Jay P. (and Lisa) Magner of Wilton, along with 20 grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters: Jeanne E. (Mrs. Herman Eckrich) of New Canaan and Lois A. (Mrs. Peter Driscoll) of Dataw Island, S.C.
The family will receive friends at the Magner Funeral home, 12 Mott Ave., Norwalk, on Wednesday, June 13, from 5-8. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Aloysius R.C. Church, 21 Cherry St., New Canaan, on Thursday, June 14, at 10. Burial will follow at Lakeview Cemetery, South Main Street, New Canaan.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations the Gonzaga College High School Annual Fund, 19 Eye St., NW, Washington, DC 20001 or the Fairfield University Fairfield Fund, 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.
More info: MagnerFuneralHome.com