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PROCEEDINGS ON THE DEATH OF JUDGE GEORGE E.
At the convening of the court October 18, 1926, the following remarks were made by Assistant Attorney General Herman J. Galloway:
May it please the court and members of the bar:
At a meeting of the members of the bar of this court, held on October 11, 1926, a memorial and resolutions were adopted, and as chairman of a committee appointed at such meeting I am directed to present the same to the court. They are as follows:
Hon. George E. Downey died in the city of Washington on the 24th day of May, 1926, after a service of more than 10 years as a judge of the Court of Claims. Judge Downey had a long and distinguished career of public service. His experiences in public service prior to coming to the bench of the Court of Claims had been a most excellent training and assisted in making him unusually well qualified for his duties on the bench of this court. Included in this prior public service was his service as judge of one of the circuit courts of his native State of Indiana, of whose supreme court his father was for years an able member. Immediately before coming to the bench of the Court of Claims, Judge Downey served as Comptroller of the Treasury of the United States under appointment by President Wilson, and in 1915 President Wilson promoted him to the position of a judge in the Court of Claims.
While Judge Downey's learning and judicial ability were manifest in all lines of the work of the court, they were particularly manifest and valuable to the bench and the bar in the broad field of cases involving the application of the principles which he was called upon to elucidate and apply in his administration of the office of the Comptroller of the Treasury.
The bar of the Court of Claims recognizes in his death the loss of an earnest and devoted citizen and public official and of a learned, untiring, and impartial judge.
Be it therefore resolved by the bar of the Court of Claims at its meeting held this 11th day of October, 1926, That the bar of the Court of Claims has learned with deep regret of the death of the Hon. George E. Downey. He had a long and distinguished career in public
service. His ability and worth were recognized by the people of his own State when he was chosen as judge of one of the circuit courts of said State. Further recognition was given when he was appointed by President Wilson as Comptroller of the Treasury, and again when he was appointed as judge of the Court of Claims. To have discharged with distinction the duties of these various and important public trusts denotes that these recognitions were not unearned. The many public decisions which he made while Comptroller of the Treasury, as well as the many able opinions of this court which he wrote, reflect more clearly than we could express his ability, his learning, his earnestness, and his well-directed endeavor.
His untiring zeal in his effort to administer justice, his ability to grasp a point, and his frank and outspoken manner in the hearing of a case all contributed to his ability as a judge. Off of the bench that geniality and cordiality known especially to his more intimate friends will long be remembered by them. In his death an irreparable loss has been sustained not only by his family and the community in which he lived but also by his country and by this court, the bench, and the bar.
Be it further resolved, That the foregoing memorial and resolutions be presented to the Court of Claims with the request that they be spread upon the minutes of the court; that a copy thereof be sent to the family of the deceased and to the circuit court in Indiana over which he at one time presided; and that, upon presentation of the same to the Court of Claims, the members of the bar unite in a suitable expression of their feelings on the death of Judge Downey.
I may add that copies of such memorial and resolutions have been duly forwarded to the family of the late Judge Downey and also to the judge of the circuit court in Indiana over which he formerly presided.
When we come to speak of a man like Judge Downey we find that words are wholly inadequate to express our feeling. However, we find that little need be said, as his acts and his deeds have spoken with so much force and created for him such high regard among his fellow men that the thoughts of one with reference to him appear to be the thoughts of every other person.
When he left us the community lost a good citizen and his country an able, efficient, and well-trained public servant. So far as the limited authority of my official position will permit, I wish to here record on behalf of the Government the feeling of a great loss. It was a great pleasure to appear before Judge Downey as one of the judges of this court. We knew that he, as well as other members of this court, would readily see the point that we attempted to urge, and we felt
that if it was well taken it certainly would be sustained. I do not know how we could pay greater tribute to him than we do when we say with sincerity we believe that by his ability, his integrity, his industry, and his efforts he has placed his name among those of the greatest judges of our country.
To these and other remarks by numerous members of the bar Judge Booth replied:
It was my good fortune to know much of Judge Downey before we became associates. His distinguished father, a justice of the Supreme Court of Indiana, was dean of the law school of De Pauw University when I was a student there. His youngest brother, Frank Downey, afterwards a lawyer, was a classmate of mine during our college course. Judge Downey was himself a graduate of De Pauw University. Thus it happened that when we came into close personal contact we at once became intimate friends. Judge Downey could not have escaped the profession of the law. He was born and reared in a legal atmosphere, and no thought of pursuing any other calling ever challenged his attention. His destiny was fixed in early youth, and he turned toward the future possessed of a single ambition to attain that high degree of proficiency which characterized the attainments of his honored father and brought reverence and respect for the family name.
Judge Downey's career is not alone disclosed in what he accomplished in the little over 10 years of his service in this court. In his native community, close by the place of his birth, he began the practice of law, and his rapid advancement and standing at the bar is attested by the fact of two elections as circuit judge for the seventh judicial circuit of Indiana when still a comparatively young man. In 1913 President Wilson appointed him Comptroller of the Treasury, and on August 3, 1915, he came to this court. President Wilson for the second time recognized his preeminent ability and rewarded his faithful public service.
We shall not on this occasion comment in detail upon the record he has left as our associate. That we confidently leave to the bar of this court and to those who may have occasion to read his opinions. The memorial the court wishes at this hour to make permanent is our appraisement and appreciation of Judge Downey as a man and intimate associate. I sometimes thought that Judge Downey's personality was such that a mere superficial acquaintance with him might engender a serious misapprehension of his true qualities of heart and hand. He lacked in some degree that rare and composite personality which does enable some men to gain an immediately favorable impression. He possessed in a marked degree that more enduring characteristic wherein time and association work their part and ultimately bring forth lasting and affectionate attachments from
those with whom he came in contact. His manner of speech was direct; the thought of clothing his opinions in language of doubtful and ambiguous import never once controlled his mental processes. He never hesitated to speak his mind. His training, his natural bent of mentality, coupled with a high degree of indisputable personal honesty, marked out this commendable characteristic of the man and gave unlimited confidence to his words and honor and respect to his every-day conduct. He did, indeed, stand forth as a conspicuous example of one who utterly lacked the inclination to dissemble.
Judge Downey was neither pedantic nor intolerant in his relations with his associates or his fellowmen. He willingly and graciously recognized honest difference of opinion, listened attentively to debate, and never hesitated to yield his convictions when convinced of error. In the courtroom, in conference, and socially he disclosed an even temperament, not easily provoked to the point of impatience or unduly petulant in the face of criticism.
From the standpoint of industry his record is complete. No judge of this court ever gave to his work more intensive devotion than Judge Downey. Not once but frequently each of us had occasion to warn him of an impending physical breakdown if he did not refrain, when ill, from long hours of continued and uninterrupted work. His ambition was to accomplish his full share of our mutual tasks. No outside interests were ever permitted to divert him from the consummation of this undertaking, and no amount of persuasion could prevail upon him to desist. He was faithful to the duties of his office, conscious of its responsibilities and its exactions. When the final summons came to him there were but a few insignificant duties left undone.
Judge Downey was a kindly and a sympathetic man. We who knew him best might easily recount events which signally emphasized his charitable instincts and his inherent inability to withhold a sympathetic feeling from one in distress. Not once in our years of association do I recall a single instance when, unannounced and irrespective of the work we had in hand, I would suddenly appear at his desk, seeking either counsel or a social chat, and receive other than a wholesome and friendly welcome. He was never too busy to be polite and never so engaged as to refuse to listen. It was almost impossible for Judge Downey to withhold a favor, if at all within his ability to grant it. He granted favors in numerous instances to persons who had no right to solicit them, and he patiently endured injustices which most men emphatically resent. He liked people; he knew the weaknesses of the race and was duly aware of the sympathetic necessity of granting allowances for shortcomings and by words and conduct extending his appreciation of the individual discomfort one suffers when overwhelmed with grief or illness.
Many times during his service here his associates had knowledge of distressing obstacles Judge Downey was called upon to surmount. Sorrow and illness came into his life, as it comes to all. He met the