Memorial for Bernard J. Moran
by Virgil Bozeman
Presented at the Rock Island County Memorial Service, May 27, 1966
Bernard J. Moran was born in Davenport, Iowa, on February 18, 1911. He died in an airplane crash at the Indianapolis Airport on May 31, 1965. He was the son of Supervisor James A. Moran and Mary A. Moran, both of whom were lifelong residents of Rock Island County.
Barney was educated in the Rock Island schools, the University of Illinois, St. Ambrose College, the University of Michigan School of Law and Georgetown University Law School, from which latter institution he received his law degree in 1938. He was admitted to practice in the State of Illinois in 1938.
Barney was legal secretary to Chief Justice Loren E. Murphy for seven years.
In 1948 he was elected State's Attorney of Rock Island County and was re-elected in 1952 and again in 1956.
Barney enlisted in the U.S. Navy in World War II, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, and served aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Bogue in the European-African-Middle East theatre and thereafter served aboard the flagship U.S.S. Montour in Asiatic-Pacific theatre and in the Phillipine campaign and was with the first forces to occupy Japan.
On January 9, 1939, he married Elinoir Thompson, a member of a prominent family of this community, who survives him. There were six children forn of the marriage: Patrick Dennis, now in the armed services, Margaret Elinoir, Terence Malachy (who also lost his life in the same plane crash that claimed Barney), Timothy Michael, Mary Connemara and Dennis Michael.
The above are the bare obituary facts, or, as Barney might have said: "The bare bones" of one of the most delightful, human, brilliant, and witty men who ever practiced law in this county or for that matter, I suspect, in any other county.
This bare recital is not sufficient to advise anyone of the warmth and the outgoing personality of this person who was one of the finest husbands, fathers, public servants and ablest lawyers of our time. He had a rapier-like wit, a generous Irish heart and the ability to use the English language as it was meant to be used.
Barney reached the pinnacle of his profession in his own county but became widely known throughout all of the middle west for his courage, his legal ability and his devotion to the ideas of justice. There are many of us who are aware that it was only the strange quirks of fate and the vagaries of politics that prevented him from becoming the Governor or Illinois.
Those of us who had the great privilege of being associated with him as partners in the practice of law came to know him as the ablest of lawyers, the finest of advocates, as well as a warm and generous companion.
His abilities extended in many directions but it is probably as State's Attorney that most of the people of this community came to know him best and to become aware of the enormous capacities of this able servant who was, however, able to maintain a quiet dignity, a warm and wonderful sense of humor and his own self-respect, despite the barbs of criticism and the attempts by the opposition to besmear his character. But even his opponents finally came to know that here was a man who was above reproach and above petty criticism - ant that even the most suspicious examiner could find only minor chinks in his armor.
Barney didn't talk much about his war record. (Actually, very few World War II men do talk about it. That war was so immense that everyone felt a sense of anonymity and frustration.) It was only when some war buddy came in from out of town that you found out that Barney had enlisted and was a fine naval combat officer and that the men of the Aircraft Carrier Bogue and the Flagship Montour were proud to have served with Barney and to have been with him in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and in the far reaches of the Pacific at such strange-sounding places as Eniwetok, Okinawa and Mog-Mog - and to have been with him as part of the first forces to occupy Japan. Certainly these experiences did much toward the development of Barney's character - to give him an understanding of the problems men face and how they face them, and perhaps some feeling about Mankind's destiny and of the necessity on his part to play a role in the fulfillment of that destiny. This, more than any other factor, I think, led Barney to seek political office.
Barney could write. His literary talent was immense - and ranged from remarkable war-time letters - some of which were published in the local press - to Law Review articles - legal briefs - and strangely enough, to his campaign advertising. He believed that the electorate should be informed - and inform them he did - with succinct, readable prose that had such a delightful style that one eagerly awaited the next edition of the paper and somehow almost hated to see election day pass - for it meant that particular volume of Barney's prose was completed.
The great Illinois Supreme Court Justice Loren E. Murphy, for whom Barney worked as legal secretary, often remarked that not only was Barney a great legal scholar, but that he made a great contribution to the case law of this State with his ability to write with such clarity and style.
There are those who claim that Barney may have had some faults. What faults he had were almost virtues. He couldn't say "no" to any request. As a result, he was often engulfed in a virtual flood of requests for help in almost every conceivable kind of problem - most of them unremunerative and oftentimes thankless. He, also, simply could not bring himself to fire an employee - or to terminate a relationship. Sometimes this attitude invited criticism - but on the whole, his unswerving loyalty to those about him engendered such a loyalty in return that I am sure the public benefited through the desire of these people to do such a tremendous job that Barney simply could not be criticized.
For twelve long years Barney patiently but vigorously proved to all of us the most difficult of all the lessons of the law - that all the laws must be enforced and that justice will never come to mankind if our officials choose to ignore part of the laws in order to favor any individual or group. His vigorous and rapid prosecutions from the very beginning of his first term made this county to be feared by the professional criminal - and in due time they stayed away. His very nature seemed to attract the spectacular - and he tried many important and famous cases and he proved to all the skeptics that a river county could become a decent place and that the mere presence of the mighty river did not require gambling and prostitution as a necessary adjunct.
As State's Attorney, Barney was courageous and unswerving in his devotion to duty and to the task at hand. He made this a better place to live by driving from our midst the prostitutes, the con men, the small-time crooks, the petty gamblers, and the threat that such activities bring in their wake: Organized crime - the syndicate - and above all, the corruption of our own public officials. He was a magnificent court room lawyer, tall, handsome, a great booming baritone voice, a bland, open countenance, a quick Irish wit - which when added to the fact that he was always prepared, had a keen legal mind, and was a master tactician, and was a master tactician, made him almost unbeatable in the courtroom.
But I think Barney's great triumphs in the court room as a prosecutor are overshadowed by the Eaton case. Here we get a small glimpse into the true depths of the character of this man. All of our county (and the rest of the country for that matter, by virtue of the feature story in the Saturday Evening Post of July 14, 1956) are aware of the great fight Barney made in this case - not to convict - but to free a man the State's Attorney felt had been wrongfully convicted. For over two dreary years, Barney worked harder on this project than he ever did to obtain a conviction. In achieving the freedom of this man, Barney had proven beyond all reasonable doubt that he understood the dual function of his office, to wit: That he must as zealously protect the innocent as to prosecute the guilty. Few others have so dramatically demonstrated this obligation and set forth such an example for others to follow.
On Memorial Day in the Year of Our Lord, 1965, Bernard James Moran lost his life in a plane crash at the Indianapolis Airport when the light plane he was piloting encountered unforeseen turbulence, and thus at the age of 54 came to an end the life of a truly remarkable member of this Association. He was a scholar, a sailor, a patriot, a prosecuting attorney, a loving husband and father, a man of letters, a true friend, a kind and gentle companion, a wise counselor and an advocate truly worthy of the name and whom our Association shall forever be proud to have had as a member, therefore:
Be It Resolved by the Rock Island County Bar Association that in the passing of Bernard J. Moran, the Association has lost one of its finest members.