William O'Dwyer

Attorney / Mayor /Ambassador

William O 'Dwyer
Bohola, Mayo.
Author's Personal Photo
Bohola sign plus Community Centre.
Author's Personal Photo
New York City
Flag of New York Mayors.
Mexico City.
Mayo Men's Assoc, Journal
Author's Personal Photo

Attorney / Mayor /Ambassador

This man experienced life in the United States whilst combining various endeavors from a career as a policeman to politics with a high office in New York City & Mexico.

William O ‘Dwyer was born in Bohola, Co. Mayo during 1890.[i]

William O ‘Dwyer (known as Bill) was the eldest son of Patrick & Bridget O ‘Dwyer: he was born in Bohola in 1890. (Susannah Sweeney) [ii]

William O ‘Dwyer was born in Bohola, Co. Mayo, Ireland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer

William O ‘Dwyer was born on 11th  July 1890 in Bohola, Co. Mayo Ireland: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

William O ‘Dwyer a native of Lismiraun in Mayo was the son of Patrick & Bridget O ‘Dwyer who ran the local National School in Bohola.  He was the eldest of their eleven children. (Extraordinary Emigrants: As New York prepares to elect a new Mayor, we remember William O ‘Dwyer’ 12th October 2021 Nathan Mannion) [iii]


He studied at the local national school where his father was the principle.  He attended St. Nathy’s College in Ballaghadereen.  He received further education at the National University of Salamanca in Spain. [iv]

He was educated in Lismarrane National School, St Nathy’s College in Ballaghaderreen also at the College in Salamanca. (Susannah Sweeney) [v]

Following two years of study at the Irish College in Salamanca in Spain the twenty – two years -old Seminarian William O ‘Dwyer decided to leave Mannion): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928

William O ‘Dwyer studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical University of Salamanca (a Jesuit Seminary) in Spain.  He became fluent in the Spanish language: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer


During 1910 William O ‘Dwyer emigrated to the United States.  He was nationalized during 1916 prior to his entrance to the police force in New York City. [vi]

William O ‘Dwyer left for New York during 1910 at the age of twenty years.  He met up with Andrew & Martin Sheridan who looked after him until he got his first job.  He was employed as a dock labourer, handyman, delivery – boy, deckhand, stoker also as a plasterers assistant. He enlisted in the New York Police Force in 1917: he was highly commended on his first beat when he disarmed an attacker.  (Susannah Sweeney) [vii]

William O ‘Dwyer was employed as a plasterer’s assistant, a longshoreman prior to a career as a policeman: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

Upon arrival in New York he was employed in a series of odd jobs on various construction sites, in bars, hotels also on the boats & ships that called at the City’s port.  William O ‘Dwyer enlisted in the NYPD.  During 1917 he obtained his Naturalization Papers. (Mannion) [viii]

William O ‘Dwyer sailed to New York as a steerage passenger on board the liner ‘Philadelphia’ & was inspected at Ellis Island on 27th June 1910: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer

Further Study

William  O ‘Dwyer studied at night classes at Fortham University Law School whilst working at various employments.  He graduated during 1923. [ix]

William O ‘Dwyer studied by night: he qualified as a lawyer in 1923: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html

As a clerk for the City’s Police Commissioner he attended night classes at Fordham University Law School.  He obtained his law degree during 1924. (Mannion) [x]

Legal Career

William O ‘Dwyer was admitted to the Bar during 1925 where he was engaged in numerous Law practices.  He was known for his extensive knowledge of the Law also his shrewdness. He was credited with the successful convictions of fifty-six homicides. [xi]

When he passed the Bar exams he practiced Law privately from 1925: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928

Following his role as Ambassador in Mexico William O ‘Dwyer returned to New York  then acted as an adviser for the Law Firm of O ‘Dwyer & Bernstein during 1960. (Susannah Sweeney) [xii]

City Magistrate

He was appointed City Magistrate during 1932: New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

He was appointed to the Brooklyn Magistrates Court (Mannion): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928

During 1931 William O ‘Dwyer was appointed a magistrate in Brooklyn New York where he served  for six years: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

Acting-Mayor Joseph McKee appointed him as a magistrate during 1932 & appointed to the Brooklyn Adolescents Court in 1935: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html


Later he was appointed a judge in King’s County Court:  New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal  Jubilee Edition 1954

During 1937 he was appointed County Court Judge: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html

William O ‘Dwyer was appointed a county judge: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

District Attorney

William O ‘Dwyer was elected District Attorney of King’s County during 1939.  He gained attention as a prosecutor of gangs in Brooklyn known as ‘Murder Inc.’ [xiii]

He was appointed to the Office of District Attorney in 1939: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html

By 1940  he had been appointed King’s County (Brooklyn) District Attorney (Mannion): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928

W.W. 11

During W.W.2  William O ‘Dwyer was promoted from Major to Brigadier – General.  He represented the U.S.A. on Allied Commission for Italy.  He directed the War Refugee Board. [xiv]

He enlisted in the US Army during W. W.2.  He rose to the rank of Brigadier-General (Sweeney): https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill- odwyer.html

William O ‘Dwyer joined the United States Army during World War II.  He achieved the rank of Brigadier General as a member of the Allied Commission for Italy.  He was an executive director of the War Refugee Board: for which he received the Legion of Merit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer


William O ‘Dwyer married Catherine Lenihen during 1916.  They had four children. Her demise occurred during 1946. His second wife was Sloan Simpson (a Texan Model daughter of Eleanor Laurenson Myer) whom he married following her annulment.  She divorced O ‘Dwyer however when he resigned as ambassador.[xv]

William O ‘Dwyer’s spouses were Catherine M. Lenihan O ‘Dwyer (1892-1946) also Elizabeth Laurenson Hipp Simpson O ‘Dwyer (1916-1996): https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

During 1916 William  O ‘Dwyer married Catherine Lenihan (whom he met while he was working as a bartender at the Vanderbilt Hotel & she was employed as one of the Vanderbilt’s Telephone Switchboard Operators)  She suffered from ill health for several years prior to her demise in 1946.  Her funeral had been originally planned for St. Joseph’s Church in the Yorkville Neighbourhood of Manhattan (was they were members).  The very large number of attendees resulted in a move to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the service was presided over by Cardinal Francis Spellman.  On 20th December 1949 he married Elizabeth Sloan Simpson at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Stuart, Florida.  They divorced in 1953 but remained close: she attended his funeral during 1964. [xvi]


In 1945 William O ‘Dwyer was elected Mayor of New York City.  He was  re – elected during 1949.  He was instrumental with others in persuading the United Nations to make New York their home!  William O ‘Dwyer established the Office of City Construction Co – Ordinator.  He presided over the first million-dollar N.Y.C. Budget.  He was responsible for the creation of a traffic department. [xvii]

With the assistance of Henry A Wallace & Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt he was elected with a large majority to the position of Mayor on NY.  In November 1945 The Connaught Telegraph printed an article re.  his great achievement: Congratulations poured in for his sister Mrs. Barney Durcan who live in Bohola.  During his first term as Mayor he concentrated on building schools, hospitals also to improve transport facilities that had all been neglected during the war years. (Sweeney) [xviii]

At his Inauguration William O ‘Dwyer addressed the seven hundred people gathered in Council Chambers at City Hall, he stated that ‘It is our high purpose to devote our whole time, our whole energy to do good work….’ :  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

During November 1945 William O ‘Dwyer was elected the hundredth Mayor of New York City (Mannion): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928

William O ‘Dwyer served as Mayor of NYC from 1946 to September 1950: https://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/RECORDSPHOTOUNITMAY~3~3

He established the Office of City Construction Coordinator.  William O ‘ Dwyer appointed Park Commissioner Robert Moses to the post.  He worked to have the permanent home of the United Nations located within Manhattan.  He presided over the first billion – dollar New York City Budget.  Also he created a traffic department, he raised the subway fare from five cents to ten cents.  William O ‘Dwyer resigned from office on 31st August 1950.  Upon his resignation, he was provided with a ticker tape parade up Broadway’s Canyon of Heroes in the Borough of Manhattan.[xix]

Gold Medal Award

During 1948 William O ‘Dwyer received the Hundred Year Association of N.Y.’s ‘Gold Medal Award’  ‘In recognition of outstanding Contributions to the City of New York.’  [xx]

William O ‘Dwyer received the Hundred Year Association of New York’s ‘Gold Medal Award’  ‘in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer

Mayo Men’s Association

William O ‘Dwyer was a member also past president of New York’s Mayo Men’s Association. He resigned his Mayoral Office during August 1950.[xxi]


[i] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[ii] Bill  O ‘Dwyer (1890 – 1964) (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html) [Assessed 17th January 2022]

[iii] Last Irish-Born Mayor (https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928) [Assessed 19th January 2022]

[iv] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[v] Bill  O ‘Dwyer (1890-1964) (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html) [Assessed 17th January 2022]

[vi]New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Last Irish-Born Mayor (https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928) [Assessed 19th January 2022]

[ix] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[x] Last Irish-Born Mayor (https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928 [Assessed 19th January 2022]

[xi] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[xii] Bill  O ‘Dwyer (1890-1964) (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html) [Assessed 17th January 2022]

[xiii]  New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] Ibid

[xvi] William O ‘Dwyer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer) [Assessed 19th January 2022]

[xvii] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[xviii] Bill O ‘Dwyer (1890-1964) (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/bohola/history/bill-odwyer.html) [Assessed 17th January 2022]

[xix] William O ‘Dwyer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer) [Assessed 19th January 2022]

[xx] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal Jubilee Edition 1954

[xxi] Ibid



Comments about this page

  • That is so interesting Sean. Thanks for details.
    Also Paul his Brother has been honoured on site.

    Perhaps you may have more information on your Ancestor or other relatives for this site?

    By Noelene Beckett Crowe. (21/06/2022)
  • William O’Dwyer was my Grandfathers cousin . My address is – Prophet- Sean O’Dwyer- number 140 hobson Street. Auckland city. 1010. New zealand. – South pacific.’

    By Sean O'Dwyer. (20/06/2022)

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