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 endeavours 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 (Nathan 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 Naturalisation Papers. (Extraordinary Emigrants: As New York prepares to elect a new Mayor, we remember William O ‘Dwyer’ 12th October 2021 Nathan 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 while 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. (Extraordinary Emigrants: As New York prepares to elect a new Mayor, we remember William O ‘Dwyer’ 12th October 2021 Nathan 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 (Nathan 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 (Nathan 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 (Susannah 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. (Susannah 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 (Nathan 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 31stAugust 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]


William O ‘Dwyer penned  a Manuscript on his life called ‘Beyond the Golden Door,’ his brother Paul Edited it.  The book was published during 1987. (Susannah Sweeney) [xxii]


William O ‘Dwyer accepted a U.S. Ambassadorship to Mexico from President Harry S. Truman.  During 1951 he visited Israel for thirty – four days on behalf of his Jewish Constituents.  He assisted with the Organization of the first Jewish Day parade in N.Y.C.  He remained in Mexico where he practiced law until 1960. [xxiii]

During 1950 William O’ Dwyer was appointed the U S Ambassador to Mexico by President Truman.  He remained in Mexico City for the next eight years prior to a  return to NYC. (Extraordinary Emigrants: As New York prepares to elect a new Mayor, we remember William O ‘Dwyer’ 12th October 2021 Nathan Mannion) [xxiv]

President Truman then named him Ambassador to Mexico in 1952.  He held the Position until the Election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of the United States: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

President Harry Truman appointed him U.S. Ambassador to Mexico: he resigned on 6th December 1952.  He remained in Mexico until 1960: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer


William O’ Dwyer’s demise occurred on 24th November 1964 at Beth Israel Hospital in New York.  He was aged seventy – four years.  He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. [xxv]

William O ‘Dwyer’s demise occurred during 1964 at the age of seventy – four years.  Flags were flown at half-mast in his Memory.  His remains were committed to Arlington Cemetery with full Military Honours by a grateful Nation  (Susannah Sweeney) [xxvi]

William O’ Dwyer’s demise occurred at age seventy – four years on 24th November 1964 at Manhattan, (Manhattan), New York, USA  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA in Plot Section 2 Lot 889 Grid R-31.5 Memorial ID(4634 · View Source)  An image of the Graveyard by Lincoln S Stern also an Inscription of Headstone that states he was Brigadier General United States Army Ranking American Member Allied Control Commission by Ron Williams feature on this site: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4634/william-o’dwyer

William O ‘Dwyer’s demise occurred in Beth Israel Hospital from a coronary thrombosis.  He was seventy – four years of age.  He received the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church from the Rev. Robert Duggan of St. Ann’s Church. (25th November 1964) [xxvii]

William O’ Dwyer’s demise occurred of heart failure at the age of seventy – four years.  He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Extraordinary Emigrants: As New York prepares to elect a new Mayor, we remember William O ‘Dwyer’ 12th October 2021 Nathan Mannion) [xxviii]

William O ‘Dwyer’s demise occurred in New York City on 24th November 1964 in Beth Israel Hospital when he was aged  seventy – four years from heart failure.  His Funeral Mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 27thNovember.  He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, (Section 2, Grave 889-) :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_O%27Dwyer


A housing Complex located in Brooklyn, New York City during December 1969 had been named in William O ‘Dwyer’s Honour: https://www.emporis.com/

His personable nature and willingness to overturn long established traditions: such as doubling the subway fare helped him bring about his vision’ (Nathan Mannion :https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928


At his demise the following were in attendance: Paul O ‘Dwyer & his wife, Kathleen, the former Mayor’s niece, Criminal Court Judge Joan O ‘Dwyer O’Neill also several relatives. Dr. Friedfeld and Oscar Bernstein (Law partner of Paul O ‘Dwyer) was in attendance. (25th November 1964):https://www.nytimes.com/1964/11/25/archives/former-mayor-odwyer-dead-prosecuted-murder-inc-gang-onetime.html

An Irish immigrant; William O ‘Dwyer had acted as a Magistrate, a General also an Ambassador.  As District Attorney he had prosecuted Murder, Inc.  The former Mayor in recent years had served as Counsel to the firm of O ‘Dwyer & Bernstein, 50 Broad Street. (25th November 1964.) [xxix]

Mayor William O ‘Dwyer was the 100th Mayor of the City of New York.  Approximately 2,000 images feature in the collection that includes over three hundred in the gallery.  The collection includes photographs of the Mayor, his staff also his family.  Several of the photographs in the Collection had been sent to the Mayor as souvenirs of his attendance at an event.  Guide to the records of Mayor William O ‘Dwyer 1946 – 1950: https://nycma.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/RECORDSPHOTOUNITMAY~3~3

This link features an image from 1940? / 49? :https://www.bklynlibrary.org/digitalcollections/item/ae364fab-f6ea-49a8-9aa6-19062043570

(Mr. Mayor: William O ‘Dwyer   Episode 2) In a series of colourful programs called ‘At The Mayor’s Desk‘ William O ‘Dwyer made use of the new medium of Television to call attention to or find solutions to the challenges of Municipal Government during the 1950s ie. the City’s Hospitals crisis: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/media/shows/mr-mayor.page?id=994?pg=6

Mayor O ‘Dwyer announced  on 13th February 1946 that ILA & tugboat workers had reached an agreement.  They would cease their strike.  Workers to return to work tomorrow morning. (From WNYC archives id: 42575): https://www.wnyc.org/story/mayor-william-odwyer/

Mayor William O ‘Dwyer featured on the Cover of Time Magazine 7th June 1948:http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19480607,00.html

In 1932 William O ‘Dwyer came to prominence when he sponsored an American Tour by the Mayo Gaelic football team: then Connacht Champions also his own home team. (Extraordinary Emigrants: As New York prepares to elect a new Mayor, we remember William O ‘Dwyer’ 12th October 2021 Nathan Mannion): https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/the-last-irish-born-mayor-of-new-york-city-1.4694928

Publications that reference William O ‘Dwyer include :

Saffer Jonathan ‘Ed Koch and Rebuilding of New York City’

Elmaler Edmund ‘The Canary Sang but could’nt Fly; Fatal Fall of Abe Reles, The Mobster’

Ramee Paul K. ‘Memories of a Secret Agentby’

Caliendo Ralph J. ‘New York City Mayors Part 11’

Navarro Aaron W. ‘Political Intelligence and the Creation of Modern Mexico, 1938 – 1954’ [xxx]

The following may be of interest:

The Green Book: Mayors of the City of New York’  Archived May 14, 2012 at the Wayback Machine on the Official NYC website

Devine Thomas W. 2019 BiographyO ‘Dwyer, William 11th July 1890–24 November 1964’ American National Biography. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Ralph J. Caliendo 2010 ‘New York City Mayors: Part II: the Mayors of Greater New York From 1898’(page 90)

Hagerty James A. 11th September 1948 ‘48,000 Hear Wallace Assert Prejudice Will Fail in South’ New York Times (page 1)

William O ‘Dwyer 100th Mayor, 1946—1950 (1890 – 1964)’ 7th August 2012 City of New York.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency ‘150,000 Cheer Jewish State at New York Celebration of Israeli Independence Day’ 5th May 1949 republished on ‘Jewish News Archive’  at the Wayback Machine

The remarkable History of the O ‘Dwyer Family’ at the Wayback Machine

DeStefano Anthony M. 2018 ‘Top Hoodlum: Frank Costello, Prime Minister of the Mafia’ New York, NY Citadel Press (page 235)

Lehman Herbert H. 18th September 1950 PDF Congressional Record: U.S. Senate; Nomination of William O ‘Dwyer to be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office (page 14998)

The New York Times’ 25th November 1964 ‘William O ‘Dwyer profile’  (page 36 subscription required)

Several articles in ‘Star – Gazette’ or ‘Daily News NY, also ‘Brooklyn Eagle’ reference William O ‘Dwyer & his wife, (via Newspapers.com) [xxxi]


[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

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

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

[xxiv] 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]

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

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

[xxvii] Former Mayor O ‘Dwyer (https://www.nytimes.com/1964/11/25/archives/former-mayor-odwyer-dead-prosecuted-murder-inc-gang-onetime.html) [assessed 19th January 2022]

[xxviii] 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]

[xxix]Former Mayor O ‘Dwyer (https://www.nytimes.com/1964/11/25/archives/former-mayor-odwyer-dead-prosecuted-murder-inc-gang-onetime.html) [assessed 19th January 2022]

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

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


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)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *