Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 147, page(s) 734-736


John F. McDonough was born on April 11, 1878, in South Lee, Massachusetts. He was the son of the late Martin and Sarah Thomas McDonough. The parents of Judge McDonough moved to Naugatuck early in his life, and it was in Naugatuck that he received his early education. He was a graduate in the class of 1897 of Naugatuck High School, and thereafter he entered the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to begin his study of the law. To do this, he was forced, because of his economic situation, to work hard and long at the business of railroading, but with that great courage and fortitude for which he was known he carried on his studies and work in the law school and graduated with the class of 1902. He returned to his native Naugatuck and entered upon the practice of law.

In the practice of his chosen profession, Judge McDonough was eminently successful. He was a profound student of the law, with keen and piercing intellect. He possessed great resourcefulness and untiring industry. He became active in politics shortly after being admitted to the Connecticut bar, and in 1906 he was elected judge of probate for the district of Naugatuck. He served in this capacity for three terms, or over a period of six years. In 1912, as the Democratic candidate in the fourteenth senatorial district, he was elected to the state senate and was the first of the very few Democrats to have been elected from the traditionally Republican fourteenth district. While a member of the senate, Judge McDonough was very influential in having the first Workmen's Compensation Act written, and he made many important contributions in the final writing of the act. During his term in the senate, he also introduced, and aided in the ratification of, the seventeenth amendment to the constitution of the United States, making it possible for the executive authority of the state to fill a vacancy by appointment to the United States Senate.

In 1914, Judge McDonough was appointed clerk of the District Court at Waterbury and served in that capacity, still continuing his practice of law, until 1918. He kept his great interest in the civic affairs of Naugatuck and for six years was a member of the Board of Education. In 1920, he was elected warden of the Borough of Naugatuck and served for one term. Thereafter, he was the attorney for the Borough of Naugatuck for a period of one year. He was a charter member of the Naugatuck Lodge of Elks and the local Aerie of Eagles, and a trustee of St. Francis Church.

On June 8, 1908, Judge McDonough married Josephine Agnes Brennan of Naugatuck, whose death occurred several years ago.

In 1939, Judge McDonough was appointed to the bench of the Court of Common Pleas and served thereon until age forced his retirement in 1948. His appointment to the bench met with outstanding approval and acclamation by the bar and by those who knew him as a lawyer and great humanitarian. His conduct of the office of judge of the Court of Common Pleas was outstanding. His opinions and decisions were highly respected, and no decision was ever rendered by him without careful and thorough consideration of the immediate problem or problems with which he was confronted.

Judge McDonough will long be remembered for the helping hand he gave to many of the younger members of the bar, and as a teacher and counselor he was always ready to assist young lawyers. He was indeed professionally competent, completely dedicated to study and research in the law and genuinely committed to all that the profession stands for. He was willing at all times to make almost any sacrifice for the good of his client, and in this respect he gave untiringly of the great natural ability and talent he possessed. When he was a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, his aim was not merely to maintain the court at its present high level of achievement but to bring it to new heights by striving to ensure its constant development and improvement in every phase of its operation. As a jurist, he strove constantly to make the court over which he presided the kind of an institution with which lawyers would be increasingly proud to be associated.

Being possessed of a very fine sense of humor and a most genial disposition, Judge McDonough had the happy faculty of presiding over his court in such a manner as to eliminate all vestige of the tension and nervousness that sometimes are apparent with counsel during the trial of a case. The long experience in all branches of the law gained by him over the years, from the time of his admission to the bar to the time of his appointment to the bench, served him well, and, being blessed with a fine judicial temperament, he was in all respects a successful and outstanding jurist during his tenure on the bench.

He was a most delightful and interesting companion. He loved to be with people, if only for the purpose of carrying on a general conversation. He was intensely devoted to his home and family, and as a husband and father he was extremely kind, loving and indulgent. Judge McDonough was, in all respects, a very gentle man. If one were to seek for him a monument, it would only be necessary to talk with those who knew him.

Judge McDonough died July 14, 1960. Surviving are five children, including Helen M. McDonough, an attorney in Naugatuck, and twenty-two grandchildren.