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Bar News - October 7, 2005

Funk Recalls Encounters With Kenison, Souter


W. John Funk, now of Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell in Concord, chaired the Kenison Legacy Committee. He also served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Kenison and was hired for the NH Attorney General’s office by then-Deputy Attorney General David Souter. The following are excerpts of his remarks:


“As many of you know, Justice Kenison was born in North Conway, New Hampshire on November 1, 1907. He was educated at Brewster Academy, Dartmouth College and Boston University Law School.  He served as Carroll County solicitor, and as an assistant Attorney General until his appointment as Attorney General in 1940.  He left that post for three years, to serve his country as an officer with the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He returned to the Granite State in 1945 as Attorney General and a year later was appointed an Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  In 1952, Justice Kenison was named Chief Justice by Governor Sherman Adams and served in that leadership role for 25 years, until his retirement in 1977.


Justice Kenison’s common sense, humility, compassion and good humor were the hallmarks of his personality and leadership.  Within the Supreme Court, his colleagues considered him “a unifying force in conference” and a “sound adviser on public affairs.”  His judicial scholarship and contribution to the common law was recognized nationwide. This Supreme Court building, dedicated 35 years ago on this very same date, was named in his honor.


On a personal note, I served as a law clerk to Justice Kenison for a one-year period in 1973 and 1974.  He was a kindly and tolerant teacher of the ways of the law to a newly minted graduate from law school - always with a sense of wry amusement and a twinkle in his eye.  He encouraged me to be independent and creative in my thinking.  I remember the feelings of astonishment and pride from the confidence he bestowed on me to analyze cases as I saw fit and suggest to him outcomes I thought were appropriate.  I had my own private tutor for my first year as a lawyer- it was an experience that has influenced me throughout my career.  I’m sure many of you here today have had your own experiences with Justice Kenison that were equally important to your lives.


“…Not only did I have the good fortune to clerk for Justice Kenison, but I was hired by Justice Souter to serve in the Office of the Attorney General during the time when the future Senator Warren Rudman was the Attorney General and Justice Souter was the Deputy Attorney General.  He later became the Attorney General during my tenure. 


Those of us in the Attorney General’s Office at that time recognized that we indeed had the rare privilege and honor to serve with these two men who displayed uncommon intellect and integrity, and yet shared a sense of humor and an appreciation of, and respect for, the values of ordinary Americans.  Justice Souter would hold us spellbound as a raconteur of exceptional merit.  His speech was so well constructed and his thoughts so clear that you could envision the punctuation down to the semi-colons.  His language was always precise and he was fascinated with the exact meaning of words.  I can recall sitting on the lawn of the State House one spring lunch hour in shirtsleeves discussing the distinction between a wharf and a pier.  My recollection is that a pier extends into the water whereas a wharf runs alongside – but I’m sure Justice Souter will correct me if I’m wrong.


I remember thinking way back then that he would be perfectly suited to serve as a justice of the United States Supreme Court because I couldn’t envision anyone who was more talented or capable for the job.  Fortunately, many other people shared similar thoughts and worked hard to promote his elevation to the Supreme Court.  We, the citizens of New Hampshire, are grateful that Justice Souter is serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court and is able to bring his intelligence, sense of fairness, compassion and impeccable judgment to the service of this nation during these difficult times.


Kenison Legacy Committee

Hon. William Batchelder

Hon. Ray Burton, Executive Councilor

Deborah F. Chase

Michael DeLucia

Susan V. Duprey

Hon. Sylvio L. Dupuis

Frank E. Kenison

Laura Kiernan

Mary Susan Leahy, program chair

Hon. Edward J. McDermott

Jack B. Middleton

Hon. Walter Peterson

Hon. Edward E. Shumaker, III

Stephen L. Tober

James C.Wheat

Kimon S. Zachos


Kenison Event Aired on NH Public TV


The Web archive of NH Public TV’s “Outlook” program can be accessed to view a report on the Kenison portrait ceremony, including Justice Souter’s speech. Visit “Outlook Program Archive” at  and click on Sept. 20, 2005, program, or use “Souter” as the search term.


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