Col Patrick Henry Quinn

Biography of Col. Patrick Henry Quinn

Possessed of an inherent talent for organization and leadership, which was illustrated in graphic fashion during his early manhood, Colonel Patrick Henry Quinn, prominently identified with the bar of Providence for many years, is esteemed throughout Rhode Island for his high character and his great professional abilities. Although frequently engaged in important public affairs, he never neglected his private work and his clients were always his loyal friends, even though some of them may have been unsuccessful in their battles at law. His victories have always been materially greater than his defeats, for his erudition in the intricacies of the law has been coupled with an indefatigable industry and a great talent for impressing juries with the justice of the cause he represented. Called to represent the people in many public offices of honor and responsibility, he has never failed to justify the selection and has acquitted himself with credit in all cases. Espousing the Democratic cause in political campaigns, he has been a valuable instrument in bringing out the vote and a priceless lieutenant on the platform, where his oratorical powers were greatly appreciated and productive of desired results. His friendships are limited only by his acquaintances, for his personality is such that he retains all he makes.

He was born in Phenix, town of Warwick, Rhode Island, December 16, 1869, attended the Warwick public schools and in 1881, upon completing the elementary grades, entered the employment of the Clyde Print Works, where he spent nine years in the finishing room. These were the formative years of his life. Denied the opportunity to complete his education at school, he studied privately and took pains to analyze men as they came under his observation. It was during this period that his talents as a leader and organizer came to the attention of the leaders in the National Council of the Knights of Labor and he became the trusted lieutenant of Terence V. Powderly, chief executive and the brainiest leader of what was then the strongest labor organization in the land. In 1891 he became bookkeeper and salesman for William R. Brown and Company, of Providence, and during this period his abilities came to the attention of Edward L. Gannon, of the law firm of Tanner and Gannon, and that accomplished lawyer advised him to study law. He took advantage of the advice and began his studies under Mr. Gannon, at the same time retaining his position with Brown and Company on part time, giving the house his services on Saturdays and at odd hours during the days and evenings, thus earning a part of the cost of his living while at work in the law office. He was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island in August, 1895, and to that of the United States Circuit Court, January 18, 1897. Willard B. Tanner, senior member of the firm of Tanner and Gannon, had been elected Attorney-General and upon Mr. Quinn’s admission to the bar the firm of Gannon and Quinn was formed, which continued to function until the death of Mr. Gannon, March 15, 1896. For a number of years he practiced alone, eventually forming a partnership with Charles H. Kernan and, on January 1, 1918, admitting to partnership Robert E. Quinn, a nephew of Colonel Quinn.

Even as a boy he was interested in politics and in 1880 assisted in the organization of a company of boys who marched in the parades for General Winfield Scott Hancock, who was running for the Presidency against James A. Garfield, of Ohio. When the Cleveland-Harrison campaign was opened he made speeches for the Democratic nominee, although at the time he was under legal age, and since that year he has stumped the State for the Democratic party in both State and National campaigns. In 1893 he was a delegate to the Democratic State Convention and since that year, with the exception of 1914, when he ran for Governor of Rhode Island, he has been a delegate at every convention. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated William Jennings Bryan at Kansas City in 1900; to that which nominated Alton B. Parker at St. Louis, in 1904; to that which nominated Bryan again, in Denver, in 1908; and in each instance was unanimously elected to his seat in the conventions. In 1898 he was elected secretary to the Democratic State Central Committee and served in that capacity for five years, then being elected chairman for three years. For ten years he was chairman of the Warwick Democratic Town Committee and in 1899 was elected Judge of Probate for Warwick, being the first judge elected, the Court of Probate having formerly been the Town Council. In the same year he was also elected town solicitor and in 1906 was again elected both judge of probate and town solicitor. In 1903 he was appointed senior aide on the staff of Governor Garvin and commissioned a colonel. As a unanimous public recognition of the esteem in which he was held, the citizens of Warwick, irrespective of political party affiliations, presented Colonel Quinn with a life-size portrait of himself, and in 1914 he was the standard bearer of his party in the race for the governorship. In 1916 he attended as a delegate the Democratic National Convention that nominated Woodrow Wilson at St. Louis and at this convention was chosen as Rhode Island’s member of the Democratic National Committee. He was delegate to the Democratic National Convention at New York in 1924, when as chairman of the Rhode Island delegation he cast the unanimous vote of this delegation one hundred times for Alfred E. Smith, and again in 1928 was chairman of the Rhode Island delegation when Governor Smith was nominated for the Presidency. He was prominent in the movement to divide the town of Warwick and was appointed by Governor Pothier one of the commission of five to make that division, whereby the town of West Warwick was created, and was elected first president of the Town Council of the new town of West Warwick. Colonel Quinn is secretary and a director in the Phenix Lace Mills and treasurer of the Warwick Lace Works. He is also a director of the Pawtuxet Valley Free Library Association; a past president of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of Rhode Island; a founder and former president of the Catholic Club of Rhode Island; one of the founders of the Providence College; past chief ranger of Court Warwick, Foresters of America; a past grand knight of Gibson Council, Knights of Columbus; member of the American Bar Association; Robert Emmet Literary Association; Providence Lodge, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; Warwick Aerie, Fraternal Order of Eagles; and Benjamin Franklin Lodge, Provident Fraternity. He belongs to the Catholic, Radical, Turks Head, Columbus, and Noonday clubs.

Patrick H. Quinn married (first), November 12, 1897, Agnes G. Healey, of Providence, Rhode Island, whose death occurred February 10, 1907. He married (second), July 22, 1909, Margaret M. Connors, of Providence, and they are the parents of one son: Thomas Henry.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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