2023 Author: Leah Sherlock | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-08-25 09:26
Lawyer James Britt Donovan represented Rudolf Abel, a Soviet spy, in court in 1957. And later he negotiated the exchange of Abel for the American Francis Gary Powers. This article tells the biography of James Donovan, American attorney and US Navy officer.
Early years and career
James Donovan was born in February 1916 in the poorest area of New York - the Bronx. He was the youngest child in the family, his father John was an outstanding surgeon, and his mother Harriet was a professional pianist and music teacher. James graduated with honors from All Hallows Institute, an all-boys Catholic school, and enrolled at Fordham University. He graduated in 1937 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Initially, the young man was going to become a journalist, but at the insistence of his father, he decided to continue his studies at Harvard University, enrolling in the Faculty of Law, where he subsequently received a bachelor's degree in law in 1940.
After graduating from university, Donovan worked in the Office of Research and Development and in the Officestrategic services, having received the rank of captain in the US Navy during World War II. He subsequently became Assistant Chief Prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where he collected photographic evidence to use against Nazi officers accused of war crimes.
On his return to private practice, Donovan served as the lead attorney in major litigations across America. In 1950, he co-founded the law firm Watters & Donovan in New York City's financial district.
In 1957, Donovan took on the British Bar Association to represent the interests of Rudolf Abel, a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer. Despite numerous pieces of evidence against his client, Donovan managed to avoid a death sentence by persuading Abel to be useful in a prisoner exchange if an American of a similar rank was captured by the Soviet Union. James Donovan subsequently received the CIA Distinguished Intelligence Service Medal for his work.
End of career and death
After being appointed vice president of the New York City Department of Education in 1961, James Donovan ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1962. In 1963, he was elected President of the Department of Education.
In 1968, Donovan was appointed president of the Brooklyn Pratt Institution, where he faced a huge number of conflicts, both between students and between faculty, on the basis of civil rights and anti-wardemonstrations.
James Donovan died of a heart attack at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in January 1970.
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