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Townsend, Newman Alexander

by William S. Powell, 1996

1 May 1882–11 Apr. 1951

Newman Alexander Townsend, lawyer, legislator, judge, and federal official, was born in the community of Raynham, Robeson County, the son of the Reverend Jackson and Sarah Melissa Oliver Townsend. The Townsend family had emigrated from the parish of Raynham in Norfolk, England. He attended Oak Ridge Military Institute and was Image of Newman Alexander Townsend, from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Yackety Yack Yearbook, [p.31], published 1905 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Presented on Digital NC.graduated from The University of North Carolina in 1905, studied law there in 1905–6, and was admitted to the bar in February 1906. He was president of his senior class and, selected a member of the all-southern football team of 1904, was considered one of the greatest ends ever to attend the university. He began to practice law in Dunn, where he was mayor in 1911–12, town attorney during the period 1917–21, and represented Harnett County in the General Assembly sessions of 1921, 1923, 1925, and 1927. From 1927 to 1930 he was a superior court judge and in 1930–31 served as executive counsel to Governor O. Max Gardner.

In 1934 Townsend went to Washington, D.C., as a special assistant attorney general of the United States to work with the assistant solicitor general in the Department of Justice and to organize a new office in that department to perform special tasks for the president. His principal duties pertained to executive orders, a position that brought him into association with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The New York Times, for example, reported on 7 May 1939 that Townsend had conferred with Roosevelt on government reorganization. Although he intended to remain in this position for only six months, he stayed nine years. Among his most significant acts were negotiating acceptance of Paul Mellon's National Gallery of Art gift and preparing the legal argument that rationalized lend-lease in 1940. Apparently he also played a key role in the preparation of Roosevelt's deed of gift establishing the presidential library. Townsend was exceedingly modest about his role in Washington, and there was virtually no contemporary recognition of his contributions, nor did his name appear in the standard biographical volumes of the time. In 1944 Townsend joined the Washington law firm of Gardner, Morrison, and Rogers, of which he later became a partner. He married Myrtle Agnes Wade of Dunn in 1909, and they had three children: Newman A., Jr., Benjamin O., and Sarah Margaret. He died in Washington and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Dunn.

References:

Asheville Citizen, 12 Apr. 1951.

Chapel Hill, Daily Tar Heel, 24 Mar. 1932.

Daniel L. Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina (1924).

Philip Kopper, Chevy Chase, Md., to William S. Powell, 15 July 1990.

New York Times, 12 Apr. 1951.

North Carolina Manual (1927).

Raleigh News and Observer, 7 Oct. 1934, 14 Jan. 1944, 12 Apr. 1951.

The State magazine, 20 Aug. 1938.

Washington Post, 12 Apr. 1951.

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Digital Collections. "Journal of the Senate of the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina 1925." Raleigh, N.C.: [The Senate], 1859--. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/595621 (accessed July 8, 2014).

North Carolina Digital Collections. "Journal of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina 1925." Raleigh, N.C.: M.S Littlefield, 1869--. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/541775 (accessed July 8, 2014).

Townsend, Newman Alexander. 1905. American expansion in the East. Senior Thesis (B.A.)--University of North Caroina at Chapel Hill, 1905. http://www.worldcat.org/title/american-expansion-in-the-east/oclc/162016260 (accessed July 8, 2014).

Townsend, Newman Alexander. Yackety Yack 1905. [Chapel Hill, Publications Board of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]. 1905. http://library.digitalnc.org/cdm/ref/collection/yearbooks/id/883 (accessed July 8, 2014).

Image Credits:

Townsend, Newman Alexander. Yackety Yack 1905. [Chapel Hill, Publications Board of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]. 1905. http://library.digitalnc.org/digitalnc/bookreader/bookreader.php?coll=/yearbooks&id=883#page/n37/mode/2up (accessed July 8, 2014).

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Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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