The Info List - Larry O'Brien

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Lawrence Francis O'Brien Jr. (July 7, 1917 – September 28, 1990) was one of the United States
United States
Democratic Party's leading electoral strategists for more than two decades. He served as Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Lyndon Johnson. He also served as commissioner of the National Basketball Association from 1975 to 1984. The NBA Championship Trophy
NBA Championship Trophy
is named after him. O'Brien, son of Irish immigrants, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. When he was not working in politics, O'Brien managed his family's real estate and worked in public relations.


1 Early life and politics

1.1 Government

2 NBA commissioner

2.1 NBA career highlights

3 Quotations 4 Death 5 References 6 External links

Early life and politics[edit] O'Brien was born on July 7, 1917, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He learned about politics at a young age. His father, a local leader of the Democratic Party, recruited him at 11 years old to serve locally as a volunteer in the 1928 presidential campaign of Al Smith. O'Brien became a passionate Democrat. He earned a bachelor's degree in law in 1942 at the Northeastern University
Northeastern University
– Springfield Division, now known as the Western New England University School of Law. O'Brien was married to the former Elva Brassard in 1945. They had one son, Lawrence F. O'Brien III, who became a lobbyist. He was appointed in 1946, 1948, and 1950 by his friend Foster Furcolo to serve locally as the director of the U.S. House of Representatives election campaigns. O'Brien was appointed in 1952 by John F. Kennedy to serve in Massachusetts
as the director of his successful U.S. Senate election campaign and, in 1958, to serve in Massachusetts
as the director of his successful reelection campaign. Kennedy's elections were largely attributed to O'Brien's recruitment, his use of volunteers, and his development of a statewide election campaign. In 1959, he built the foundation for Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign by touring the United States. O'Brien was appointed in 1960 by Kennedy to serve nationally as the director of his presidential campaign. His election planning in key primary states such as Wisconsin
and West Virginia
West Virginia
convinced many in the party that Kennedy's Catholicism
was not a problem. O'Brien developed a new presidential party. He collected information about each convention delegate and alternate delegate, and communicated frequently with each delegate's liaisons. O'Brien was appointed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
to serve nationally as the director of his presidential campaign. In 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey
Hubert Humphrey
appointed O'Brien to serve nationally as the director of his presidential campaign and by Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes
to serve in Washington as his public-policy lobbyist. Committed to the principle that political parties are fundamental to the American political process, O'Brien was elected in 1968 and in 1970 by the DNC to serve as its national chairman. John H. Meier, a former business advisor to Hughes, collaborated with Humphrey and others to use Donald Nixon
Donald Nixon
to feed misinformation to his brother, the President. According to Meier, he told Donald that he was sure the Democrats would win the election since they had a lot of information on Richard Nixon's illicit dealings with Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes
that had never been released, and that O’Brien had the information.[1] (O’Brien didn’t actually have any documents, but Meier wanted Richard Nixon to think he did.) Donald then called his brother and told him that Meier gave the Democrats all the Hughes information that could destroy him (Richard Nixon) and that O’Brien had it.[2] During the 1972 presidential election, O'Brien was the top advisor to George McGovern. During the Thomas Eagleton
Thomas Eagleton
affair, his name was mentioned as the possible Vice-Presidential from replacement. This position later went to Sargent Shriver. On June 17, 1972, O'Brien's office in the Watergate complex
Watergate complex
was broken into. The Watergate scandal
Watergate scandal
that followed ultimately led to the resignation of President Nixon. The DNC Lawrence O'Brien Award was created in 1992 by his family and the Democratic Party leaders to acknowledge the many years of service he gave to the party and his belief in the importance of volunteer contribution. Government[edit] His first post in Washington was in 1948 as Rep. Foster Furcolo's administrative assistant. In 1960, he was appointed by President-elect Kennedy to recruit staff for his administration. O'Brien was appointed in 1961 by President Kennedy to serve in Washington as the special assistant to the president for congressional relations and personnel. O'Brien was also responsible for awarding patronage. O'Brien was a member of President Kennedy's inner circle of trusted advisers, known in Washington as the "Irish Mafia". He lobbied successfully during President Kennedy's first year for the expansion of the U.S. House of Representatives Standing Committee on rules to ensure a liberal and moderate majority. O'Brien also lobbied for increasing the minimum wage. He managed President Kennedy's activities in 1962 on the behalf of the Democratic Party during its election campaigns. O'Brien accompanied President and Mrs. Kennedy on their trip to Texas in November 1963. The trip was part of the strategy for President Kennedy's run for re-election in 1964. O'Brien was to join the Kennedys at the Johnsons' ranch following the President's speeches and fund raising tour through the state. After President Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital
Parkland Hospital
on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, O'Brien accompanied the President's coffin and Mrs. Kennedy back to Air Force One
Air Force One
at Love Field in Dallas. While aboard Air Force One, President Johnson called for O'Brien and Kenny O'Donnell, another Kennedy insider and member of the "Irish Mafia", asking both of them to stay on and work with him in the new administration. Although O'Brien had never been close to Johnson (and many writers, including Johnson biographer Robert Caro, reported that O'Brien did not like or trust Johnson and/or had openly made fun of Johnson), he remained at the White House
White House
and worked for the new President. President Johnson appointed O'Brien to serve as special assistant to the president for congressional relations and personnel. O'Brien continued this service through 1965. O'Brien was appointed in 1965 by President Johnson to serve in Washington, D.C., as the U.S. Postmaster General. O'Brien continued this service through 1968. During his tenure as Postmaster General, in September 1967, the Post Office Department cancelled many "mail by rail" contracts, electing to move First Class mail via air and road transport.[3] This had a devastating effect on passenger train revenues and led directly to the ending of many passenger rail routes across the United States, which had relied on carrying mail to supplement their income as early as the 1830s (see: Railway post office). The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
National Archives and Records Administration
Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery was named and opened in 2004 in his memory. NBA commissioner[edit] O’Brien was appointed in 1975 by the National Basketball Association as its commissioner until 1984. He went on to successfully direct the ABA–NBA merger
ABA–NBA merger
and negotiate television-broadcast agreements with CBS
Television while seeing game attendance significantly increase. After retirement, in honor of his service to the sport, the NBA Championship Trophy was renamed as the Larry O'Brien
Larry O'Brien
NBA Championship Trophy. However, his league was troubled by public relations issues, especially after the merger. The NBA was looked down on by many fans and reporters, who believed that most NBA players used illegal drugs as well as other racial stereotypes. O'Brien pushed for an anti-drug agreement with the NBA Players Association in order to appease people and clear up this image, which was later reached successfully. O'Brien also pushed for the league to move its TV contract from ABC to CBS; in the aftermath of this, ABC Sports chief Roone Arledge decimated CBS's NBA ratings via counter-programming. CBS
later used a new contract to move around, show on tape-delayed coverage (most famously Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals), or simply ignore NBA postseason games. O'Brien was also generally pushed by his staff into many of his good decisions, including the expanded All-Star Weekend, most notably by his successor NBA David Stern. Many consider Stern the driving force behind expanded (and non-haphazard) TV contracts with CBS
and cable networks and the rise in game attendance, as well as several crucial issues that predicated the rise of the NBA in the early 1980s.[4] O'Brien was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, located at his birthplace, Springfield, Massachusetts. NBA career highlights[edit]

League expanded from 18 to 23 teams[5] Coordinated the NBA's richest TV contract to date (1982) Brought the NBA to cable television (ESPN and USA) in 1982, establishing the league as a pioneer of cable TV Negotiated two landmark collective bargaining agreements (1976, 1983)[5] Modified the college draft and restored peace to a league in the midst of legal turmoil (1976) Negotiated the ABA–NBA merger
ABA–NBA merger
as the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, and New York Nets
New York Nets
joined the league and the Kentucky Colonels
Kentucky Colonels
and Spirits of St. Louis
Spirits of St. Louis
were bought out and Virginia Squires
Virginia Squires
folded[5] Introduced salary cap (1983) Orchestrated the 1976 settlement of the Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson
suit, creating a fair and equitable system of free agency for veterans Annual NBA attendance reached 10 million during his tenure Gate receipts doubled and television revenue tripled during his time as commissioner[5] Established NBA College Scholarship program (1980) Reached a stringent anti-drug agreement with the NBA Players Association (1983)[5] Oversaw the adoption of the three-point field goal in the NBA (1979)[5]


"Volunteers are essential to the success of any political campaign. There is no such thing as having a surplus of volunteers", O'Brien, 1960 campaign manual of President Kennedy. "I'm proud to be a politician. Politics is the art of the possible and it is an intensely personal art", O'Brien memoirs, No Final Victories.

Death[edit] O'Brien died of cancer after surgery in Manhattan, New York, on September 28, 1990, at the age of 73, and was interred in St. Michaels Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts. References[edit]

^ DuBois, Larry, and Laurence Gonzales (September 1976).Hughes Nixon and the C.I.A.: The Watergate Conspiracy Woodward and Bernstein Missed.Playboy. ^ Bellett, Gerald (1995). Age of Secrets: The Conspiracy that Toppled Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
and the Hidden Death of Howard Hughes. Voyageur North America. ISBN 0-921842-42-2 ^ RailsWest Railroad Museum - A Teacher's Guide to "A Railway Mail Service" ^ Halberstam, David (1999). Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan
and the World he Made. Random House. ISBN 0-7679-0444-3.  ^ a b c d e f Hubbard, Jan (November 10, 1983). "NBA lawyer likely to succeed O'Brien". The Dallas
Morning News. p. 6B. 

External links[edit]

Oral History Interviews with Lawrence O'Brien, from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library

Political offices

Preceded by John A. Gronouski United States
United States
Postmaster General Served under: Lyndon B. Johnson November 3, 1965 – April 20, 1968 Succeeded by W. Marvin Watson

Party political offices

Preceded by John M. Bailey Chairman of the Democratic National Committee 1968–1969 Succeeded by Fred R. Harris

Preceded by Fred R. Harris Chairman of the Democratic National Committee 1970–1972 Succeeded by Jean Westwood

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John Austin Gronouski (1963–65) Lawrence F. O'Brien (1965–68) W. Marvin Watson (1968–69)

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Stewart L. Udall (1963–69)

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Orville L. Freeman (1963–69)

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Sporting News Sportsman/Pro Athlete of the Year

1968: Denny McLain 1969: Tom Seaver 1970: John Wooden 1971: Lee Trevino 1972: Charlie Finley 1973: O. J. Simpson 1974: Lou Brock 1975: Archie Griffin 1976: Larry O'Brien 1977: Steve Cauthen 1978: Ron Guidry 1979: Willie Stargell 1980: George Brett 1981: Wayne Gretzky 1982: Whitey Herzog 1983: Bowie Kuhn 1984: Peter Ueberroth 1985: Pete Rose 1986: Larry Bird 1987: None 1988: Jackie Joyner-Kersee 1989: Joe Montana 1990: Nolan Ryan 1991: Michael Jordan 1992: Mike Krzyzewski 1993: Cito Gaston
Cito Gaston
& Pat Gillick 1994: Emmitt Smith 1995: Cal Ripken Jr. 1996: Joe Torre 1997: Mark McGwire 1998: Mark McGwire
Mark McGwire
& Sammy Sosa 1999: New York Yankees 2000: Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk
& Kurt Warner 2001: Curt Schilling 2002: Tyrone Willingham 2003: Dick Vermeil
Dick Vermeil
& Jack McKeon 2004: Tom Brady 2005: Matt Leinart 2006: Dwyane Wade 2007: Tom Brady 2008: Eli Manning 2009: Mariano Rivera 2010: Roy Halladay 2011: Aaron Rodgers 2012: LeBron James

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 6178153 LCCN: n50035