Celebrating a Wyoming Irishman: U.S. Senator Joseph C. O’Mahoney

On St. Patrick’s Day, the AHC celebrates one of Wyoming’s most famous Irishmen, Joseph Christopher O’Mahoney.

Joseph O’Mahoney (1884-1962) was a journalist, lawyer, and politician. A Democrat, he served four complete terms as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming on two occasions, first from 1934-1953 and then again from 1954-1961.

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A serious young Joseph C. O’Mahoney, ca. 1905. UW American Heritage Center, Joseph C. O’Mahoney Papers, Accession #275, Box 390, Folder 45

O’Mahoney was Irish to the core. He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, to Denis and Elizabeth (née Sheehan) O’Mahoney. His parents were both Irish immigrants; his father, who came to the United States in 1861 from County Cork, worked as a furrier and fought for the Union of his adopted country in the Civil War as a member of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteers, a regiment of the famed Irish Brigade.

Even his wife was of Irish ancestry. He married Agnes Veronica O’Leary (1885-1963), also of Massachusetts, in 1913. She was the daughter of Michael E. O’Leary and Annie M. O’Leary. Michael O’Leary had also immigrated from Ireland.

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Agnes and Joseph O’Mahoney celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary, 1951. UW American Heritage Center, Joseph C. O’Mahoney Papers, Accession #275, Box 390, Folder 59.

O’Mahoney recalled in an oral history interview later in life: “Oh, I was intensely interested in history and politics. I wouldn’t say it was predominantly the interest of my father. My mother was extremely well interested in current affairs, and was a very intelligent and able woman. But perhaps I would say that it was the heritage of a young man who was born into a family of Irish blood. The Irish people have always been interested in public life.”

Joseph O’Mahoney was referred to more than once as “a man who speaks for the wide-open spaces of Wyoming with a Boston accent.”

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Joseph O’Mahoney in 1937 during his first term as a U.S. Senator, UW American Heritage Center, Photo File: O’Mahoney, Joseph C.

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