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.


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.


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.”


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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