Patriot (Harrisburg),, January 22, 1889; Inquirer (Philadelphia), July 10, 1907; Who’s Who, 1905; Inquirer (Philadelphia), July 11, 1907
The oldest son of Irish immigrant John O’Grady and Massachusetts’ former Eliza Daggett, the Honorable John C. Grady was born in Eastport, Maine, October 8, 1847. Moving to Philadelphia at an early age, he attended the city’s public schools, entered and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law-School, and joined the Philadelphia bar in 1871. Establishing a successful practice, Grady wasted no time in becoming the popular choice of the Senate’s Seventh District (Wards 10-14). Entering the upper house in November 1876, he served continuously through 1904, elected president pro tempore during the session of 1888-1889. Senator Grady held the distinction of holding the all-time Senate seniority record at retirement, 28 years, edging contemporary Philadelphian George Handy Smith’s 21 years.
Grady chaired the Senate Republican legislative caucus for ten years, served as majority floor leader his last eight, chaired the Judiciary General Committee another eight years, and directed Finance sixteen sessions. In Judiciary General, he earned the moniker “Father of the Superior Court bill.” He wrote the “Fugitive from Justice” act, the first title-insurance law, and figured prominently during debate over the Philadelphia City Charter Act (Bullitt Bill). Senator Grady proved instrumental in passing the Procedure Act, relevant to revolutionary changes in the practice of law; as well as the Juvenile Court Act, a measure advocated by women’s organizations, seeking legislative power to separate children from adult criminals. He passed the Saturday half-holiday bill and introduced the measure leading to Pennsylvania’s recognition of Lincoln’s birthday as a legal holiday.
His term as pro tem proved intriguing. The same three Pinkerton detectives who visited the state capital during the 1887 Billingsley Free Pipeline Bill debate returned during Grady’s session at the podium. This time, the three investigators arrived to chaperon the “Grangers Bill” through passage, free of bribes. The legislation sought the protection of Pennsylvania beef producers, wholesalers, and retailers against Chicago beef millionaire Phil Armour and the Pennsylvania Railroad’s combined attempt to overwhelm the Pennsylvania beef business. Coincidental to Missouri’s 1889 trust-busting legislation (the first legal assault on Armour), Grady supported incorporation legislation that provided strict regulations against monopolies, ordering close supervision of the transportation of foreign goods.
Throughout his life, Grady maintained close personal relationships with George Handy Smith, Matt Quay, and Congressman John Reyburn. Of all these, however, Reyburn emerged as Grady’s lifelong, “inseparable” friend. In Quay’s case, Grady evolved as one of the master politician’s chief advisors, first recommending Matt’s eventual presidential support for Theodore Roosevelt. Quay’s trusty liaison acted as Matt’s personal emissary to President–elect Garfield, with instructions to ascertain the specific cabinet positions that the chief-executive proposed in trade for Quay’s help in gaining the White House. For Grady’s efforts, the senator accepted the position of Surveyor for the Port of Philadelphia. Grady eventually declined the political plum, responding to cries of impropriety from fellow senators.
Among Grady’s many honors, he served as delegate to the Yorktown Centennial Celebration and represented the Pennsylvania legislature as chair of a special joint committee to receive former President Ulysses S. Grant, upon the former chief executive’s return from a world tour. His final political appointment to Philadelphia Director of Wharves represented a 1907 bestowal from close friend and Philadelphia Mayor (former senator) Reyburn.
John Cadwalader Grady is the first officially acknowledged majority leader in the Legislative Journal, although press accounts indicate the position had existed since the early 19th century. Indicative of his power, no bill passed without Grady’s advocacy. The Honorable John C. Grady never married. He died at his Philadelphia apartment on March 5, 1916, age 69.