On July 19, all of Western New York was saddened to learn of the passing of our friend, James T. Molloy, a proud South Buffalonian who also served as the House of Representative’s last doorkeeper. Today, I was honored to have the opportunity to join with Senator Harry Reid and hundreds of family and friends to celebrate Jim’s life. Below is the text of my eulogy:
Roseann, Amy, members of the Molloy, Straub and Hayden families. Honorable Members of Congress, past and present, distinguished guests and friends of Jim Molloy. To Congressman Jim Stanton, thank you for many years of friendship to Jim Molloy and organizing this celebration of his life.
Jim Molloy served as Doorkeeper of the House of Representatives for more than two decades. He served under four House Speakers, five U.S. Presidents and thousands of Members of Congress. He introduced and hosted Heads of State, foreign dignitaries and organized more than 71 joint sessions of Congress.
In this, the nation’s capitol, a city that Jim Molloy loved and called his second home for more than 40 years, not a more decent, giving and gentle man lived or could be found.
He was referred to in many ways here: The Honorable Doorkeeper, James T. Molloy, J.T. Molloy and, as his great friend Speaker Tip O’Neill was often heard saying in a slightly agitated voice, “Molloy get in here!”
There was the time that the Dalai Lama came to Congress to have a personal audience with Speaker O’Neill. The Speaker was delayed and Jim was dispatched to entertain His Holiness until the Speaker arrived.
Jim nervously tried to make conversation but the Dalai Lama sat silently, smiling. After a couple of minutes of awkward silence, the Dalai Lama pointed to Jim’s wrist and commented on the beautiful watch Jim was wearing. Jim removed the watch and tried to give it to him. The Dalai Lama humbly declined. Jim persevered insisting that he take the watch as a gift. Holding the watch closer to the Dalai Lama, Jim said it was a cheap credit union watch that only cost $14, please take it.
At that moment, the Speaker walked in the room and said to an aide, “I leave Molloy with the Dalai Lama for 5 minutes and he’s begging the man to buy his watch.”
While it is his love of the institution and that bellowing voice from the back of the House Chamber to announce the arrival of the President of the United States that we remember.
It is his larger than life personality, generous spirit, self deprecating humor and loyalty to his beloved South Buffalo that we will miss.
Jim Molloy was a favorite son of South Buffalo. He was the middle child of Matthew and Catherine Molloy. And along with them and his two sisters, Kathy and Janet, grew up at Bloomfield Avenue in Holy Family Parish.
Jim was a Buffalo city school teacher, he worked as a grain scooper along the waterfront, was a second generation Buffalo firefighter and served as 2nd Zone democratic chairman at the age of 27, the youngest zone chairman in New York State.
As Doorkeeper he administered an annual budget of more than $9 million and supervised more than 400 employees. Jim served as Chairman of the Congressional Federal Credit Union for 36 years.
He recruited the best young minds from the nation’s most prestigious educational institutions to start their careers right here in the nation’s capital, among them: Holy Family and St Theresa’s grammar schools and South Park, Mount Mercy and Bishop Timon High schools. If you came from these schools and your father was a Buffalo Firefighter and had a second front as a grain scooper you received even more special attention and consideration.
Someone once said: you know Jim, next to Mercy Hospital on Abbott Road, you might just be the largest employer of South Buffalo people. To which Jim responded, “How many people work at Mercy!”
Jim Molloy’s door was never reserved exclusively for the high and mighty, for Kings and Queens. It was a door open to all, through which people of every walk of life could enter the greatest democratic institution, in the greatest nation, in the only world we know.
Yes Jim Molloy played gracious host to Presidents and world leaders because he was required to. But he played host to the sons and daughters of union bricklayers and city firemen because he could and wanted to.
I was one of those kids. My Dad was a union bricklayer and local politician. He and Jim grew up on Bloomfield Avenue, my Dad at 74, Jim at 106. They attended Holy Family grammar school together and were steeped in the deep tradition of South Buffalo politics.
My dad died of Alzheimer’s three years ago. It’s a tough disease whose origins are unknown but whose end is certain. But one of the last things my Dad worked for and remembered fully was watching his son sworn in as a Member of the United States Congress.
I tell you this because it’s really not my story. It’s his and his family’s and it’s the story of my community, and it’s Jim Molloy’s as well. And the simple idea that one generation makes sacrifices to make way, to open doors, if you will, for the next.
Jim Molloy was with us that day and I was honored to have him celebrating that achievement with my family and friends. Someone there commented that I was the first South Buffalo representative in Congress. I really wasn’t though. Jim Molloy will always be the first and greatest Congressional representative Buffalo ever had, and it is through the door that he kept that that opportunity was possible for someone else.
After 34 doorkeepers of the House of Representatives and a tradition dating back to 1789, the new Speaker in 1994 was forced to abolish the position of doorkeeper. I say forced because he knew Jim Molloy could never be replaced.
In a 2005 interview with Tim Russert for NPR’s oral history project, Story Corps, Tim and Jim shared recollections of childhood memories in South Buffalo. Tim concluded the interview by saying that the best way to describe Jim was as a good man, who knew everybody, and who was always proud of taking care of his own. That is Jim Molloy’s legacy. That is how he lived his life and that life, in all its goodness and graciousness, has made all of us better.
That is how Jim’s friends in Washington, South Buffalo, and across the nation will remember him: as a good man, who knew everybody, and who was always proud of taking care of his own.
So today we express gratitude for many things. I give thanks to you and for the opportunity and Honor to be here this morning.
We give thanks to Jim Molloy for the life that he lived, and friendship that he gave, and only for the people of the country and the community that he loved.
And finally we give thanks for a good and generous nation. A good and generous nation that makes Jim Molloy’s and all of our stories possible.