The John P. Murphy Foundation


John P. MurphyGladys MurphyJohn P. Murphy was born April 25, 1887 in Westboro, Massachusetts and died in his home in Pepper Pike, Ohio, on July 15, 1969. His wife, Gladys, had predeceased him by approximately six months. They had no children. John Murphy was educated in Westboro's public schools and in 1906 obtained a small athletic scholarship to Holy Cross College in Boston. He remained there for a little over a year but a football injury terminated his further participation in contact sports and thus, his scholarship. In 1908, he entered Notre Dame College (now University) in South Bend, Indiana and graduated with a LL.B. in 1912. He began legal practice in Minneapolis, where he was admitted to the bar in 1913. On New Year's Day of 1914, he assumed a law practice in Montana. When World War I embraced the U.S., he joined the Army Air Corps and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Because of an inner-ear problem, flying was prohibited and the Army assigned him as a special counsel in their supervision of the Spruce Production Corporation during the notorious strike of the International Workers of the World. There he was placed under the command of Colonel John E. Morley, who was from Cleveland and was on leave from a predecessor firm to the present Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. After the war, at Colonel Morley's urging, John Murphy came to Cleveland where he joined the legal department of M. J. and O. P. Van Sweringen as they were building their vast empire of real estate, railroads, and investments. He rapidly rose in that organization until he became chief legal counsel as well as secretary and/or director of many of the controlled real estate and railroad corporations.

After the deaths of both Van Sweringen brothers, in 1937, in a gesture of great friendship, George A. Ball sold to Charles L. Bradley and John P. Murphy 100% of the common stock and all of the indebtedness of The Higbee Company which he had acquired from the 1935 auction of the Van Sweringen empire. At the time of this transaction, The Higbee Company was in bankruptcy, but the conditions of the sale took that situation into consideration. Charles Bradley had been one of the Van Sweringen's earliest financial backers as well as a long-time trusted friend and associate. A few months after acquiring the Higbee interest, both Bradley and Murphy resigned from their multiple affiliations with the corporations previously under the Van Sweringen control. At that time, Mr. Bradley assumed the presidency of The Higbee Company and John Murphy joined the legal partnership of Morley, Stickle, Keeley & Murphy.

The next ten years were fraught with legal battles over the reorganization and control of The Higbee Company. Charles Bradley died in 1944 before the final outcome was known, but John Murphy took the Presidency of Higbee's and carried on the legal battles while establishing a highly profitable retail business. John Murphy served as Chief Executive Officer of Higbee's until 1967, and thereafter was a director or honorary director until his death in 1969.

His primary interest was in people, and his natural cheerfulness, charm, wit and loyalty created many friendships. He was patriotic, straightforward and honest. Humble and simple in taste, his tolerance for others' views was both generous and considerate. He was most fond of helping those who were willing to risk their own time, money and efforts in their endeavors. He found a true source of pleasure in seeing people have successful accomplishments of their personal goals. He loved amateur sports, opera, ballet, symphonic music, good literature and the Bible. His educational and working experiences as a lawyer greatly assisted him in basing his decisions on firm legal and ethical grounds, which provided for a clarity of direction to others.