Our Founders: Men of Integrity, Courage and Conviction
Powell Law was founded in 1906 by Attorney James J. Powell Sr. and passed down through three generations of Powell family attorneys. In 1957, the firm was taken over by his two sons, Attorneys James J. Powell Jr. and Christopher T. Powell Sr., and some years later, his grandsons, Attorneys James J. Powell III, Christopher T. Powell Jr. and Mark J. Powell. They are joined in the practice today by Attorneys Bruce S. Zero, Christopher J. Osborne and James F. Mundy.
In 1888, at the tender age of 13, James J. Powell Sr. was orphaned when both of his parents were killed in a train wreck known as the Mud Run Disaster.
He went to work in a coal breaker to help support his family. Educated in the public schools, he graduated from East Stroudsburg State Teachers College and taught school in Moosic for nine years, seven of which he served as supervising principal.
While teaching school, he studied law at night in the office of the late Attorney John T. Quinnan of Scranton. He was admitted to the Lackawanna County Bar on May 5, 1905, and began the practice of law, at age 30, with offices in the Mears Building, in December 1906.
A lifelong resident of the Minooka section of Scranton and a member of the Lackawanna Bar Association for nearly 40 years, Jim became known as one of the region’s outstanding lawyers. He married Mary M. Boland whose brother, Patrick, became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jim became the lawyer for nearly every family in his beloved neighborhood of Minooka, which he often called the “Fifth Province of Ireland.” A devout communicant of St. Joseph’s Church, he loved the people of Minooka and they loved him.
Active in Democratic politics for many years, he served as First Assistant District Attorney under District Attorney M.J. Eagen, who later became a judge in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas. While in the DA’s Office, he prosecuted many of the county’s major criminal cases. He also served for several years as regional counsel for the Reconstruction Finance Corp.
Jim gained prominence in the area’s labor community serving as the attorney for the Streetcar Men’s Union. He helped the union negotiate labor contracts with the Scranton Transit Co., which operated the city’s electric streetcars, and acted as the union’s legal adviser on wage and arbitration matters. He served for many years as solicitor to Lackawanna Township and its school district, and as chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners.
Although he was one of the busiest lawyers in the county, he devoted much of his time to civic and welfare activities. A persuasive orator, he served for many years as a campaign speaker for the Lackawanna County Democratic Committee. He was also a longtime member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Lackawanna County and served as toastmaster at one of the organization's annual dinners.
Decorated War Hero: Attorney James J. Powell Jr. (1912-1959)
In 1941, Attorney James J. Powell Jr. left behind a promising career as a Scranton attorney and went to fight for his country in World War II, participating in the D-Day Invasion and becoming a decorated war hero.
Born in the Minooka section of Scranton, he was the son of Attorney James J. Powell, Sr., one of the most distinguished and prominent members of the Lackawanna County Bar, and Mary M. Boland Powell. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas College, now the University of Scranton.
From 1935 to 1939, he served as a clerk in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and attended Georgetown University Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1939. He was admitted to the Lackawanna County Bar on May 27, 1940, and became a junior partner in his father’s law firm, Powell, Eagen & Powell.
In February 1941, Jim decided to put his law career on hold and enlisted as a private in the 109th Infantry Regiment. While in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was commissioned an officer and assigned to the Corps of Engineers.
Overseas during World War II, he participated in many engagements, including the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 while serving with the 6th Engineers Special Brigade. He was awarded the Bronze Star medal for bravery; the Croix de Guerre “for exceptional war services rendered in the course of operations for the liberation of France” from then-General, and later President of France, Charles de Gaulle; and a Certificate of Appreciation from the people of the City of Antwerp, Belgium, for his work as commanding officer of the 79th Port Company, 487 Port Battalion, in the Port of Antwerp during the 175 days of continuous enemy air and V-weapons bombardment between Oct. 7, 1944 and March 30, 1945.
On April 10, 1944, while serving as a captain, he married Joan Hopgood of South Wales who had been serving as a civilian hospital and ambulance worker. After serving nearly five years in the Army, of which 31 months were spent overseas, he was discharged in November 1946. Afterward, he re-enlisted in the 109th Infantry Regiment when that unit was reorganized stateside, and he commanded Company D for some time - the same company in which he had enlisted as a private in 1941.
During his short lifetime, Jim participated in many of the leading civic, fraternal and political affairs in Lackawanna County. For many years, he was the solicitor for Lackawanna Township and its school district, Moosic Borough, Moosic School District and Spring Brook School District. He was considered an expert on school and municipal law.
Jim’s father died while he was serving in Europe in 1944, and the family law firm was run by associates until he returned. Having developed health problems during the mid-1950s, he asked his younger brother, Christopher T. Powell Sr., to return home from his job as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., and join the family practice. Chris was admitted to the Lackawanna County Bar on June 10, 1957, and together the brothers formed Powell & Powell, the forerunner of today’s Powell Law.
Like his father, he was a communicant of St. Joseph's Church and a member of its Holy Name Society, and was a member of the Scranton Council, Knights of Columbus. Among the many other civic, fraternal and veteran organizations in which he had been active were the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Moosic Lions Club, the Purple Club, Dan Beard Boy Scout Council, the Lackawanna Bar Association and Pennsylvania Bar Association.
On March 20, 1959, after a busy day at the office, Jim died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 47. In a eulogy published by the Lackawanna Bar Association, his colleagues recalled, “He was a man of great generosity of heart and spirit. Not only was he greatly respected as a man of high standards in the community, but his simple dignity of life, his sense of duty to country, his gay charms and happy nature, his courage in war and peace, his example as husband and father in his own family circle, revealed the solid distinguished aspects of his character.”
Legendary Trial Lawyer: Christopher T. Powell Sr., Esq. (1920-1990)
Attorney Christopher T. Powell Sr. was a legendary Lackawanna County trial lawyer known for his imposing presence, blind loyalty to his clients and zealous advocacy in the courtroom.
Although he lived in Moosic for most of his adult life, Chris was born and raised in the Minooka section of Scranton, son of Attorney James J. Powell Sr. and Mary M. Boland Powell. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas College, now the University of Scranton, and spent more than three years overseas as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. Following his discharge, he attended Catholic University Law School where he earned his law degree in 1949.
Chris was the Assistant Regional Attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor for several years. In 1957, he returned home and, with his brother, Attorney James J. Powell Jr., formed Powell & Powell, the forerunner of today’s Powell Law. After his brother’s untimely death in 1959, Chris practiced law with his son, Christopher T. Powell Jr., and nephew James J. Powell III. At the time of his death in 1990, he was the senior member of the law firm with offices on Scranton’s Barrister’s Row.
Active in the Lackawanna Bar Association, he was a member of the Board of Directors for several terms, and its Executive Committee. He was also a member of the Pennsylvania and
American Bar Associations, as well as the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. He was a familiar figure in the Lackawanna County and federal courthouses in Scranton.
He and his wife, Nan Walsh Powell, had four sons and a daughter. Two of their sons, Christopher T. Powell Jr. and Mark J. Powell, are current partners in Powell Law. A third son,Attorney Thomas Powell, resides and practices law in Virginia.
After his passing, the Lackawanna Bar Association recalled, “Chris loved life in the proud tradition of native Minooka sons. The zeal that he exhibited on behalf of all of his clients and his presence on the second floor of the Lackawanna County Courthouse has been sadly missed since his untimely death. He was a wise friend to all members of the legal community.”