Democratic Strategist Kirk O'Donnell Dies
Tuesday, September 8, 1998; Page C08
Kirk O'Donnell, 52, a prominent Washington lawyer and political strategist who was a chief aide to then-House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.), died Sept. 5 after collapsing near his weekend home in Scituate, Mass., while jogging. The cause of death had not been determined.
Mr. O'Donnell, who lived in the District, worked for O'Neill from 1978 to 1986. He then spent three years as president of the Center for National Policy, a Democratic Party advisory organization. He also had been a senior adviser to the 1988 Democratic Party presidential campaign of Gov. Michael Dukakis (Mass.).
Since 1989, Mr. O'Donnell had been a partner in the Washington office of the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. He practiced in the firm's public law and policy section.
President Clinton, upon learning of Mr. O'Donnell's death, issued a statement hailing the Democratic Party activist as a "gentleman and a patriot" who had applied both common sense and humanity to his public and private life.
Mr. O'Donnell, a Boston native, was 1968 graduate of Brown University and a 1975 graduate of Suffolk University law school. Before entering law school, he had been a high school history teacher in Massachusetts.
Before coming to Washington and joining O'Neill's staff, he had practiced law in Boston and had served as an executive assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin White (D). He had managed White's successful 1975 campaign for a third mayoral term.
With O'Neill, he became general counsel to the speaker, advising him not only on legal affairs but also on legislative, foreign and political questions. A measure of his closeness to the speaker may have been that he served as a pallbearer at O'Neill's funeral in 1994.
Over the years, Mr. O'Donnell had lectured at the Brookings Institution, American University, the business school of Columbia University and the Harvard University School of Government.
He also was a regular guest on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour on PBS, and had served on the "panel of experts" of the Wall Street Journal.
In 1986, he was a appointed to the Congressional Commission on Central America Negotiations.
Survivors include his wife of 26 years, Kathryn, a son, Brendan, and a daughter, Holly, all of Washington.
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