Lawrence Walsh, Iran-Contra Counsel, 'Played It Straight'

Document Type


Publication Title


Publication Date




Lawrence E. Walsh, who died on March 19 at age 102, was the 1980s Iran-Contra “independent counsel,” the special prosecutor of the biggest White House scandal and range of crimes since Watergate.

Walsh earned that appointment through his long career as a leading lawyer-statesman. In the 1930s, he prosecuted New York City mobsters. He became one of District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey’s prosecuting “boy scouts.” Walsh went to Albany when Dewey was elected governor in 1942, serving as deputy counsel and helping to run the state when Dewey twice was the Republican presidential candidate. In the early 1950s, Walsh returned to mob-fighting, heading New York’s Waterfront Commission.

In 1954, President Eisenhower appointed Walsh a federal judge. He left the bench in 1957 to become Deputy Attorney General. He ran the Department of Justice day to day, including major litigation and special matters such as southern school desegregation and pursuit of civil rights legislation.