2005-11-17 / Front Page

‘Murphy was a Lawyer . . . and a Quahogger’

Island attorney takes on new role as author
By Donna K. Drago

‘Murphy was a Lawyer . . . and a Quahogger’

John A. Murphy has published a book of amusing quips called Murphy Was A Lawyer . . . And A Quahogger.” Photo by Donna John A. Murphy has published a book of amusing quips called Murphy Was A Lawyer . . . And A Quahogger.” Photo by Donna Growing up as he did, it’s fitting that Jamestown attorney John A. Murphy would find humor in his first effort at book publishing.

Murphy, the author of the Murphy’s Law section in each weekly issue of the Jamestown Press for more than a decade, has been collecting interesting facts about law and publishing them for many years. Now he has assembled the funniest and quirkiest among the facts into his newly released book “Murphy was a Lawyer . . . and a Quahogger.”

The title is in homage to his father, Neale D. Murphy. John Murphy remembers comically — from his childhood — when his father would hang a burlap sack around his waist, grab a quahog rake and plow through the muck in front of their East Shore Road summer home. He also remembers the great stories that his father would share about his work as a U.S. Marshal and federal court employee.

John Murphy said that he grew up thinking that some aspects of the law were funny. He recalled the dinner table conversations from his childhood, where public policy and politics were usually the subject of lively debate.

“My parents were constantly arguing and discussing — they were very intense,” Murphy said.

During these family discussions, “we always found lots that was funny,” Murphy added.

Murphy said that when his father would come home from the U.S. Marshal’s office —a position that entailed moving federal prisoners all over the country — some of the stories he shared were “hilarious,” even though the job was both “sad and dangerous.”

When he himself was a young attorney, Murphy soon learned that it was essential to have a sense of humor in the law business.

He recalled a case from his early days where a “balding hit man” locked up at the ACI was suing the prison for civil rights violations because he was not allowed to wear a wig.

Murphy said that the judge gave a four word decision in the case: “No rug in jug,” which made him realize that even seasoned judges had a sense of humor.

Over the past two years, Murphy has turned his collection of quips into an illustrated book that he published jointly with cartoonist Don Bousquet.

Murphy said that he met Bousquet some years ago in connection with their mutual interest in antique cars and realized then that the two had a lot in common: big families, southern Rhode Island roots, and both were graduates of LaSalle Academy in the ‘60s.

The book collaboration began with Murphy giving Bousquet “hundreds” of his legal quips “to see which of them inspired him” to create a cartoon. Out of the stacks, Bousquet has created more than 40 illustrations to accompany the short quips that come from Murphy’s readings and travels.

“I have stacks of this stuff,” Murphy said about his Murphy’s Law backlog. “I could do this forever,” he added.

The quips in the book are by the famous and not so famous. People like Will Rogers, who said, “Politics has got so expensive that it takes a lot of money to even get beat with”; to Hank Williams, who claimed, “You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.”

The likes of Thomas Jefferson, Duke Ellington, Abe Lincoln, and Ambrose Bierce are well represented in the pages of Murphy’s book.

An admitted perfectionist, Murphy said that he worked with editor Liz Abbott, a lawyer and former writer for the Providence Journal, and graphic artist Spencer Berger, of Jamestown, who Murphy called “a brilliant graphic designer” to put together the book, which sells for $19.95. It’s available at his law office on Narragansett Avenue, Murphy said, as well as at the Jamestown Press and most other retail stores in Jamestown.

The book’s recent release makes it a perfect holiday gift for everyone with a sharp wit and appreciation for Bousquet and Murphy’s dry sense of humor.

“I hope it sells,” Murphy said.

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