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The Biography of Walter O'Malley



The Early Years
Walter Francis O’Malley, son of Edwin Joseph and Alma Feltner O’Malley, was born in the Bronx, New York on October 9, 1903. Although he was an only child, he had many cousins nearby because his mother was one of eight sisters and brothers and the O’Malley family, originally from County Mayo, Ireland, numbered 14. Ed O’Malley was the third oldest, became a dry goods merchant and later was appointed the New York City Commissioner of Public Markets. Walter was a baseball fan of the New York Giants as a youngster, frequenting the old Polo Grounds with his uncle Clarence Feltner. When his parents moved from the Bronx when he was seven, O’Malley attended Public School No. 35 in Hollis, Long Island. O’Malley enjoyed the freedom of the outdoors, including hunting, swimming, fishing and boating. He was also active in Boy Scouts, an organization which had a profound influence on him.
After attending New York’s Jamaica High School for two years (1918-20), O’Malley’s parents enrolled him at Culver Military Academy in Culver, IN. It was as a cadet at Culver that he wrote about sports and became associate editor for the student newspaper. He tried to play baseball at Culver, but the bespectacled first baseman’s career was cut short, however, as he was hit on the nose by a ball.
O’Malley next attended the University of Pennsylvania, where his leadership abilities, outgoing personality and understanding of politics guided him to become elected twice as class president, his junior and senior years, and the school’s first back-to-back winner in 25 years. At Penn, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree while focusing his studies on elective subjects that would lay the groundwork for a possible career in engineering. O’Malley served on the council on athletics, choosing to oversee baseball rather than the more prominent football program. He chaired the Penniman Bowl contest for two years, was President of the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity and a member of the Scabbard and Blade Honorary Military Fraternity. He graduated as the outstanding overall student at Penn in 1926, receiving the prestigious “Spoon Man” award and was the senior class Salutatorian. In 1926, O’Malley attended Columbia Law School in New York, where he enrolled prior to his father, Edwin, losing the family’s savings in the stock market crash and Depression.

As the winner of the prestigious “Spoon Man” award at the University of Pennsylvania in 1926, Walter O’Malley graduates as the outstanding overall student in his senior class.

He worked three day-jobs as a junior engineer for the city of New York Board of Transportation, and also as a surveyor (for the city and he started his own company), while resuming his law studies at night at Fordham University. After earning his law degree on October 15, 1930, O’Malley founded and edited the “Sub-Contractors Register,” a directory useful to builders in 1931, and he wrote a law guide explaining the New York City Building Code.
On September 5, 1931, O’Malley married his childhood sweetheart Kay Hanson, in St. Malachy’s Church in New York. The Hanson family and the O’Malleys were neighbors on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island and a romance developed between the “girl next door” and her Prince Charming. In 1927, Kay was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and underwent experimental surgery and as a result, she was unable to speak above a whisper. However, O’Malley knew that she was the “same girl I fell in love with”1 and they were united.
O’Malley shifted his focus from engineering to begin his law practice in New York’s Lincoln Building, specializing in corporate reorganization. He was sworn in on April 10, 1933 in Manhattan’s 1st Judicial Department. That same year, the first of the O’Malley’s two children, daughter Terry, was born. Their son Peter was born in 1937. The family lived in an apartment on St. Marks Avenue in Brooklyn, and O’Malley purchased Dodger season tickets at Ebbets Field for family enjoyment and the entertainment of clients.

1 Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1979



Young Walter (circa 1907) with his parents Edwin J. O’Malley and Alma Feltner O’Malley.


Walter O’Malley proudly wears his Boy Scouts of America uniform (circa 1916).


The “Spoon Man” Award at the University of Pennsylvania in 1926 reads “Honor Award Presented To Walter Francis O’Malley, Spoon Man, By The Class Of 1926.”


On their honeymoon in 1931, O’Malley, 27, and his bride, Kay Hanson O’Malley, 24, take a carriage ride. The two were childhood friends and neighbors.

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