The History of Pepper Hamilton From 1955 - Present
Shortly after the merger of the Pepper and Evans firms, George Wharton Pepper retired from practice because of failing health. In 1955, he was succeeded as chairman of the firm by John D.M. Hamilton.
Mr. Hamilton was raised in Topeka, Kansas, where his father was general counsel of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Upon graduation from preparatory school in 1913, he stopped in Chicago to see his father’s friend, Dean Wigmore, who promptly invited him to enroll in Northwestern University Law School.
He went on to become Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives and State Republican Chairman. In 1936, following the nomination of then-Governor Alf Landon to run against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Hamilton was appointed chairman of the Republican National Committee. Landon lost the election in a landslide, but Mr. Hamilton continued as chairman of the Republican National Committee until 1940, due in large part to the considerable help of a freshman Illinois congressman, Everett Dirksen, whose eloquent support turned back several efforts to replace Mr. Hamilton.
Mr. Hamilton personally visited 3,000 GOP county chairmen during his four-year term, and, in the process, eliminated the huge Landon campaign debt. Mr. Hamilton presided at the 1940 Republican National Convention that nominated Wendell Willkie to run against Roosevelt. When, according to well-established custom, Willkie picked his own national party chairman, Mr. Hamilton retired from active politics. At the urging of members of Philadelphia’s Pew family, he came to Philadelphia, rather than return to Kansas, and joined the Pepper firm. Even in private practice, he remained an active and shrewd observer of the political scene. He was a consummate raconteur of political stories, and in the days before timesheets, partners and associates drifted into his office for impromptu gatherings where they heard Mr. Hamilton tell tales of political lore.
Mr. Hamilton received national and international attention again in 1950, when he was appointed to represent Harry Gold, a Philadelphia chemist and confessed courier in the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg network that passed atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. These were the times of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and it was important to our legal system that prominent lawyers like Mr. Hamilton undertake unpopular representations to preserve constitutional rights. Mr. Hamilton, together with young associate Augustus S. Ballard, provided a zealous representation, and Gold’s rights were protected. Gold was released from prison in 1966 and died sometime thereafter. As a poignant footnote, Joseph Gold, the defendant’s brother, bequeathed one-third of his estate, $50,000, to the University of Pennsylvania Law School in honor of the Pepper lawyers who defended his brother.
In 1960, the firm merged once again, taking in the firm of Moffett, Frye & Leopold, founded by Francis S. McIlheney, who had been engaged to incorporate the Sun Oil Company in 1902. This merger brought to the firm our first female partner, Roberta P. McKinney.
In 1964, Mr. Hamilton was succeeded as chairman by Ernest Scott, a fiduciary and corporate practitioner. Mr. Scott was prominent in community service: he became chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Executive Committee of the United Way.
Philip H. Strubing succeeded Mr. Scott as chairman in 1971, and John B.H. Carter became the firm’s vice chairman at the same time. Mr. Strubing had been a quarterback at Princeton and captain of its baseball team. He served as counsel to, and the president of, the United States Golf Association. Mr. Carter had been a boxer at the University of Virginia and a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. He was the first chairman of the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission. Mr. Strubing and Mr. Carter were both superb trial lawyers, each with a different style. They successfully tried cases of all kinds and enjoyed a friendly rivalry in the best tradition of competitive litigators. It was a privilege for an associate to work with them. Their approach to advocacy, insistence on quality and integrity, and absolute respect for the court provided an excellent “boot camp” for young Pepper associates. John Carter died in 1972, and Phil Strubing retired in the mid-1970’s; he was succeeded by Augustus S. Ballard (the young associate mentioned earlier in the Gold spy case) as the firm’s chairman.
Gus Ballard’s years as chairman (1974-1982) and co-chair (1982-1986) were marked by the opening and strengthening of offices outside of Philadelphia and by accelerated growth. Mr. Ballard is a member of Philadelphia’s premier legal family. His grandfather and father founded another prominent Philadelphia law firm, and his uncle founded a Chicago law firm. Every one of his three brothers became an influential partner in a major Philadelphia law firm.
Mr. Ballard was a creative corporate counselor whose clients included Sun Company, The Glenmede Trust Company and The Curtis Publishing Company. A man of consummate good will and good humor, many relied on his advice, to their ultimate advantage. He was instrumental in the firm’s role in creating the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail). Mr. Ballard retired as an active partner in 1989, and served the firm in an “of counsel” role through 1995.
John G. Harkins, Jr. became co-chair in 1982 and succeeded to the chair in 1986, where he served until 1992. In common with certain of his predecessors, he was editor-in-chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. In his early years as a lawyer, he had the privilege of carrying the trial bags of Messrs. Hamilton, Strubing and Carter. He quickly established a position of his own at the trial bar and presided over a period of rapid growth of the firm.
Mr. Harkins left the firm in 1992, and was succeeded by William R. Klaus and Edward W. Madeira, Jr., who served as co-chairmen of the Pepper firm until 1994. Mr. Klaus, an experienced corporate practitioner, and Mr. Madeira, an able trial lawyer, served as co-chairmen while the firm reorganized its leadership structure. As part of that reorganization, the firm created the position of executive partner, responsible for overall management of the firm. It also established a policy-setting executive committee.
Mr. Klaus and Mr. Madeira were named chairmen emeritus of Pepper Hamilton in 1994. Mr. Klaus retired from the practice of law in 1996, and died in 2005. Mr. Madeira continues to serve the firm as senior counsel in the health effects litigation practice, and is very active in efforts to improve the legal profession and the judiciary.
Barbara W. Mather was elected the firm’s first executive partner in late 1992, and was among the first women to become the chief executive of a major law firm in the United States. Ms. Mather, a former city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia and a trial lawyer of great renown, maintained an active litigation practice while serving as executive partner for two years. She served as chair and co-chair of the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department from 1998-2008. She continues to be active in firm leadership.
Jon A. Baughman was elected chairman of the executive committee in early 1993. Mr. Baughman is a highly regarded trial lawyer who served as chairman of the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department and chairman of the intellectual property practice. In 2006, Mr. Baughman announced his retirement from active practice.
Ms. Mather and Mr. Baughman were steady hands on the tiller as the firm continued to grow.
James L. Murray was elected executive partner effective January 1, 1995, and continued in that role for eight years, through 2002. Mr. Murray, a corporate lawyer of prescient vision, was among the first to recognize the enormous growth potential of the Philadelphia suburbs and established Pepper’s successful Berwyn office in 1984. Pepper was one of the first Philadelphia firms to establish a flourishing outpost in the western suburbs. After stepping down as executive partner, Mr. Murray resumed his law practice.
Mr. Baughman was succeeded as chairman of the executive committee in 1995 by Barry M. Abelson. A renowned corporate lawyer, Mr. Abelson brought new energy and growth to the firm when he joined Pepper in 1992, after more than a decade of leading smaller firms that he had co-founded.
Mr. Murray was succeeded as executive partner by Robert E. Heideck, a respected Litigation partner. Mr. Heideck was elected executive partner effective January 1, 2003 and continued in that role for ten years until December 31, 2012. During his tenure, the firm substantially improved its financial performance and opened new offices in New York, Boston and Southern California. After stepping down as executive partner, Mr. Heideck returned to the practice of law.
Nina M. Gussack chaired Pepper’s Executive Committee from 2007 through 2013; the first woman in the firm’s history to hold that position and one of the few women chief executives of a major law firm in the country. Ms. Gussack, chair of Pepper’s pharmaceutical and medical device litigation and counseling practice since 1995, is a prominent, nationally recognized practitioner in products liability litigation.
In 2012, Pepper again broke the mold by naming a non-lawyer as the firm's chief executive officer. Scott Green is among the first non-lawyers in the country to be named CEO of a major firm. He is responsible for business strategy and operations of the firm.
On September 1, 2012, the firm expanded again with the addition of former FBI Director and federal judge Louis J. Freeh and two firms he founded, the law firm of Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP and the international risk management firm Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC (FGIS). FGIS continues to operate independently of the Pepper firm.
In 2013, Mr. Freeh was elected chair of Pepper’s Executive Committee. The Executive Committee elected two vice chairs, Julia D. Corelli and Thomas M. Gallagher. Ms. Corelli is a Corporate and Securities lawyer and co-chair of Pepper’s Commercial Department. Mr. Gallagher is a litigator and chair of the firm’s White Collar Litigation and Investigations Practice Group.
In 2013, Pepper redefined the role of managing partner and elected Thomas J. Cole, Jr., a highly-respected Labor and Employment Practice Group partner, to that position.
Under the leadership of Mr. Freeh, Mr. Cole, Mr. Green and other firm leaders, the firm continues to chart a course for growth, while retaining the core values and traditions that make Pepper Hamilton the firm that it is.
The History of Pepper Hamilton From 1890-1955