A personal recollection of Frank Grinnell

Issue January 2011

In his 1993 book, Hale and Dorr Backgrounds & Styles, John A. Dolan wrote about joining the firm in 1948 and meeting Frank W. Grinnell. Grinnell maintained an office at Hale and Dorr despite devoting his time to the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Judicial Council of Massachusetts and other organizations.

He was then 75 years of age, an alert, vigorous, distinguished gentleman with a shaggy handlebar mustache, bushy eyebrows and rumpled gray hair. He wore an old, dark felt hat, all bent out of shape. Before going out in colder weather, he wrapped a large, long colorful scarf around his neck. His was a fast and crisp walk. He always seemed very busy. For an outdoor hobby, he enjoyed serious mountain climbing.

He often seemed so absorbed in a particular project of the moment that nothing else was of any importance to him. Frank often was deeply caught up in thought, his mind straining and speeding from one distant point to another, even more remote one.

He was not a neat sort of man nor was his office: books, files, folders, letters, periodicals, newspapers, notepads, clothes, pipes, tobacco and boxes of cherished cigars were piled high and every which way on his desk, table and chairs, and even on the floor to the four corners of his private world. His desk and table drawers were always stuffed full. There was a clear understanding that no item in Frank's office was ever to be moved or removed by any person. Most of the time, Frank was able to somehow locate in only a few minutes whatever it was he needed. His filing system worked well for him. As for his head, there he was surprising; no clutter there. He read more, wrote more, and he just plain thought more than most are able to.

I remember Frank in his later years as articulate, knowledgeable, erudite and always friendly, always willing to take the time for lawyers and to talk with whomever dropped into his office. He was gentle and caring and always charming. Frank was strongly self-confident and definite in style. But he never patronized. Nor was he ever a braggart. He did not speak of all that he knew, of all that he had done.