Francis J. Kearful

  1. Ernest Knaebel
  2. Francis J. Kearful
  3. Frank K. Nebeker
  4. Leslie C. Garnett
  5. William D. Riter
  6. Ira K. Wells
  7. Bertice M. Parmenter
  8. Seth W. Richardson
  9. Harry W. Blair
  10. Carl McFarland
  11. Norman Littell
  12. David L. Bazelon
  13. Augustus "Gus" Vanech
  14. William Amory Underhill
  15. James M. McInerney
  16. Perry W. Morton
  17. Ramsey Clark
  18. Edwin L. Weisl, Jr.
  19. Clyde O. Martz
  20. Shiro Kashiwa
  21. Kent Frizzell
  22. Wallace H. Johnson
  23. Peter Taft
  24. James W. Moorman
  25. Carol Dinkins
  26. F. Henry “Hank” Habicht, II
  27. Roger J. Marzulla
  28. Richard B. Stewart
  29. Lois Jane Schiffer
  30. Thomas L. Sansonetti
  31. Sue Ellen Wooldridge
  32. Ronald J. Tenpas
  33. Ignacia S. Moreno
  34. John C. Cruden
  35. Jeffrey Bossert Clark

Francis J. Kearful (1917-1919)

Early History/Schooling:  Francis Joseph Kearful was born in St. Joseph, Missouri on June 28, 1871 to Charles and Phoebe Kearful.  He attended Yale Law School, graduating in 1896.  He wrote a 240-page entry for the 1902 Cyclopedia of Law and Procedure, Vol. III on “Arbitration and Award.”

Tenure as AAG:  President Wilson nominated Kearful to be AAG in 1917.  During his tenure, Kearful oversaw litigation over control of the Elk Hills oil lands and, in March 1919, argued that case before the Supreme Court (United States v. Southern Pacific Co., 251 U.S. 1).  Kearful contended that the railroad company had fraudulently obtained a patent by asserting that the lands were not mineral but agricultural (when it was known that they were mineral) and sought to cancel the patent.  The Supreme Court sided with the Justice Department and Elk Hills was returned to United States’ control.  The same lands would later be embroiled in the Teapot Dome and Interior Department leasing scandals.  In June 1919, the new Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer suggested Kearful leave his post.  Kearful had diligently prosecuted several land, mineral, and railroad suits in California against big companies.  Kearful left the Justice Department in June 1919, and Palmer dropped several of the lawsuits.

Career: In 1913, Kearful opened a law office in Mexico City.  Soon after leaving the Department, Kearful began to work for the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Relations, playing a significant role as counsel and examiner for an investigation of Mexican affairs.  In 1919, U.S.-Mexico relations, already strained by numerous incidents, were further exacerbated by the potential instability of post-revolutionary Mexico.  In 1920, Kearful subpoenaed several prominent Mexicans to testify before the Subcommittee, for allegedly spreading a report that President Wilson or Secretary of State Robert Lansing had personally posted bail to release American Consulate William Jenkins from a Puebla jail.

Personal:  Kearful was an active member of the Democratic party and lived in Brookline, Massachusetts. 

This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources, and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.  If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Division, please contact ENRD.

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Francis J. Kearful
Updated November 28, 2018

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