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Donor Biography

Henry Holbrook Shepard

A gavel rests on an open law book with a justice scale in the background.

He had a law office on Wall Street, but who was Henry H. Shepard? His Fund at The Trust supports a variety of New York City nonprofits.

Henry Holbrook Shepard (1895-1996)

Henry Holbrook Shepard maintained a solo law practice for years at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan and was a prolific letters-to-the-editor writer. He also was an enigma.

Henry was born September 26, 1895, in Florida, according to his profile on; his parents are not identified. His 1941 draft card says he was born in New York City.

Around 1934, Henry married Diana Blake, daughter of Maxwell Blake, U.S. consul general at Tangier, Morocco.  In April 1936, she sued for divorce in Reno, Nevada.

The following year, Henry and Margaret Jane Whittaker were married at the Boston home of her parents, Ervin and Belle Whittaker.  They made their home in Manhasset, Long Island.  This is where Henry’s life story gets confusing.

Their marriage announcement said Henry was a graduate of the Hotchkiss School, a private boarding school in Pennsylvania, but the school has no record of him. The announcement also said he was a “naval aviator” in World War I, but the medal he was awarded in March 1944 listed him as a yeoman first class in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force. He received an honorable discharge from the Navy on November 18, 1918, although records indicate he used the alias “Shapiro-Herman Hyman” and the name was changed to “Shepard, Henry Holbrook” by court order on May 23, 1942.

Finally, the wedding announcement said he graduated from Yale Law School, but again, there’s no record he attended Yale. However, a directory of Yale alumni includes a Henry H. Shepard who graduated in 1891 with a science degree, a library services assistant wrote in an email. “I do not believe this is the same person you’re looking for, but potentially his father.”

Harry was admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 1928, but never registered with the association, according to the bar’s records department. In November 1938, he was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

Occasionally, Henry’s legal work made sensational headlines. A March 1937 story in The Daily News, “Suit Bares Marriage of Heir, 25, and Woman, 41,” reported the scandalous details of a millionaire’s grandson’s love life and drinking sprees.  Henry represented the grandson in divorce proceedings. The following year, the Daily News reported that Henry was sued for $20,000 in damages for assaulting the woman’s lawyer outside the courtroom. Henry countersued for $50,000, claiming the other lawyer defamed him and that he acted in self-defense.

Some of Henry’s most thought-provoking—and conservative—opinions were printed as letters to the editor of The New York Times and The Daily News. Some examples:

Daily News, July 3, 1959: “About every time the Democrats get in office, they involve us in a bloody war on one pretext or another. Moreover, the Democrats have never come close to licking the unemployment problem except by way of wars.”

New York Times, October 24, 1973: “I believe that some elements of the U.S. Senate are guilty of what amounts to Congressional blackmail … with respect to the designation of Representative Ford as Vice President, several prominent Democratic senators, including the notorious Ted Kennedy, have expressed unwillingness to consider and confirm the acclaimed nomination unless Mr. Ford agrees to condemn the President’s refusal to release the much‐debated White House tapes. This suggests senatorial tyranny.”

New York Times, July 14, 1975: “The City of New York should be immediately placed in receivership as manifestly those in charge [the administration of Mayor Abe Beame] are incompetent and perhaps too dishonest to deal intelligently and truthfully with its affairs.”

New York Times, July 24, 1976: “Former U.S. Senator Joseph S. Clark, in extolling the ‘virtues’ of his political party, concludes with characteristic campaign rhetoric, in defiance of truth and history: ‘The Democratic Party is for peace and international understanding, not for an international military crusade.’ Sadly, the war score in my lifetime is Democrats 4 and Republicans 0, as the so-called advocates for peace led us into two World Wars … plus the Korean ‘police action’ and the Vietnam tragedy.”

And finally…

New York Times, January 3, 1977: “I consider utterly irresponsible and downright obscene the action taken yesterday by the Democrats in the U.S. Senate in lavishing special and extraordinary privileges on Senator Hubert Humphrey after first voting to defeat his bid for majority leader, including overgenerous enhancement of his salary, increase in his spacious office quarters and staff, a chauffeured automobile and a new honorary title, all at the expense of overburdened taxpayers.”

Henry was a generous donor to the New York Philharmonic, and he endowed a fund in the New York Bar Foundation. “Mr. Shepard practiced law as a sole practitioner for most of his career having had offices at 40 Wall Street in New York City for many years,” the foundation’s website said. “He was a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale Law School. Mr. Shepard was very proud of being an attorney and of the legal profession.”  Amanda Hawke, public services manager in MIT’s Register of Former Students and Alumni Directories, said they have no record of Henry Holbrook Shepard, although they do have a Henry Bradbury Shepard from East Derry, New Hampshire, who graduated in 1916.

Henry H. Shepard died July 10, 1996, two months shy of his 101st birthday.  Jane passed away in March 2004. She was 89.

An unrestricted fund in his name has let The Trust support agencies as varied as Family Service League of Long Island, New York Legal Assistance Group, and Latina Sister’s Support.