Michael J. Dowd Jr., a former division chief at the D.C. Corp. Counsel, died July 28 at Georgetown Hospital from complications due to pneumonia. He was 72. Mr. Dowd joined the counsel in 1965 after a three-year stint as an investigator for the Agriculture Department. A brilliant prosecutor, he was named chief of the Juvenile Division in 1971 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1984. Restless, after a year, he returned to handle court-appointed cases as a defense attorney.
Mr. Dowd was the eldest child and namesake of Metropolitan Police Department Inspector Mike Dowd. He was the only one of the five siblings to follow his father into law enforcement. His father was in charge of security for the U.S. Senate, and Mr. Dowd soon joined him, becoming a Capitol Page in 1948, running errands for Prescott Bush, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He stayed in summer and part-time jobs in the Senate as a page, elevator operator and finally in the Senate post office through law school in 1961.
Mr. Dowd was born on Memorial Day in 1935. He won a partial scholarship to Priory School (St. Anselm’s Abbey School) where he played soccer and appeared in school plays. He graduated in 1953 and enrolled at Catholic University. He majored in history because he felt that would best prepare him to study the law. He enrolled at Georgetown Law School, took time off to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1960 and received his law degree from Catholic University in 1962.
He married Judith Ann Donovan, an assistant D.C. Corp. Counsel, in his office in 1969. They shared a love for travel, classical music, restaurants and 1940s movies. Charter members of the American Film Institute, they could be seen up to three times a week in AFI’s garage-like home at the Kennedy Center. Mr. Dowd also was the top confidant from childhood of his sister, Maureen Dowd, the New York Times columnist. Later, he would practice the same advocacy with his nieces and nephews, offering advice and counsel on academics, social problems and sharing funny moments about their parents own youthful indiscretions. Asked if he had “Googled” a research paper, his nephew Brian replied, “No, I called Uncle Michael. It is faster, and there is a lot less useless information.”
Mr. Dowd was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 2002 from numerous blood transfusions 30 years earlier. He underwent a successful liver transplant in 2003 with an organ donated by his niece, Jennifer.
Survivors include his wife of 38 years, Judith, of the District; four siblings, Martin, of Burtonsville, Kevin, of Rockville, and Peggy and Maureen of the District; and 11 nieces and nephews. A memorial Mass will be celebrated Thursday, Aug. 2, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church at 10 a.m.