Friday, November 29, 2013

Peter Murphy

Thank you to the Marine Corps.  Last week (on Saturday, 23 November) the Marines held a memorial service for a friend of mine: Peter Murphy.  Peter died last week (on the 15th) after several years of sickness – he was a good man, a good husband, a good father, a true friend and a real patriot.  He will be missed.

I first met Peter in the mid 80s, shortly after my brother and his wife moved into a townhouse in Alexandria.  The Murphys lived a few doors down and I met them shortly on my first visit to Washington that year (I think it was in the fall of 1985).  After that I seemed to meet him every time I came to Washington.  I began to make it a point that every time I was in the Pentagon I would go past his office.  Somehow it all seemed fine to me, though as I look back, it probably wasn’t.

Peter Murphy was appointed the legal counsel to the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1984 (a position he held until he retired in 2004) – I was a lieutenant in the Navy at the time.  He was, I suppose, the rough equivalent of a Vice Admiral, I was a (very) junior officer.  Yet every time I swung by his office he would stop what he was doing and spend time talking with me.  I suspect I swung by his office several dozen times over the course of the next 20 years, as well as meeting him frequently at my brother’s house.  The same stories were told by a host of figures: of a wise, kind and good man who loved his country, his friends and the Marines.  That he was an excellent counsel for the Marines is demonstrated by this one simple fact: he was Counsel to six different Commandants: Generals Kelly, Gray, Mundy, Krulak, Jones, and Hagee, and provided key counsel and advice to literally every single Marine 3 and 4 star officer for more than two decades.  If his advice was anything other than sterling it is doubtful that he would have survived working for such a collection of demanding figures.

Peter Murphy loved the Marines (I should note he also served in the Army in the 1960s), and one of my favorite stories is of a meeting of admirals and generals in the late 80s or early 90s during which the subject was the implementation of the management theory ‘Total Quality Management’ – though changed within the Navy Department to ‘Total Quality Leadership.’  There was a good deal of contention as to how it would be implemented, and what it would mean for the Marines.  As might be expected, there were some strong opinions from some Marines that this theory, which worked very well in some settings, perhaps wasn’t the right fit for the Marines, with a 200 year legacy of small unit leadership and adaptation in combat.  Peter said nothing until finally they were ‘going around the room’ asking if anyone had anything else to add.  And Peter said:

Well, the Marines were here for 200 years before TQL and I suspect that in 200 years the Marines will still be here.”  The Marines in ‘the back of the room’ began to hoot and bark as only Marines can.  The meeting was over.

Peter Murphy is a superb example of what everyone should want in a counselor: extreme professional competence, brains, unflappable demeanor, a true care for the organization and for those around him, and the willingness to always tell the truth.  It is an example we should all follow.

He was a good man and a true friend, and I will miss him.  May he Rest In Peace.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home