U.S. District Judge, John Conway dies at 79

Washburn alumnus John Edward Conway dies at 79. He graduated from Washburn in 1963.

Former senator, senior federal judge and Washburn Law graduate of 1963 John Edwards Conway died at home June 1 after an illness at age 79.

Conway was a U.S. district judge in Albuquerque, N.M. Edwards was born in Joplin, Mo. but grew up in Paola, Kan., where his grandparents lived.

Conway graduated first in his class and Magna Cum Laude from Washburn University School of Law. He was also the editor of the Washburn Law Journal, the president of the student bar association and a member of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity. Prior to law school Conway went to the U.S. Naval Academy, but afterward joined the Air force to become a jet pilot.

In the late ’60s he settled in New Mexico where he practiced law in Santa Fe and later moved to Alamogordo where he became city attorney. In the 1970s, Conway became a New Mexico state senator for 10 years and served as the minority floor leader for eight of those years. Conway, a Republican, was known for his ability to reach out to and work with Democrats while in office.

He was managing partner of the Albuquerque office of Montgomery and Andrews’s Law Firm when in June of 1986 Ronald Reagan asked Conway to become a  U.S. district judge. He was sworn in July 6, 1986. Known for his stern countenance in court, after a trial he would invite willing jurors to listen to the recording of the call from President Reagan on his appointment to the U.S. District Court.

Conway was on the New Mexico Governor’s Organized Crime Commission and was appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court in Washington D.C. by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He served there for five years.

Considered to be a conservative judge, Conway made many progressive decisions. He worked on a range of legislation such as the right to die and a bill package for implementing the Equal Rights Amendment to the state of New Mexico in 1972.

“He was a promoter of women in the profession and a promoter of choice,” said Ann Maloney Conway, Conway’s wife.

In a letter following his death, Chief Judge M. Christina Armijo ordered the flags outside the courthouses of the U.S. District Court for the district of New Mexico to be flown at half-staff. Armijo remembered how during Conway’s term in the New Mexico legislature he “successfully led a bipartisan effort to modernize the State Criminal code, the Eminent Domain Code and the Probate Code.”

Conway was known for his high profile cases but also his camaraderie.  He installed a patio with a grill at the Federal Courthouse and each year the parties who had lost their bet on the Army-Navy game had to supply steaks for a barbecue. He was also known for inviting the defense and prosecuting lawyers to his home for dinner at the end of a trial.