Allen C. Holmes, Activist for Community Enhancement, 19201990


When speaking to those who knew him, “indomitable” is the word most often used to describe Allen C. Holmes. Whether in law, business, community endeavors or the arts, Holmes would leverage his intelligence and intense drive to rise above any obstacles and achieve success. That included overcoming a serious, recurring disorder that troubled him his entire adult life: Guillan-Barre syndrome, in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

“Allen was one of the most cerebral businessmen I’ve ever had the privilege to work with,” said Dick Pogue, former managing partner of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. “He had a comprehensive, catholic knowledge of almost everything, was a man of great energy and integrity, and he was a real leader in our community.”

Born in Bethel, Ohio, Holmes received his bachelor of arts from the University of Cincinnati (1941) and juris doctor from the University of Michigan (1944), where he was a law review editor and a member of the Order of the Coif. Shortly after graduating from Michigan, Holmes began practicing law at the Cleveland firm then known as Jones, Day, Cockley & Reavis, where he went on to become a nationally recognized expert in antitrust law, which had begun to emerge as a major practice area under the aggressive government prosecutorial thrust of U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thurman Arnold during the 1940s. Holmes went on to become a leader of the antitrust bar and chaired the antitrust section of the American Bar Association.

During his more than 40 years at Jones Day, of which he became managing partner in 1975, Holmes demonstrated that he was ahead of his time in his perception of law as more of a business than a profession.

“Before 1975, the practice of law was regarded as a 'learned profession’ and, as such, was exempt from the antitrust laws, which applied only to a ‘trade or business,’” Pogue explained. “In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court shocked the profession by declaring it a business (as well as a learned profession), thus dramatically changing the way in which law firms conducted themselves.  Holmes was prescient among lawyers in envisaging the tremendous implications of this decision.”

Holmes’s vision and commitment helped build his firm into a national organization, which, 25 years after his retirement in 1986, employed more than 2,400 attorneys and maintained offices in 31 cities around the globe, making it one of the world’s largest law firms.

In 1981, Town & Country magazine named Holmes the most powerful man in Cleveland. Other kudos included the Statesman Award from the Harvard Business School Club of Cleveland (1982), the Charles Eisenmann Award from the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland (1983) and the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews (1987).

Among his deepest passions were the arts, and over the years he contributed a significant amount of his time and leadership skills to the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra. He also frequently attended art, music and ballet events, and he subscribed to several art journals and “studied them with a care that was reflected in his knowledgeable conversation,” according to a chapter dedicated to Holmes in a history of Jones Day.

Perhaps his greatest enthusiasm, however, was his interest in gourmet foods and fine wines. For 25 years he and his wife, Louise, belonged to the Wine & Food Society, which recognized Holmes with several gold and silver medals for his expertise, and he eventually became one of the first Americans to serve as the organization’s international president.

Additionally, he held several leadership positions on the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) board of trustees on which he served from 1971 until his death in 1990. He also chaired the board of Cleveland's PBS station, WVIZ-TV Channel 25, and headed the Kulas Foundation, dedicated to music education, institutions and performances. His civic activities and corporate directorships are too numerous to mention.

No matter how severe the periodic attacks of his disease became, Holmes always continued to conduct business, even during the 12-month period he was laid up in an intensive care unit at University Hospitals of Cleveland in 1984.

“He was the bravest patient I’ve ever had,” observed Robert Daroff, MD, who was Holmes’s neurologist at University Hospitals. “He was basically running the city of Cleveland from his hospital room. He had his secretary working there, and appointments were scheduled with corporate executives and the mayor and clients who needed his advice.”

“Despite his terrible affliction and total paralysis, his mind never stopped working,” recalled Pogue, who would visit him every Sunday to discuss company business. “Even then, he always had great ideas and insights into everything that was going on.”

Allen and Louise, who married on September 2, 1944, had four sons. Holmes died at 70 in his home in Bratenahl, and in his memory, CWRU established the Allen C. and Louise Q. Holmes Endowment Fund.

—Christopher Johnston



Cleveland Arts Prize
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