Francis H. Fox

Francis Haney Fox, Esq., died on September 6, 2023 after a lengthy illness. Francis (Fran) was born on May 28, 1933 to Francis J. Fox, Esq., of Mansfield, MA, and Mary Brady of Uxbridge, MA, spending his childhood in Mansfield. He and his wife Cynthia raised their four children in Sharon, MA; summered in Falmouth at their loud and much-loved old house on Wild Harbor; and enjoyed their beautiful winter residence on Singer Island, FL.

Fran graduated from Coyle High School in 1951. After high school, he attended Holy Cross College (Class of 1955) before graduating from Harvard Law School in 1963. Following his graduation from Holy Cross (where he participated in the U.S. Navy ROTC), Fran entered active duty as a naval aviator, specializing in reconnaissance. After fulfilling his active duty commitment, Fran remained in the naval reserves, where he served 20+ years as a squadron commander at Weymouth Naval Air Station, ultimately retiring with the rank of Captain.

During his naval career, Fran conducted countless surveillance sorties over the Atlantic, operating from his home base and various aircraft carriers at sea. During the Cuban Missile Crisis era, he flew S2’s in formation, patrolling for Russian submarines. He cut short those sorties only once, after his superiors radioed to warn him he was “in trouble” with his father in law, “who says your wife is about to give birth to your first child in a taxi.” This story he left on that child’s answering machine every birthday for decades.

Inspired by his grandfather, Judge Francis P. Brady, Fran pursued a career in law. In 1963, he joined Bingham Dana and Gould (later Bingham McCutchen). During his career at Bingham, Fran was known as a highly skilled litigator, specializing in federal appeals court cases. His two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court (both of which were wins), drew praise from Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and William Brennan, who independently of each other remarked that he was one of the most eloquent attorneys ever to argue in their court. He was also the longest running member of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Federal Rules of Civil Procedure committee, continually re-appointed by the Chief Justice. Fran garnered attention from the legal community, and the media, for his successful advocacy in many high-profile cases. In one such case, Fran defended the Boston Globe from a libel suit levied by a gubernatorial candidate who erroneously claimed to have graduated Harvard, and was unhappy when the Globe exposed the error. “How,” Fran asked earnestly, in one of the more famous lines from that trial, “does a person forget he didn’t go to Harvard?” Fran was renowned at his firm, and throughout the legal profession, for his ferocious research skills, litigatory prowess, and sharp wit. During the Globe libel trial, the Boston Herald was so impressed with his curt tongue, and militantly shined shoes and short hair, it dubbed him “Haircut Fox.” (This nickname would persist for decades. Even in recent weeks, he would merrily bark at visiting Bingham partners: “You need a haircut!”) Fran was a great-nephew of Al Fox, who started out as a teenager at the Boston Globe in 1874 and became the acclaimed managing editor of the fabled literary newspaper the Paris Herald during WWI, as reported in the New York Times. Growing up on tales of Al Fox’s derring-do helped ignite Fran’s lifelong interest in, and championship of, First Amendment issues and law.

After retirement, Fran charged into the wilds of genealogy. He had always meant to dabble in it, but as was his style, he ended up laboring hard at--and mastering--it. He unraveled tangled webs of church records, municipal accounts, personal diaries, and ship manifests on different continents to thread together a massive narrative of his extended family’s Irish heritage, going back centuries. For years he added to, and double-checked, his findings. The tidy manuscript became a small book and then, in November 2019, emerged as a brilliantly worded, meticulously footnoted masterpiece.

Fran was the beloved husband of Sandra Lynch Fox and the late Cynthia Ann Blundell Fox; the beloved father of Cynthia Francis Fox (Brooklyn, NY); Francis Martin Fox, Esq., (wife Cathleen P. Walsh Fox) (Mansfield); Matthew Blundell Fox (Falmouth); and Kala Fox Danca (husband John Joseph Danca) (Mansfield). He was beloved grandfather to Maeve Megan Danca, Barry Jack Fox, Cynthia Ann Danca, Liam Raymond Fox, Brady P. Margaret Fox, Mikaela Anne McGonigle, and Teagan Ann Fox. A wake will be held Sunday September 10, 2023, at the Sherman and Jackson funeral home, 55 N. Main St., Mansfield, from 2-5 pm, followed by a reception. The funeral will be held Monday September 11, at 11 am at Our Lady of Sorrows, 59 Cottage St., Sharon, followed by a funeral procession ending at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Falmouth, followed by a second reception In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Constitution Museum in Boston, MA, where he served on the board.
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