William P. Quinn, 91, of West Chester, a Philadelphia lawyer for a half-century and an authority on railroad law, died Monday, April 30, of congestive heart failure at his home.

William P. Quinn
Courtesy of the family
William P. Quinn

Born in Scranton, Mr. Quinn attended St. Paul School there. In 1944, his senior year, he won a scholarship in the American Legion's statewide oratorical contest. The prize paid all four years of his tuition at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1949. Three years later, he graduated from the university's law school.

Mr. Quinn began his career with the Reading Co. in 1955. Much of his work entailed protecting the railroad's tracks from being acquired by other companies.

"The Baltimore & Ohio and the Chesapeake & Ohio were sister railroads and wanted to take over," said Joseph O'Malley, a lawyer who also started his career at Reading. "Bill prevented the takeover."

"He was a real ace in my mind," O'Malley said.

In 1968, Mr. Quinn went into private practice. In 1976, he moved to the Center City law firm of Fell, Spalding, Goff & Rubin, which broke apart in 1983, when Mr. Quinn became a founding partner of Rubin, Quinn & Moss. When that firm disbanded in 1993, he and colleague Eric Hocky, who also specialized in railroad law, joined another firm based in Center City, Gollatz, Griffin & Ewing, P.C.. Mr. Quinn retired in 2003.

Hocky, now with the Philadelphia firm of Clark Hill PLC, said Mr. Quinn was grounded in the law and carefully applied it. "He had the ability to write clearly and persuasively," Hocky said, "both in the contracts he drafted and in the legal briefs he wrote to the Interstate Commerce Commission and to the courts."

William P. Quinn as a younger man.
Courtesy of the family
William P. Quinn as a younger man.

Mr. Quinn's relationship with clients went beyond legal matters, Hocky said. They looked to him as a moral compass. "He told them what was right, even if it was not what they wanted to hear," Hocky said. "He set a high standard for himself, his clients, his colleagues, and the legal profession."

Mr. Quinn's son, William P. Jr., also became a lawyer in a Philadelphia firm, joining Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he is senior counsel.

"My father's integrity, exceptionally sharp mind, and dedication to the craft of lawyering made a deep impression on me and inspired me to follow in his footsteps," the younger Quinn said.

Mr. Quinn and his wife, Katharine A. Curtin, who died last October, had seven children whom they raised in Glenside. They opened an ice cream parlor, À la Mode, in Ocean City, N.J., as a way for their children to earn money for college.

"My father came to the Shore on weekends, and after working all week in his law practice, sometimes ended up busing tables at Á la Mode," said daughter Laura Wood, a former Inquirer staff writer and the wife of Anthony R. Wood, an Inquirer writer and editor.

Mr. Quinn had a commanding presence, with a resonant voice and matching laugh. "He was the undisputed chairman of the dinner table. At our wedding, when he was handed a microphone for his toast, he said he didn't need it," Anthony Wood said.

Mr. Quinn and his wife subscribed to the Philadelphia Orchestra for 40 years. In the 1980s, they hosted a family of Vietnamese refugees in their home. They tutored at St. Gabriel's Hall in Audubon, Montgomery County. They toured the United States, Europe and Asia.

In addition to his son and daughter, Mr. Quinn is survived by daughters, Clare, Ellen Youman, Brenna, Maureen Acton, and Julia Miller, and 13 grandchildren.

A visitation starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 12, will be followed by a 10:30 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Norbert Church, 50 Leopard Rd., Paoli. Burial is private.

Memorial contributions may be made to Daylesford Abbey, 220 S. Valley Rd., Paoli, Pa. 19301.