John Mooty

Mr Mooty

When John Mooty passed away in April 2015 at the age of 92, much was written about his numerous accomplishments: the leadership roles in which he served and his extensive contributions to the legal, business, political, and philanthropic communities in the state of Minnesota. To briefly recap some of those accomplishments: chairman, International Dairy Queen; vice chairman and acting chairman, Minnesota Republican Party; principal, managing officer, Gray Plant Mooty; first attorney named to the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. The list goes on.

And yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, his son Bruce—also a principal and former managing officer at GPM—sees those accomplishments as secondary. First and foremost, Bruce says, “he was a great dad.” When John’s wife Ginny passed away in 1964, it fell to John to raise his three sons: Bruce, plus brothers David and Chuck Mooty. With John taking on the mantle of single parenthood, the boys quickly came to know their father’s office in the Roanoke Building, where GPM’s attorneys were housed at the time.

For Bruce, those early memories of his father’s practice are informed by his youth; the times Bruce remembers most, years later, are roaming the hallways on weekends and making frequent excursions to the office pop dispenser.

As a leader and steward of multiple businesses, John was influenced by his experiences growing up amid the hardships of the Great Depression. John was seven years old when the stock market collapsed in 1929, and he frequently told the story of a formative experience from his youth—an occasion when he was given a dime to purchase groceries for that night’s dinner. Somehow, between his home and the butcher shop, the dime went missing, and that night, the family went hungry. Even years later, he said, it remained “a very disturbing event.”

In an interview in 2005, John offered several possible explanations for why he entered the practice of law. In one telling, it was a high school play that inspired him; he played a lawyer in his senior class production, receiving rave notices from the local paper—though “of course, everybody in the cast received rave notices.” In another version, it was his career as a high school debater—culminating in a narrow defeat at the state debate championship—that inspired him to enter the profession. And in a third telling, it was John’s father, a banker, who had introduced him to a number of attorneys and planted the seed in his mind.

Regardless of the whys and wherefores, by 1944 John had graduated first in his class from the University of Minnesota Law School and joined what was then known as “the Kingman firm,” on the recommendation of Everett Fraser, the dean of the law school. With John’s presence, the Kingman firm numbered ten attorneys in total.

Over the decades, John rose to become one of the preeminent attorneys at the firm—joined by his brother Melvin, who had himself built up a formidable real estate and finance practice before retiring in 2004. (For more information about the accomplishments of John and Melvin, check out our interactive timeline.) In 1977, the brothers Mooty were formally recognized for their contributions, joining Franklin Gray, Frank Plant, and Russell Bennett as name-partners for the newly renamed Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett.

By the time of John’s passing in 2015, ten attorneys had grown to nearly 180, many of whom would cite John and the Mooty family as the defining contributors to the firm’s community spirit. In addition to John’s son Bruce, granddaughter Brianna joined the firm in 2010—and while the physical presence of John Mooty has departed from Gray Plant Mooty, his legacy of service lives on among his descendants, his colleagues, and those inspired by his work.