Terry O'Rourke is an Associate Justice on the Fourth District, Division One, of the California Court of Appeal, to which he was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson in 1998. A graduate of Claremont McKenna College and Harvard Law School, O'Rourke is a San Diego native and prior to his judicial appointments, worked as a lawyer in private practice in San Diego and Los Angeles. He has a longstanding interest in American history, particularly the time period surrounding the founding of the nation.
Q: How did you first become interested in books and collecting?
A: My parents were great readers. They weren't collectors per se, but they amassed a large collection of books, mostly history books, which no doubt influenced me and shaped my reading interests. They had an account at the original Wahrenbrock Bookstore, where I was free to browse and pick out books to take home.
Q: How would you describe your collection? What are some of your most prized books?
A: While I no longer actively collect, I originally collected rare books and other materials documenting early American history and politics. This includes manuscripts and letters from the American Revolutionary War and Founding periods, including letters from George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. I also collected broadsides. Most of the material has been donated, much of it to the American Antiquarian Society. I retained my presentation copy of The Federalist, which is one of only four surviving copies, and the only one in private hands.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about collecting?
A: Discovering new things. When I was in law school, I enjoyed browsing through the many good bookstores in Boston, especially the legendary Goodspeed Bookstore. It was there that I discovered that I could buy presidential letters. My first purchase was a George Washington letter. Other favorite bookstores were Jake Zeitlin’s Rare Books in Los Angeles and John Fleming’s in New York City. Both stores had amazing things. In 1974, Jake Zeitlin offered me a Hogarth watercolor, which I foolishly decided not to buy. It is the greatest regret of all my collecting. I was able to acquire some of Thackeray’s drawings from Fleming.
Q: You’ve collected other items besides books, manuscripts, and letters?
A: Yes. Drawings and prints, especially those by Thomas Rowlandson and Max Beerbohm.
Q: Could you comment on the apparent connection between your work as a judge and your interest in constitutional history?
A: I'm sure my interests had some influence. In my high school senior yearbook, I said I was going to go to law school and practice constitutional law.
Q: How did you become involved with the UC San Diego Libraries?
A: I live nearby, and walk on campus every day. I use the Geisel Library regularly, mostly the history collections.