Article: Bing Crosby Christmas song connection to Albany Law School Photo of Robert Gavin

The Time Union reports

Albany Law School alumni includes top judges, business executives, governors and President William McKinley.

And then there’s Bing Crosby — well, in a way.

The legendary singer did not attend the nation’s oldest independent law school, but one of Crosby’s most famous songs,  “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” has a crooning connection to the law school at 80 New Scotland Ave.

Crosby’s holiday classic — performed by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Kelly Clarkson and more — was the brainchild of Albany Law School graduate James Kimball Gannon.

Nine years before “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” became an international smash hit, Gannon, known as “Kim,” was graduating from Albany Law School. The 1934 alumnus would become a major songwriter and lyricist of some 200 popular songs and worked with the biggest names of the day. Gannon also was nominated for three Academy Awards. He even worked as a lawyer for a few years.

But the connection between Gannon and, by extension, his famous song to Albany Law School was all but unknown until the school’s Government and Law Center, which has a large archive of old newspaper clippings, tweeted about it last week. The news quickly piqued interest, explained Ben Meyers, the law’s school’s associate director of communications and marketing, told Law Beat.

He said school staffers found a June 9, 1933, profile of Gannon in The Saratogian newspaper, as well as a 1933 yearbook that contained information on Gannon.

“Albany Law School is indescribably proud of Mr. Gannon and his contribution to the holiday season,” Meyers told Law Beat. “His words have brought so much comfort and joy to so many over the decades that we are humbled to just be a part of his journey and success.”

The 1933 newspaper article said Gannon’s parents were living in London and, in their former years, had spent summers in Ballston Spa. The Brooklyn-born Gannon grew up in New Jersey, but had family roots in the Capital Region. His family had come to Brooklyn and New Jersey from Fort Ann in Washington County.

In 1920, the future songwriter graduated from New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Four years later, Gannon graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, where he met his wife, Norma. Gannon penned the school’s alma mater song. Gannon initially worked in the credit department of Seaboard Bank in New York City and then moved to Greenwich in Washington County, where he worked as a manager at the New York Power and Light Corp.

But Gannon’s dream at the time was to be an attorney, which led him to Albany Law School in 1930. Gannon joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity at the school, and played sports including hockey and baseball.

In the 1933 Albany Law School yearbook, The Verdict, Gannon’s profile read as follows:

“The crooning counsellor. Broadcasts from WGY at night and from the smoking room between classes. Writes most of his own songs and probably most of the phony fan mail he shows us. Give ‘Kim’ time and he will have all the laws set to music. Member of the Back Row Brief Snatching Club.  Every afternoon he buzzes back to Ballston and runs a law office and in the evening is a dutiful husband. Known to the radio audience as ‘Johnny Albright’ but known to us as one of the most popular men in ‘33. How about that turkey, ‘Kim?’

Gannon, who was married, had his own radio show on WGY-AM (the station still around today) under the “Johnny Albright” moniker.
While in law school, Gannon also worked in the credit department with the firm of Bradstreet and Dunn.

In 1934, Gannon passed the state’s bar exam. He practiced law for five years in Ballston Spa, but had a different career path than the legal world, according to the 1933 article and Albany Law School.

In 1939, Gannon published his first song, “For Tonight.” Three years later, Gannon wrote “Moonlight Cocktail,” which was recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. For 10 weeks, it was the nation’s best-selling record. Gannon started to pile up dozens of writing credits for movie songs into the 1950s and 1960s.

Gannon’s biggest song, of course, would come in 1943 with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Crosby sang Gannon’s lyrics to the music of Walter Kent, who like Gannon had attended St. Lawrence University.

“It was my understanding that Kim Gannon had the tune running through his head and how that should sound. He suggested the tune and the composer filled in the harmony,” Culver Tefft, a friend of Gannon, told the Post-Star in Glens Falls at the time, according to the law school’s own write-up on Gannon.

During World War II, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was more popular than Crosby’s signature holiday classic, “White Christmas.” It was the most requested song at U.SO. shows in Europe and the Pacific, according to the Library of Congress, Albany Law said.

In 1974, Gannon died in Lake Worth, Fla., at 73. His widow, Norma Allen Gannon, died in 2000. According to Albany Law School, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas was as of 2014 the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publisher’s 10th most-performed holiday song of the century.

“Christmas is the holiday in the title, but the message of rejoining loved ones at home and celebrating one another is universal,
Meyers told Law Beat. “We can all embrace that. It is certainly a thankful time of year and, even though we lost track of this, we are thankful to have re-discovered his connection to the law school.”