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Cary Donham

Cary Donham

Born in 1949, Cary Donham grew up in small towns in downstate Illinois the oldest of four children. After his parents settled in the small town of New Baden, 30 miles east of St. Louis, he excelled in academics and athletics, and in 1967 received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. There, after completing three years and despite being in the top ten percent of his class academically, his religious upbringing and beliefs led him to apply for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector. To date, he is the only cadet to do so.
After prevailing in a federal court lawsuit, and receiving an honorable discharge, he worked in a Greenwich Village Church, then moved back to Illinois where he finished my undergraduate degree. In 1978, he moved to Chicago where he made a living for five years as a musician and as an over-the-transom writer for the Chicago Reader. He applied to law school in 1984, was accepted, and attended law school at night while working full time, finishing fifth in his class, and being published in the Chicago Kent Law Review.
He clerked in federal court for two years after graduating from law school in 1988, then worked at the Chicago law firm of Shefsky & Froelich Ltd. Until 2012, when it merged with the Midwest firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. During his career as a litigator, he successfully defended the City of Chicago’s minority preference program in construction and represented the Chicago Board of Education in class action race discrimination lawsuits. After retiring, he and his wife of many years moved to Kentucky. They have one son, who works as a mental health counselor.


Guest Appearances
March 29, 2024

A Discussion with Cary Donham – West Point’s First and Only Conscientious Objector

In this episode, Jonathan Amarilio interviews Cary Donham about his experience as the United States Military Academy at West Point’s first and only conscientious objector, as chronicled in his recent memoir, “A...