NYC Fire Commissioner’s grandson named after Fr. Mychal Judge

New York City Fire Department chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge (1933-2001)
Fr. Mychal Judge

Father Mychal Judge, fire chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, was the first official casualty of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The 68-year-old Roman Catholic priest was killed while assisting firefighters in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He (and others) were killed by the debris that shot through the North Tower lobby when the South Tower collapsed, just before 10 am.

Three weeks after the attacks, New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen welcomed a grandson.

What did Von Essen’s son — who is also a New York City firefighter — and daughter-in-law name their baby boy?

Mason Judge, middle name in commemoration of Fr. Mychal Judge.

And Mason wasn’t the only baby named with Fr. Judge in mind. According to the U.S. baby name data, the first name Mychal saw an increase in usage in both 2001 and 2002:

  • 2004: 16 baby boys named Mychal
  • 2003: 21 baby boys named Mychal
  • 2002: 58 baby boys named Mychal (6 born in New York, 7 in NJ, 11 in Calif.)
  • 2001: 43 baby boys named Mychal (6 born in New York)
  • 2000: 14 baby boys named Mychal
  • 1999: 20 baby boys named Mychal

How did Mychal Judge come to have his unusually spelled first name?

He was born Robert Judge in Brooklyn in 1933. As a young man, he took the religious name Fallon Michael — a combination of his mother’s maiden name and his father’s first name. Several years later, he changed the order of the names. Later still, he adopted the spelling “Mychal.”

Judge confided to several friends that the new spelling actually derived from seeing the African-American basketball player Mychal Thompson on television. Judge adopted the name as a kind of inside joke, renewed every time some supposedly devout racist piously addressed Judge as “Father Mychal.”


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