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April 09, 1982 - Image 61

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-04-09

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Friday, April 9, 1982 61

Former Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas Dies at 71

Abe Fortas, the fifth Jew to
serve on the United States
Supreme Court and the first
to have been nominated for
the post of chief justice, died
April 5 at age 71.
Mr. Fortas was named an
associate justice of the Sup-
reme Court by President
Lyndon Johnson in June
1966, succeeding Arthur
Goldberg who subsequently
became U.S. ambassador to
the United Nations.
In June 1968, Mr.
'Johnson nominated Mr.
Fortas to succeed retiring
Chief Justice Earl Warren,
but the nomination ran into
powerful opposition from
Senate Republicans and
some Democrats over what
they regarded as a "lame
duck" appointment by
Johnson who had already
announced that he would
not seek a second term.
Althought the Senate
Judiciary Committee ap-
proved the nomination
by a 10-6 vote and sent it
to the full Senate, a bitter
fight ensued durin
which charges were
raised that anti-Semitism
was a factor in the oppo-
sition to Mr. Fortas. With
a filibuster threatened by
anti-Fortas forces led by
Sen. Robert Griffin (R-
Mich.), Johnson with-
drew the nomination at
Mr. Fortas' request.
The charge that anti-
Semitism "is definitely
playing a part" in the oppo-
sition to Mr. Fortas was
made in the Senate by Sen.
Joseph Clark (D-Pa.) who

Supreme Court by
President Woodrow Wil-
son in 1916 established
what was seen by many
as a tradition of a
"Jewish" seat on the na-
tion's highest court.
Brandeis served until
1939. He was joined in
1932 by Benjamin Car-
dozo who served until
1938 and followed by
Felix Frankfurter who
served from 1939 to 1962.


recalled the struggle that
followed the nomination of
Justice Louis Brandeis, the
first Jew named to the Sup-
reme Court, but the charge
was never confirmed.

In May 1969, Mr. Fortas
resigned from the Supreme
Court under a shadow of
scandal. He was under fire
for accepting — but later re-
turning — a $20,000 fee
from the Wolfson Founda-
tion, one of the founders of
which, Louis Wolfson, was
then serving a prison term
for stock manipulation. The
resignation was submitted
to President Richard Nixon
who immediately accepted
Mr. Fortas returned to
private law practice. Only
two weeks before his death,
he appeared before the Sup-
reme Court for the first time
since his resignation to
argue a case.
The appointment of
Justice Brandeis to the

Ida Siegel, Toronto Leader

TORONTO (JTA) — Ida such a post, and continued
Lewis Siegel, the grand old to be actively involved in
lady of Toronto Jewry, has education until she was 95.
died at age 97. She helped organize the
At the age of 14 she or- National Council of Jewish
ganized the Herzl Girls Women in Canada and
Club and later the Daugh- traveled across the country
ters of Zion. Some years on its behalf. In 1977, the
later she was a co-founder of Canadian Jewish Congress
Hadassah in Toronto. awarded her the Samuel
She organized the first Bronfman Medal.
Zionist Sunday school in the
city, a sewing school for Esther Victor
Jewish girls, helped or-
Esther Victor, a member
ganize a rest home for
mothers and babies which of Jewish women's and
was later taken on by the communal organizations,
Jewish community, a medi- died March 31 at age 70.
A native Detroiter, Mrs.
cal dispensary which de-
veloped into Mount Sinai Victor was a member of
Hospital, and the Sister- Bnai Brith, - Pioneer
hood of the Goel Tzedec Women, Sinai Hospital
Synagogue which is now Guild, Hadassah, Jewish
nart of Beth Tzedec Syna- Home for Aged Auxiliary
and Women of Jewish Na-
Mrs. Siegel was dedi- tional Fund.
She leaves her husband,
cated to the peace move-
ment during World War I Jack; a brother, Abe Weis-
at a time when it was un- man of Hallandale, Fla.;
popular to be identified two sisters, Mrs. Harry (Be-
with the movement. In tty) Steinman and Mrs.
1915, she was an active Philip (Shirley) Herman;
member of the Women's and one granddaughter.
International League for
Keith Bakst
Peace and Freedom.
At the time of her death
Keith J. Bakst, owner of
she was the only surviv- Progressive Office Supplies,
ing original member of died April 5 at age 26.
the Ontario Home and
A native Detroiter, Mr.
School Association and Bakst is survived by his
was recently honored by parents, Dr. and Mrs.
that organization.
Myron (Celia) Bakst; two
In 1930, she was elected brothers, Michael and
to the Toronto Board of Richard; a sister, Susan;
Education, the first Jewish and his grandfather, Cantor
woman in Canada to hold Jacob Sonenklar.

Arthur Goldberg served
on the court from 1962 to
1965 and his resignation
was widely believed to have
been forced by Johnson to
create a vacancy for. Mr.
Fortas. No Jew has been ap-
pointed to the Supreme
Court since Mr. Fortas res-
Mr. Fortas was a promi-
nent Washington lawyer
before his appointment to
the bench. He earned his
reputation as a liberal when
he served as counsel for the
accused in the famous Sup-
reme Court case of Gideon
vs. Wainwright, which es-
tablished the right of coun-
sel for the poor.
While on the Supreme
Court fit consistently voted
in criminal appeals and
civil liberties cases as the
crucial fifth man of the ac-
tivist bloc formed by Chief
Justice Warren and Jus-
tices Hugo Black, William
Brennan Jr. and William
At the time of his nomi-
nation to the court, Mr.
Fortas said he considers-
himself to be Jewish. He
said he made that state-
ment to clarify his own
conception of religious
identity in view of his
lack of formal affiliation
with Jewish institutions
or organizations.
Nevertheless, he was well
known as a regular con-
tributor to the United
Jewish Appeal in. Washing-
ton. He appeared as a
speaker several times be-
fore Jewish organizations
after becoming a Supreme
Court justice and consis-
tently manifested a warm,
friendly attitude toward Is-
Mr. Fortas, a close per-
sonal friend of President
Johnson, who also served in
government posts under
Presidents Roosevelt and
Truman, had humble be-
Born in Memphis in June
1910, the last of five chil-
dren of a Jewish cabinet-
maker who had immigrated
to the United States from
England, he was graduated
from Southwestern College
in Memphis and from the
Yale Law School, where he
taught briefly before corn-
ing to Washington as one of
the "bright young men" of
President Roosevelt's New
He served in about a
dozen administrative
positions and at the age
of 32 became Under Sec-
retary of Interior to
Harold Ickes. He first met
Mr. Johnson, then a
young Congressman
from Texas, in the late
1930s and impressed the

future President as a val-
uable counselor. He was
a member of the
President's Committee
on Equal Opportunity in
the armed forces and of
the National Citizens

Committee for Commu-
nity Relations and served
as an adviser to the U.S.
delegation to the United
Nations in 1945.
Mr. Fortas was awarded
the Stephen S. Wise Award

by the American Jewish
Congress in 1966 and had
been a member of the na-
tional advisory committee
of the AJCongress' Com-
mission on Law and Social


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