Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Manny Margolis, Lifelong Civil Rights Advocate, Dies at 85
Emanuel Margolis, a Westport attorney who had a lifelong devotion to civil liberties and civil rights and joined in a weekly peace vigil in Westport’s center, died today of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife, Estelle, said. He was 85.
Emanuel Margolis: “truly one of a kind.” Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com
Margolis was a member and partner of the law firm of Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin and Kuriansky, LLP, in Stamford since 1960 and also taught First Amendment law at Quinnipiac University School of Law.
His wife recalled In 1947 as a returning wounded Purple Heart veteran to the University of North Carolina, he protected a group of early black freedom riders. “The South was still deep in segregation, and there was an active Klu Klux Klan in the area,” she said. “There were no black students at UNC at the time.
“The riders came by bus to the campus and were offered the church for an overnight stay. Manny organized all the veterans on campus and stood guard all night. ”
Among the many honors he received in the course of his career there were two very recent ones. He was the State of Connecticut Supreme Court Law Day honoree and the recipient of the Publishers Award from the weekly legal newspaper, the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Chief Justice Chase Rogers said, in part, on May 2 at the Supreme Court:
“Manny, our beloved mentor, colleague and friend, truly one of a kind. It’s ironic that the giants among us are humble. They don’t boast or brag; instead they make a difference every day.
“They also distinguish themselves through their remarkable talent, spirit and compassion. Our forefathers would be proud of you, Manny. You represent the legal profession’s best. You have been on the front lines every day, fighting for the principles that make this country great, and you have done it will dignity, civility and courage.”
His devotion to the principles of democracy and civil rights were put to the test in 1982. As legal director of the Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union, he represented the KKK. The city of Wallingford resisted granting the Klan a permit to march, according to Estelle Margolis.
“The Klan got their permit and the Grand Marshall told Manny ‘I didn’t know you were Jewish! I will recommend to the next meeting that we allow Jews to join us,’” she said.
His concentration and interests in the practice of law included civil and criminal litigation, constitutional law and civil rights.
He was a member of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union (CT ACLU) since its inception in the 1950s and a member of the board for 30 years. He was chairperson of the CT ACLU from 1989 until 1995.
He has been their legal advisor for many years. He also served as a Special Master for the United States District Court and as a Connecticut Superior Court trial referee.
He published many articles in leading law journals in the United States, including a lead article in the Yale Law Journal as a second-year student at the school. He served as a senior editor of the Connecticut Bar Association Journal. He was editor-in-chief from 1980 to 1983.
He was also a regular contributor of articles to the weekly Connecticut Law Tribune.
The president of the Connecticut Bar Association said on June 2 at this year’s Publisher’s Award ceremony:
“We salute Attorney Emanuel Margolis, who like John Adams, has not always represented the most popular in our society, but he has always sought to uphold the rule of law for all citizens whether popular or not.
“Attorney Margolis we are in your debt for your life-long commitment to the rule of law and for fighting for a strong and accessible legal process.”
Margolis taught a course on First Amendment Law as an Adjunct Professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law. He was recognized in every edition of “The Best Lawyers in America.”
During the Vietnam War, he brought a draft refusal case all the way to the Supreme Court and won.
He was born March 18, 1926 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Rabbi Abraham and Esther Margolis. He entered the University of North Carolina at age 16 in 1942. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944, wounded in 1945 and returned as a Purple Heart Veteran to UNC in 1946.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1947. He then went to Harvard University for his Ph.D. in 1951 and Yale Law School for a J.D. in 1956. He served on the Law School Executive Committee from 2000 to 2004 and was secretary of his law school class for the past 20 years.
He lived in Westport for the past 46 years. He was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission in 1971 and tried for a number of years to pass a low/moderate housing regulation. All proposals were turned down by the town, his wife said.
He and his wife Estelle have been married for 52 years.
They have both spent years standing on weekly peace vigils in Westport. They were on weekly vigils in the late 1960s to early 1970s protesting the Vietnam war.
Manny Margolis (c. rear) and his wife Estelle (r. rear) posed with three generations of the Margolis family at a Westport peace vigil in 2006. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com
For the past six years, they have been standing on a peace vigil on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on the Post Road protesting the Afghan and Iraqi wars.
Estelle Margolis wrote in his obituary: “Manny was a passionate keeper of the Constitution. When Benjamin Franklin left the meeting in Philadelphia a lady outside the hall asked him, ‘Well, Dr. Franklin, what kind of a government do we have, a monarchy or a republic? We have a republic, dear lady, if you can keep it.’ Manny Margolis has been fighting all his life to keep it.”
The couple have five married children and 10 grandchildren. Elizabeth and David Margolis-Pineo, Cathy and Laurence Margolis Goodman, Abby and Chris Margolis Newman, Josh and Aimee Good Margolis, Sarah and Tomas Margolis Marsh.
Their 10 grandchildren range from age 6 to 29. Sarah, Jessica and Rachel Margolis-Pineo, Hannah and Adam Margolis Goodman, Jonah, Aaron and Henry Margolis Newman, Matilda Good Margolis and Cody Margolis Marsh.
The funeral is Friday, Aug. 19 at the Abraham L. Green Funeral Home, 88 Beach Road, Fairfield at 10:30 a.m.
Shiva will be at home at 72 Myrtle Ave. from 5:30 to 7 p.m. from Friday night through Sunday. A memorial service will be planned.
In lieu of flowers a contribution to the CT ACLU, 2074 Park St., Hartford, CT, 06106 would be appreciated, his family said.
Comments: Comment Policy
With the passing of Manny Margolis, Westport has lost a most precious asset. He was one of the few giants who worked so hard to insure the rights and freedom for us all. He will be missed by all who knew him and all who benefited from his efforts. My sympathy to Estelle and his family.
Albert S. Beasley, M.D.
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Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport