In Memory Of Robert Morgenthau

Robert M. Morgenthau

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz mourns the passing of our colleague, Robert M. Morgenthau.  We were honored when Bob decided to join our firm in 2010 as Of Counsel following five decades of public service, first as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and then as the long-time District Attorney for New York County.  Bob transported his famously eclectic office with walls covered by pictures of a life serving our Country in World War II and our City as its top prosecutor.  He was also joined by his long-time assistant Ida Van Lindt.  Although in his 90s, Bob tirelessly took up causes for which he had a deep passion:  immigration reform, animated by the experience of his grandfather who came to New York as a young immigrant just after the Civil War; health care for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a need he understood based on the difficulties he witnessed among many of his fellow World War II veterans; and gun control, an issue he knew first hand as Manhattan DA.  His commitment to justice was unwavering as he assisted in the representation of a man wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death row in Alabama.   Bob also continued his steadfast support for important institutions he helped build, including the Police Athletic League and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Throughout his time at our firm, Bob reminded all of us of the important role lawyers serve in supporting our civic institutions and promoting justice.  He will be deeply missed.  We give our utmost condolences to his devoted wife Lucinda Franks and the entire Morgenthau family.

Robert M. Morgenthau was born in 1919 in New York City. In June 1940, while still an undergraduate at Amherst College, he enlisted in the United States Navy’s V-7 program. Upon his graduation in 1941, Mr. Morgenthau joined the Navy and on December 7, 1941, he was an ensign on a destroyer in Boston Harbor. He served throughout World War II aboard destroyers, in the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Theater, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Mr. Morgenthau was the Executive Officer and Navigator aboard the USS Lansdale when that ship was torpedoed and sunk by German aircraft while protecting a convoy. He was then the Executive Officer and Navigator on a new destroyer assigned to support the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions. That ship, the USS Harry F. Bauer, was torpedoed and was hit by a Kamikaze carrying a 550 pound bomb that failed to explode. The ship’s crew received a Presidential Unit Citation for its conduct during the Okinawa campaign.

After the war, Mr. Morgenthau attended Yale Law School. He entered private practice in Manhattan, working for Robert P. Patterson, a former Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1961, he was appointed by President Kennedy to the position of United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and continued in that role until 1970. Mr. Morgenthau successfully ran for district attorney of New York County in November 1974.

Mr. Morgenthau was the district attorney from 1975 to 2009, and was the longest serving incumbent of that position. In his nine terms in office, his staff conducted about 3.5 million criminal prosecutions. During that period, homicides in Manhattan were reduced by over 90%. Mr. Morgenthau vigorously prosecuted white-collar criminals as well, becoming the nation’s leading proponent of the enforcement of state law to combat “crime in the suites.”

Mr. Morgenthau served as the chairman of New York City’s Police Athletic League and as Chairman Emeritus of the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.  Mr. Morgenthau was on the Board of the Immigrant Justice Corps.  He lived in Manhattan and on a farm in Dutchess County with two of his seven children and with his wife, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lucinda Franks.

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