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Gertz, Elmer

Born: 1906 AD
Died: 2000 AD
Nationality: American
Categories: Lawyers

1906 – Born on September 14th in Chicago. American lawyer, teacher, and writer, was a champion of civil rights—working for fairness in access to housing, battling against police brutality, and shepherding a strong bill of rights into the Illinois constitution—and figured prominently in some of the most famous court cases of the second half of the 20th century.

1920 – He attended Crane Technical High School. Acquaintances at that time included Meyer Levin (who later opposed Gertz in a famous court case), Leo Rosten, and Leo Lerner (founder of the Lerner newspaper chain).

1940 – He became active in the fair-housing movement and in championing the admission of blacks into the local bar association.

1946-1949 – Gertz continued to fight for fair housing and civil rights, serving on several committees between, including the Chicago Commission of Human Relations, the Chicago Committee on Housing Action, the Mayor’s Housing Commission, and the Illinois Committee for Equal Job Opportunity.

1950 – Gertz became a national figure when he won parole (arguing against his old friend Meyer Levin) for Nathan Leopold, a University of Chicago law student convicted with fellow student Richard Loeb in the slaying of fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks.

1958 – Upon Leopold’s release, Gertz walked with him through the gates of Stateville prison.

1966 – He was also a national trustee of the City of Hope, for which he received the Golden Key Award.

1969-1970 – He helped draft what has been called the strongest bill of rights of any state constitution in the country while serving as chairman of the Illinois Bill of Rights Committee of the Illinois Constitutional Convention.

         – He taught civil rights courses at the John Marshall Law School.

1972-1975 – He received include the State of Israel Prime Minister’s Medal (which he considered his greatest accomplishment), and Educator of the Year.

1978-1980 – Gertz chaired the civil rights committees of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association, and served as president of the First Amendment Lawyers Association.

2000 – Died of pneumonia on April 27th in Chicago.