Friday, August 8, 2014

Justice and Ambassador

On August 8, 1908, Rebecca and Joseph Goldberg were blessed with their eighth child, whom they named Arthur. As the youngest in the family, Arthur was the only Goldberg who was not forced to quit school in order to work after his father passed away in 1916. Arthur put his education to good use. At age 19, he graduated from Northwestern University School of Law. He was so young, that the Illinois Bar Association hesitated to accept him as a candidate.

During the Great Depression, Goldberg became conscious of the plight of the working class and decided to focus his work on labor law. Eventually, he became chief counsel for the AFL-CIO. His heavy involvement in labor led to his appointment as Secretary of Labor by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Not long thereafter, however, President Kennedy asked Goldberg to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. During his time on the court, Justice Goldberg dealt with issues such as the death penalty (which he believed was cruel and unusual punishment, and thus unconstitutional according to the Eighth Amendment) and the Escobedo opinion, which preceded Miranda concerning the right to an attorney. 

In 1965, Justice Goldberg stepped down from the court (some say reluctantly) and accepted the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Goldberg later explained that he had hoped to facilitate an end to the conflict in Vietnam. Frustrated at his inability to do so, Goldberg left the U.N. in 1968.

Goldberg hoped to be reappointed to the Supreme Court, but the election of Republican President Richard Nixon effectively ended that possibility. Eventually, Goldberg settled in the Washington, D.C. area and served as president of the American Jewish Committee. President Jimmy Carter appointed Goldberg U.S. ambassador to the Belgrade Conference on Human Rights in 1977, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1978.

Arthur J. Goldberg died on January 19, 1990.

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