Illustration by Art Seiden

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

World War II to the Present:


Arthur Goldberg: Supreme Court Justice

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Arthur J. Goldberg served the United States in many ways. He was an outstanding labor lawyer, U.S. Secretary of Labor, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and our ambassador to the United Nations.

Arthur Goldberg was raised and educated in Chicago's West Side. He was the youngest of 11 children whose parents came here from Czarist Russia. He worked his way through college and law school.

During World War II, Goldberg served with the Office of Strategic Services. In 1948, he became the general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America and seven years later, in 1955, played a major role in reuniting the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the American Federation of Labor. Goldberg was the principal author of the AFL-CIO ethical practices code. He also helped guide the USW negotiations in a 116-day steel strike in 1959-60.

When John F. Kennedy was elected president, Goldberg was appointed Secretary of Labor. He used his new powers to uphold the public's interest in labor-management disputes. Goldberg directed the administration's legislative program to fight the recession and unemployment.

In August 1942, President Kennedy appointed Goldberg to the Supreme Court as an associate Justice. He found himself siding with Justices Hugo Black and William 0. Douglas on many decisions. As a Supreme Court Justice, Goldberg questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty, which he felt was cruel and unusual punishment. He voted with the majority in a decision that required congressional districts to be of approximately equal populations.

In June 1964, Goldberg wrote the Court's famous five to four decision in Escohedo vs. Illinois, holding that confessions cannot be used in court if police question a suspect without letting him consult a lawyer or without warning him that his answers could be used against him.

Goldberg dissented from an October 1964 decision rejecting Senator Barry M. Goldwater's demand for equal free time on the radio and television to reply to an earlier TV speech by President Lyndon Johnson. He joined the majority court in striking down Connecticut's 1879 law forbidding the use of birth control devices.

When United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson died in July, 1965, President Johnson asked Goldberg to resign from the Supreme Court and to accept the UN position. On July 28, Goldberg resigned and accepted his new role as ambassador.

Goldberg found himself involved with, among other issues, the Vietnam War, the voting rights of unpaid UN members, the India-Pakistan War, South Africa, and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. He supported a British resolution that asserted Israel's right to exist, and delivered many speeches in the UN on possible solutions to the Vietnam War.

Goldberg resigned as ambassador on April 25, 1968. He joined the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Warton and Garrison and became active in politics. He was in charge of the New York presidential campaign of Hubert Humphrey and, in 1970, lost to Nelson Rockefeller in a race for the New York governorship.

Goldberg was involved in defending many civil rights issues and causes. He never hesitated to leave his secure position to fill a void that existed and serve the country. He will always be remembered as an outstanding labor lawyer, as Secretary of Labor, as Supreme Court Justice, as Ambassador to the United Nations, and as a defender of civil rights. He died on January 19, 1990.

This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.

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