Charles C. Burlingham
posted by Gerard Magliocca
I just finished a biography of Charles C. Burlingham, who was a remarkable lawyer and civic activist in New York during the first half of the twentieth century. Although the book wasn’t well-written (and I can’t find a good picture of him to post here), I was eager to read about Burlingham. He keeps popping up in my research, even though he held public office only briefly on the New York City Board of Education. Here are some of his accomplishments:
1. He defended White Star against the admiralty suits that followed the sinking of the Titanic.
2. He was influential in getting Learned Hand appointed to the Federal District Court in New York.
3. He almost single-handedly convinced local politicians to nominate Benjamin Cardozo for his first judgeship.
4. He corresponded regularly with Felix Frankfurter and Franklin D. Roosevelt about all sorts of issues.
5. He was one of Fiorello LaGuardia’s closest (albeit informal) advisors when LaGuardia was the Mayor.
6. He lived to 101. (Seems remarkable to me.)
I find his story interesting, in part, because there are so few great practicioner-statesmen left. Lloyd Cutler was probably the last one, though perhaps I’m overlooking someone.
UPDATE: Here’s a great anecdote. When Burlingham was 100, he went to an awards dinner and sat with Learned Hand, Felix Frankfurter, and Earl Warren. A young lawyer drove him home and asked “Did you have a good time?” Burlingham replied: ”Yes, but I had hoped to meet some new people.”