Harry W. Goldberg
May 14, 1917 – September 4, 2010
It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of my father and law partner of 22 years, Harry W. Goldberg who, as of the date of his death on September 4, 2010, remained actively engaged in the practice of law since 1938.
Though his general practice encompassed all areas of civil law, early on he developed a specialty in personal injury law, which permitted him to do what he loved most – trial work. In a courtroom, cross examining a witness or delivering an impassioned closing to the jury, my dad was in his element and at his best. For him, this is what the practice of law was all about. In one notable case, he represented a nine year old boy who sustained burns over most of his body from a flare which was found on the premises of an abandoned building owned by the National Bank of Washington. Though the trial judge granted summary judgment, the United States Court of Appeals held that jury questions existed and sent the case back to the United States District Court. Those who were there said that my father’s opening statement was so moving, that much of the courtroom including the jury was in tears. It was at this point that the defendant, for the first time, approached my father about settlement. In approving the settlement for the minor, the compassionate Judge Holtzoff, who had been the one who granted summary judgment, told my father “You got too much!” For his work on that case in advancing the law of attractive nuisance in the District of Columbia, he was named Plaintiff Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Association of Plaintiff Trial Lawyers of Metropolitan Washington. There were other precedent setting cases, those that appeared in the Washington Post, and many others which I was fortunate enough to practice with him during the past twenty two years. I was present when a Superior Court Judge told him that my father had given the best closing argument he had ever heard. A few years ago, at the conclusion of closing arguments in a United States District Court trial in Baltimore, the federal Judge said to my father, then in his 80s: “You have the most remarkable command of the facts, the evidence, and the law, and I must say you are remarkable. It’s been a pleasure to have you here.” But what I found most remarkable in practicing law with my father, and being in the office with him every day, was not just being exposed to his brilliant command of the courtroom, speaking or writing skills, but observing and experiencing his warm and engaging personality that had an impact on everyone he met or spoke with, no matter how brief the exposure in the office, in the lobby or on the street. I would never let a client leave my office without introducing them to my father. After just a minute or two meeting on the way out the door, the client was hooked, and would always subsequently ask about him.
Harry was a native Washingtonian who grew up in Southwest DC where his father operated a small grocery store and delivered bread from a horse drawn wagon on which my father would often accompany him. He was a 1934 graduate of Eastern High School and a superior student, going straight from high school to law school at National Law School, now part of George Washington University. He worked in a grocery store six and half days a week, and attended law school at night. Graduating law school at the age of twenty in 1937, he was not yet old enough to take the bar exam and returned for his LLM. He opened his law office in 1938, working in the D.C. Health Department during the day and practicing as what he called a “sundowner” lawyer in the evening. During World War II, attorney Goldberg became Staff Sergeant Goldberg until he returned to full time private practice in the Investment Building in downtown Washington, before ultimately moving his office to Chevy Chase, Maryland in the 1970s Harry was a member of this bar association, the Maryland State Bar Association, the District of Columbia Bar, the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, and Supreme Court of the United States. His survivors include five children, Sheldon Goldberg of Prince Frederick, Md., Joel Goldberg of Rockville, Lisa Garrett of Plantation, Fla., and Paul Goldberg and Jonathan Goldberg, both of Potomac, a sister, Betty Duncan of Olney; two brothers, Leopold Goldberg of Silver Spring and Samuel Goldberg of New Port Richey, Fla,; and 17 grandchildren.
Jonathan J. Goldberg