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Robert J. Gorman

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Robert J. Gorman, for many years a prominent Chicago lawyer, died on Feb. 17, at his home. He was 91. Like many of his generation, Bob served in WWII. A veteran of the Normandy beachhead, he was in the lead Jeep that led Eisenhower's liberation entrance to Paris. He had been asked to act as an interpreter as the allied army entered the city. He often laughed about the fact that although his French was not very good he could ask directions to the hotel that was to become the allied headquarters. It was at that hotel that he discovered Benedictine (a liqueur that became the traditional beverage for after meal toasts at family gatherings). The bottle was left behind by a fleeing German officer and after examining the bottle for several days, lest it be booby trapped, he finally cracked it open and discovered what he claimed was the best liqueur in the world. As an attorney, Bob was a general practitioner, handling many different kinds of cases, from probate to civil rights. He was also counsel for Roosevelt University from the time the school opened its doors in the 1940's until his retirement in the 1980's. Bob was especially proud of the many pro-bono cases he handled in his career including representing more than 20 Vietnam War conscientious objectors during the course of the Vietnam War. One of those cases ultimately took him to the United States Supreme Court. Bob always considered the case of Roy Eaton one of his most important cases. In People vs. Roy Eaton, Gorman established innocence and gained freedom for Eaton who had spent 16 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. It was a case that resulted in a one-hour special documentary presented on NBC's Armstrong Circle Theater (a primetime Sunday evening television program) and was instrumental in establishing a statute in Illinois for compensating the victims of wrongful imprisonment. If Eaton was his most famous case perhaps his most interesting case was one in which his client was accused of casting a Voodoo curse against another and was threatened with extradition to Mississippi to face trial. The actual curse his client had threatened was "If you don't let my husband alone you will find yourself walking backwards." The recipient of the curse feared she would never be able to walk frontwards again and pressed charges. Gorman prevailed against the extradition claiming that it wasn't a real crime because no one could believe such a curse was really possible. The law was not his only love -- Mr. Gorman was also an avid boater and among the very few who could claim the experience of sinking two of his own boats, the Flying Saucer (a 24 foot sail boat) and the "X" a 35 five foot cabin cruiser. He also sank the "Cup" which was a dingy used to get to the Flying Saucer, but it was so small it hardly counted as a boat. A strong liberal, Bob was involved in the civil rights movement and attended the March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Bob's liberalism and sense of justice stayed with him until the end: he was very critical of the current administration and a strong opponent of the war in Iraq. He will be sorely missed by his children Robert (Margaret), Gregory (Marzena) and Candace (Christopher Ross); his six grandchildren, Kevin, Colleen, Corey, Maura, Devin and Aleksandra; and his many other family members and friends. A memorial service will be held at the Ethical Humanists Society, 7574 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, on Feb. 25, at 3 p.m., followed by a celebration of his life at KiKi's Bistro, 900 N. Franklin, Chicago, at 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to either the Veterans Against the Iraqi War, www.vaiw.org/vet/index.php or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, www.jdrf.org.

Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on Feb. 20, 2007
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