Merrill Kenneth Albert, Esq., distinguished U.C. Berkeley undergraduate and law school alumnus, World War II veteran, and writer who rose from an orphanage to become one of Los Angeles' most sought-after trial attorneys, has died at age 88. |
Mr. Albert, a long-time resident of the Rancho Santa Fe Inn in Rancho Santa Fe, California, died December 23, 2011, in Del Mar, California. He had been in the midst of publishing his third and fourth books when he died unexpectedly of heart disease.
Born on April 19, 1923, in New Haven, Connecticut, Mr. Albert was left in an orphanage in Oakland, California, with his brother at age 7 and never saw his mother again. Known as Merrill "Smith" at the time, he lived in several foster homes during the Great Depression until he found a more permanent foster home with the Tuckers of Oakland. California
Mr. Albert graduated from Oakland Tech High School in 1940 with high honors and was accepted at U.C. Berkeley. After completing his freshman year, he joined the Merchant Marines at the outbreak of World War II. He then discovered in a birth certificate that his true last name was Albert, not, Smith. Over the next several years, he rose to the rank of First Mate on a "Liberty" ship of 500 men, and later obtained his Captain's papers.
After an honorable discharge from the Merchant Marines, Mr. Albert re-enrolled at Berkeley. He pledged with the Sigma Nu fraternity, which elected him its President, and was elected Captain of the Berkeley varsity tennis team for two straight years. A distinguished student at Cal – graduating with as BS in Accounting with Highest Distinction – Mr. Albert was then accepted into Boalt Hall School of Law (Berkeley Law). At law school, Mr. Albert supported himself by publishing his course outlines through the Berkeley Law School. He was elected Articles Editor of the California Law Review, which published several of his scholarly articles. He graduated sixth in the Berkeley Law class of 1955.
He met Caryl B. Hansen, a beautiful and intelligent Mills College student, in a coffee shop in Berkeley and they were married in 1956. The marriage lasted for ten years and they had three children, Christopher Michael Albert of Oakland, California, Katherine Mary Albert (Stulberg) of Cayucos, California, and Mark Anchor Albert, Esq. of Los Angeles, California.
During the next 35 years practicing law as a trial attorney in Los Angeles, Mr. Albert tried over 300 jury cases to verdict. His clients included the Southern Pacific Transportation Company, Santa Fe Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad, and the Regents of the University of California. His brilliant and at times theatrical trial tactics resulted in numerous defense verdicts for his clients and ample press coverage.
His passions were tennis, bridge, horseracing, and writing and he excelled at each of them. Until he was 60 years old, he continued to win amateur tennis championships, and also won the California State Bar Bridge Championship with his brother-in-law, Raymond Hansen. Mr. Albert also loved Opera and had a beautiful tenor's voice, singing at the weddings of many of his friends. Albert was a member of the Santa Anita Turf Club for over two decades and spent many enjoyable weekends there with friends and family. He owned 13 Thoroughbred racehorses over the years, taking great pride in naming them and watching them in early morning workouts at the Santa Anita and Del Mar tracks. His racehorses won many stake races, including the San Marino Handicap in 1972 (Niagara).
At retirement he found a new passion in writing. He wrote his first novel at the age of 75, "The Big Casino," and a collection of essays and short stories, "2012 Ushers in the Age of Fire (and other short stories)," at the age of 85. He was excited about the prospect of publishing two more books at the time of his death.
A tough, tender, and elegant man who lived a fiercely private and independent life, he will be sadly missed by his family, especially his three children, Chris, Katy and Mark, and his four grandchildren, Alexandra Albert, age 20, Elizabeth Stulberg, age 8, Victoria Stulberg, age 8, and Marlene Albert, age 7, as well as his beloved friend, Roberta Hughes.
Burial at sea will be followed by a private memorial service. A separate Celebration of Life ceremony will be held in late February 2012 in Downtown Los Angeles.
Published in the Del Mar Times on Jan. 19, 2012