Louis H. Pollak
{ "" }
Share Louis's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Louis H. Pollak, a federal judge who helped work on the pivotal school-desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, and later served as dean of two Ivy League law schools, has died. He was 89.

Pollak, a U.S. district judge, died Tuesday at his home in Philadelphia's West Mount Airy neighborhood, Michael Kunz, clerk of federal district court, said Thursday.

"He was brilliant in issues of jurisprudence. However, that was tempered with a humility that is not often seen in persons of his standing in the legal profession," Kunz said, noting that Pollak's legal career extended across more than six decades, including a 1948-1949 stint as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Wiley B. Rutledge.

From 1950 to 1955, Pollak and William T. Coleman worked with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in writing briefs about school desegregation cases that culminated in the 1954 ruling that said state laws requiring separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.

Marshall later became a Supreme Court justice himself while Coleman went on to become transportation secretary in President Gerald Ford's administration in the 1970s.

"Those were exhilarating, marvelous years," Pollak told The Philadelphia Inquirer in a 2010 interview. "In retrospect, it seems inevitable" that school segregation would be outlawed. "But we sure didn't know it at the time."

Pollak was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and remained in that position until his death.

Born in New York City on Dec. 7, 1922, Pollak graduated from Harvard University in 1943 and Yale Law School in 1948. He was dean at Yale before moving to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he also was dean.

David Rudovsky, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, recalled Pollak both as a federal judge and law s chool dean.

"Aside from all that he accomplished, he did it while being fair and considerate and being a decent person," Rudovsky said Thursday. "Those are the hallmarks of what he did."

Pollak is survived by his wife, Katherine, and five daughters. Funeral plans have not yet been announced.

MATT MOORE, Associated Press

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Published in Star-Gazette on May 10, 2012.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
21 entries
May 20, 2012
Dear Mrs. Pollak--
Our deepest condolences to you and your family... What a valued and distinguished life you both have had. You may recall two things-- that Judge Pollak married me and my wife almost exactly 29 years ago; Joanne is next to me on the couch now, as we await our daughter's return from a rowing regatta; and you were instrumental-- as Penn's post-bacc director-- in my own 25 year career in cardiology. Our very best wishes to you and your family. John and Joanne Rudoff
May 18, 2012
May 15, 2012
It's rare to find true greatness. Judge Pollak was one of the greatest jurists—and people-- of our time.

I first met Lou Pollak when I was 7 years old and I stumbled into his back yard, where he was playing with his young daughter Susie. He spoke to me quietly and sincerely and patiently, ignoring my pronounced lisp and cutting through my shyness. He introduced me to his dog, his daughters, and his always witty wife, Kathy. He was the most generous and considerate of neighbors and when I was just a little bit older I realized that we had a veritable—and a better, because real,--Atticus Finch in our midst. His passions were justice, truth, equality and his family.

I think that everyone he knew became a better, stronger person, a person more committed to truth and justice because of his example.

His family was profoundly kind to me when I was a teenager and needed kindness. Lou always made time for everyone--young and old, powerful and powerless. I remember reading his wonderful volumes on the "Constitution and the Supreme Court" and realizing what a vital, entrancing way he had of transforming history into sparkling vividness. He made an enormous positive difference in the world to people he knew and to our entire society. When he spoke, you knew that what he said would be simultaneously inherently correct and also carefully and wisely considered.
Natalie Tyler
May 14, 2012
To Katherine, and Louis's entire family.Louis was beyond genius.Remembering a hot day in Atlanta with Abernathy Andy , ,MLKSr.Louis Reese , personal confident of MLKSr. And Twitty .What a eventful ride to the airport .
Profound Sincere Condolences .
Chuck Stone
Founding Member
Congressional Black Caucus
May 13, 2012
Dear Ms. Pollak and Family - I extend my condolences on your loss. Judge Pollak was Dean of Penn Law School when I graduated in 1976. I interviewed him for the Law School newsletter shortly after he became Dean. I had also met him at Yale while I was an undergraduate, during his term as Dean of the Yale Law School. I still remember that meeting. I was a member of Davenport College, where he was a fellow. One winter morning I was having breakfast with another student. The dining hall was not very full. Judge Pollak asked whether he could join us. I already knew who he was. Because I already planned to attend law school, so I was thrilled that the Dean was joining us. In introducing himself, he simply said, "I"m Lou Pollak." Even though that encounter occurred over 40 years ago, whenever I think of Judge Pollak, I remember his modesty in joining a couple of undergraduates for breakfast. I consider myself fortunate to have known him. May his memory be for a blessing.
Michael Kline
May 13, 2012
To Mrs. Pollak, Sally, Debbie, et al:

Please accept my condolences on the passing of your husband and father. I'm sure he is missed, not only by you, but by many whose lives he touched.

Having spent a little time in your household, I can't say as if I ever heard Judge Pollak speak more than twenty words. I remember him always with a modest smile.

On one or two occasions at dinner he ate quietly. And with his eyes sparkling he appeared to enjoy the colorful din, from all the women in his life, which danced about the table.

Quiet as he was to me, he seemed to instill the courage in each of his five daughters to find and use her own voice. That is a wonderful legacy.

I am sorry for your loss.
Ellis Hope Neel
May 12, 2012
To the the family of Louis Pollak - May God give you peace and comfort through his word and the Lord Jesus Christ during this time of sorrow, I know that he will be missed by many.
May 12, 2012
With deepest sympathy to the Pollak family during your time of grief...Psalm 46:1...God is for us a refuge and strength, A help that is readily to be found during difficult times...May God provide you with peace and comfort to endure the days ahead.
May 11, 2012
With affection and gratitude, from a former student, Yale Law School class of 1970:
May the Source of Peace send peace to all who mourn and comfort to all who are bereaved.
Margaret Loss
May 11, 2012
Mary Green
May 11, 2012
I was one of Judge Pollak's students during my third year at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Judge Pollak was the opposite of haughty, overbearing and inapproachable. To the contrary, he was always accessible to his students -- a humble man with a marvelous sense of humor. Judge Pollak was also one of my best law school professors, by far. I once shared a taxi with Judge and Mrs. Pollak in Washington, DC in the early 1980s, and the African-American cab driver was thrilled when I told him of Judge Pollak's pivotal role in the desegregation litigation. I shall never forget Judge Pollak and will forever be grateful for his impact on me personally and professionally.
John D. Sharer
May 11, 2012
My sympathy to the family of a great man. As a child growing up in the South in the 50's I am grateful to persons such as Judge Pollak.
Betty Waller Gray
May 11, 2012
Sympathy & kindest regards to Judge Pollak's family & many friends wherever they may be. God bless one & all today & always. Take care.
Ray Allen
May 11, 2012
Much love to the Pollak family.
Becky Holt
May 11, 2012
I am so sorry for your lost. May you and your family rely on God in this time of grief.
May 11, 2012
Louis Pollak made a difference in this world we live in today. May he be fondly remember by our Heavenly Father for all the good that he worked to accompolish. I am truly sorry for your loss.
Mildred Ingram
May 11, 2012
this was a great man his family should be very proud of him in the way he made and changed history sir thank you for your service to our america make God welcome you home
ronnie winston
May 11, 2012
After a life so well-lived, I hope that Judge Pollak rests in peace. Sympathy and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
A Teacher
May 11, 2012
They don't make them like Judge Pollak any more -- brilliant, wise, honest, fair, kind, warm and sweet, a man of unfailing integrity. In 1991, when I asked him to officiate at our wedding, he agreed, but only on a weekday, as his weekends were reserved for his lovely wife. He had his priorities straight.

The best description of Judge Pollak I've read came from the late Judge Edward Becker in an article in the U of P Law Review, Vol. 127, No. 2 (Dec. 1978): "...spindly, slightly stooped, soft spoken, self-effacing, unflaggingly pleasant, unceasingly reflective, so terribly bright and yet, in deference to his unremitting quest for constitutional essence, always tentative in exposition. ... He was so decent and kind, infinitely courteous, always finding a kernel of redemption in the student's views, however off the mark they might be."

He was a splendid man, adored by all. I used to tease him about his kindness even towards the murdering thugs I prosecuted. While I look at the world and see armed thugs, he saw puppies, bunnies, kittens, butterflies and flowers. He saw the best in everyone and suggested that some of my colleagues might feel that made him unfit for the bench. No, I said, we need people like him to balance the cynics among us. The world is poorer for the loss of such a special man. RIP, my friend. My heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife and family.
Barb Cohan-Saavedra
May 10, 2012
Offerings my sympahy to family for your at this most difficult time. May you find comfort in The Creator's promise. Rvelation 21:3, 4
May 10, 2012
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences