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National Memorial Park
7482 Lee Highway
Falls Church, VA


Passed away, in the embrace of his family, on July 12, 2016. He was 76 years old. The son of Louis and Martha Margolis of Hartford, Connecticut, he graduated from Rawson Elementary, Jones Junior High, Loomis Chaffee School, and Brown University. David wanted to be a rock-and-roll drummer, but at his father's urging, attended Harvard Law School instead. Thus began a distinguished 51-year legal career at the U.S. Department of Justice, culminating in his position as Associate Deputy Attorney General, the highest-ranking non-political appointment in the Department. His first position in the Department was in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Hartford, where he served under U.S. Attorney (and later Second Circuit Judge) Jon Newman. He gained notoriety in 1969 for negotiating the surrender of an armed fugitive on the baseball diamond of Loomis Chaffee, where David had played center field only years earlier. The Hartford Courant, which covered the story, described David as a man "sporting long sideburns" with taste for "modish clothes." David's fashion sense would continue to garner attention throughout his career.

Later in 1969, David joined the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force. He served as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Strike Force in Cleveland and Brooklyn, and in 1976, David moved to Washington, where he became Deputy Chief of the nationwide Strike Force program. He was elevated to Chief in 1979, a position he held until 1990,
with the exception of a seven-month leave of absence to implement the President's directive establishing the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). It was under David's watch that the Department achieved its most notable successes against organized crime figures.

While serving 25 years as Associate Deputy Attorney General under administrations of both political parties, David was consistently called upon to handle DOJ's thorniest problems and - in his parlance - "take care of business." He nonetheless made time to mentor and befriend hundreds of colleagues who were drawn to his impeccable judgment, unvarnished honesty, nicknaming ability, and roguish sense of humor. He worked six days a week, taking time off only to catch a Washington Nationals baseball game, attend his grandchildren's sporting events, or have a long lunch with a Department alumnus. The walls of David's office mark a life well lived, with memories captured in awards, photographs, knickknacks, and letters from Presidents and Attorneys General. His accolades are unparalleled, yet his impact on the Department and its employees far outweigh even those significant accomplishments.

David loved Elvis, the Yankees, Willie Nelson, and a good steak. He took great pride in the accomplishments of his two daughters and derived immense pleasure from his grandchildren. David is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Deborah Lipman Margolis, brother Charles, his daughters Kimberly and Cheryl, his son-in-law James Mackie, and his grandchildren, Nathaniel, Owen and Audrey Mackie.

The family has decided to mourn privately and will not hold a public funeral. Instead, David's life will be celebrated at an event at the Justice Department later this summer. Information can be found at David's memorial page, at:

A scholarship has been established at the Loomis Chaffee School in David's memory. Donations can be made at www.loomischaffee.org/giving; please indicate that the donation is in support of the Margolis scholarship.
Published in The Washington Post on July 17, 2016
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