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Lester Holtzman (June 1, 1913 – November 12, 2002) was an America jurist and politician. He served five terms in the United States House of Representatives and was a justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1962 until 1973.

Lester Holtzman
Lester Holtzman.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1953 – December 31, 1961
Preceded byJames J. Delaney
Succeeded byBenjamin Stanley Rosenthal
Personal details
Born(1913-06-01)June 1, 1913
New York City
DiedNovember 12, 2002(2002-11-12) (aged 89)
Tamarac, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic Party
Alma materFordham University School of Law
OccupationAttorney

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Holtzman was born in New York City on June 1, 1913 to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Isidore and Rebecca. Lester was the couple's only child born in the United States and the only one to survive infancy. The family lived on the Lower East Side in Manhattan until 1916, when Lester contracted polio. The settled in the Middle Village, in Queens which might offer a better chance to recover. He attended Newtown High School in Queens until his father bought a small grocery where Lester would work while doing Prelaw work in the evening.[1]

He was the president of his class at St. John's University School of Law and graduated in 1936. Afterwards, he went into private practice in Queens.

Political careerEdit

Holtzman had sought political jobs for several years; once receiving an offer from the Federal Housing Administration. He ran for Congress in 1952, a year that saw Dwight Eisenhower sweep into the White House and the Republicans picked up 22 seats in the House of Representatives. His opponent was Robert Tripp Ross, an incumbent who had won his seat in a special election a few months before.[2] During the campaign, he promised that he would cease takeoffs by low-flying aircraft into Laguardia Airport, which was in the district. Holtzman admitted later this was a lie and was the only lie he consciously told in his career. He defeated Ross by a close 300 votes becoming the only Democrat to unseat a Republican that year, and the first Jewish congressman from Queens.[1]

He defeated popular state senator Seymour Halpern in 1954 by more than 10,000 votes and former justice Albert Buschmann in the 1956 election. In his career, Holtzman was generally a backbencher who supported civil rights, Israel and organized labor; but never introduced any legislation that was signed into law.[1]

Judicial careerEdit

After his re-election in 1960, Holtzman decided to run for a seat on the state Supreme Court. The 14-year term and increased salary would give him a measure of security. He secured the nomination thanks to assistance from President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.[1]

As a justice, he handled the first divorce case in New York after laws were reformed.[1] In 1971, he was assigned a case that challenged New York's 1970 legalization of abortion. In Byrn v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., Holtzman ruled that Professor Robert Byrn of Fordham University could act as a guardian for the unborn, which afforded him legal standing to file suit overturn the state's abortion law. He also entered an order for the city hospitals to show cause why they should not cease abortion procedures while the law was being challenged.[3]

In 1972, Byrn's challenge was decided by an opinion of the Appellate Division and the New York Court of Appeals in which fetuses were not found to have personhood.[4][5]

He retired from the bench in 1973 to become the president of the Queens Savings & Loan Association.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Holtzman married the former Mae Gress in 1936. They had two children, Matthew and Joy. Holtzman died in Tamarac, Florida on November 12, 2002.[1]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stone, Kurt (2010). The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members. Scarecrow Press. pp. 199–201.
  2. ^ "R.T. Ross; Ex-Congressman". New York Times. 1981-10-03.
  3. ^ "A Lawyer Challenges the Abortion Law". New York Times. 1971-12-04.
  4. ^ "State Abortion Law Upheld on Appeal". New York Times. 1972-02-26.
  5. ^ "Byrn v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corp". Retrieved 2019-04-27.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James J. Delaney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th congressional district

1953–1961
Succeeded by
Benjamin S. Rosenthal