Federal court organizes tribute to judge on 100th anniversary of his birth


Among the family, friends and colleagues in attendance for a January 10 tribute marking the 100th anniversary of Judge Lawrence Gubow’s birthday were (left to right) Oakland County 45th District Court Judge David Gubow, Estelle Gubow, Janey Gubow, Mona Gubow, and U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman, Eastern District of Michigan.
– Photo by John Meiu

Lawrence Gubow was one of the most admired and influential judges to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

He was born on Jan. 10, 1919, in Detroit, the eldest child of Russian immigrants.

The court held a ceremony January 10 to pay tribute to the judge on the 100th anniversary of his birth. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman presided over the event, which included remarks from Chief Judge Denise Page Hood and testimonials by former law clerks, U.S. attorneys and the Gubow family.

Bloomfield Hills attorney George Googasian, a past president of the State Bar of Michigan, was among those who offered remarks at the ceremony at the federal courthouse.

"In my mind, it's really remarkable that 41 years after a man's death, we all felt moved to honor him, which is testimony to the significant impression he left on everyone in his life," said Googasian during a phone interview last Friday. "Larry Gubow was a man who lived his beliefs and was a standard-bearer for honesty and integrity in the legal profession."

Googasian first crossed paths with Gubow when the late jurist was the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in the early 1960s.

"I had interned at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago during law school (at Northwestern University) and upon graduation I applied for a job with the office in Detroit," Googasian related. "Larry interviewed me and told me in very specific terms what it meant to be an assistant U.S. attorney. He said I would be 'representing the United States of America' and, as such, he would expect 'nothing short of my best' in terms of preparation, honesty, and fairness. Those words have stood with me throughout my career.

"I will always remember the first time I stood in front of a jury as an assistant U.S. attorney and said the words, 'I'm George Googasian and I represent the United States of America.' The thought of it still gives me chills. I will always be grateful to Larry for giving me that chance and for serving as such an important role model."

Gubow graduated from Northern High School in 1936, obtained a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1940 and enrolled at U-M Law School.

But his law studies were cut short by the outbreak of World War II.

He was drafted into the Army as a private and eventually promoted to the rank of captain of an infantry company on the front lines in Europe. In January 1945, while leading the company, Gubow was severely wounded by shrapnel from an enemy mortar round, which blew off the back of his heel. He was captured by the Germans, liberated, and spent three years being treated for his wounds in Germany and at the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek.

At the Army hospital, he met another wounded soldier, Philip A. Hart, an eventual two-term Michigan Lieutenant Governor and Democratic U.S. senator, who championed Gubow's legal career.

After finishing his U-M law degree in 1950, Gubow spent the next three years in private practice in Detroit and became active in Democratic Party politics and civic groups.

He chaired the 17th District Young Democratic Club, served on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit, was president of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit and served as trustee of Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

Gubow also was committed to veteran's groups, especially the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. He was a member of its national executive committee, commander of its Michigan chapter, and recipient of its highest honor the Gold Medal of Merit. He also was honored as Michigan Veteran of the Year.

In 1953, Gov. G. Mennen Williams appointed Gubow to the Michigan Corporation and Securities Commission. He served as commissioner from 1956-61 and received national attention by successfully challenging the discriminatory point system that prevented blacks and Jews from moving to Grosse Pointe.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Gubow U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, where he successfully advocated reforms in federal bail bond procedures. He also brought prosecutions of several major criminal cases.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Gubow to be a U.S. District judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Gubow remained committed to his beliefs even as a federal judge. In 1969, he made headlines by picketing the French Consulate in Detroit to protest the embargo of French arms to Israel. At the time, he was president of the Jewish Community Council.

Gubow suffered from the combat wound and diabetes throughout his judicial career and was blind during his final years on the bench.

Yet, he rarely, if ever, complained.

He died on March 26, 1978. He was only 59.

"He was a great judge: a servant of man, a servant of his beloved country, and a servant of his God," U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith, 6th Circuit, wrote in a tribute after his death.

Gubow is survived by his widow, Estelle Schmalberg Gubow, and three children: Oakland County 45th District Court Judge David Gubow; Mona Gubow, retired director of International Trade for the Michigan Department of Commerce; and Janey Gubow, director of the Lift Up Aspen Food Pantry in Aspen, Colo.; along with two granddaughters, Jacqueline and Rachel Gubow.