37 Judges J. 1 (1998)

handle is hein.journals/judgej37 and id is 1 raw text is: Jack Podell Reme bered
By Francis J. Larkin

he Editorial Board and staff
of The Judges' Journal are
pleased to dedicate this issue
to our great friend, colleague,
and mentor, Jack Podell, who
died on December 13, 1997 at his home in
Chicago, following a lingering illness. He
was seventy years old. For some twenty
years (1972-1992) as Director of the
American Bar Association Press, Jack
Podell embodied the highest standards of
professionalism, skill, and craftsmanship
in the editorial and publishing arts. For
those decades the shadow of his editorial
visage fell across most of the publications
that emanated from the ABA, and each of
them was the better for it.
In 1972, becoming director of what was
then the ABA Press, after a distinguished
career at the highest levels of the publish-
ing world of his native New York, Jack left
an indelible mark on the ABA and its pub-
lications. In this position, Jack created
seven bar association magazines and nu-
merous newsletters. Jack's technical skills
and professionalism had a profound impact
on each of these publications. Under his
leadership, the ABA grew into one of the
largest legal publishers in the country. But
it was with The Judges' Journal that he en-
joyed his closest and most fruitful relation-
ship. Working closely, in later years with
Fred Melcher, his talented friend and pro-
tege, he brought the publication to new
heights. Jack was fascinated by the law, the
legal profession and, on most occasions,
the judicial process, and it showed on
every page of our publication.
But it is not solely as an editor or pub-
lisher that we remember him. For Jack
Podell was not only a Renaissance Man
but also a Universal Man. He filled both
these roles not merely because he was in-
formed, well-traveled, urbane, sophisti-
cated, eloquent, and gifted; he was all of
these. But his universality did not rest
exclusively or even primarily upon these
What defined his essence was the sim-
plicity of fundamental human values. For
he knew, far more than others, the things
that really matter: what is permanent in the
midst of change; the love of peace; the in-
stinct of tolerance; the feeling of compas-
sion; a passionate devotion to human
rights; the urge to act for humankind writ
large. He was always Mr. Goodheart.
As an editor, Jack belonged to that all
too small group of professionals who had
an abiding feeling for the lovely echoes of
words-both individual words and words
in combination. He was an homme des let-

tres in the European sense. Indeed, as an
editor, one can argue that perhaps the pri-
mary thing that appealed to Jack was a
sense of style. Of course, he knew that
substance was supreme, but so too was the
careful orchestration of the tonalities of
words; not merely for the purpose of ren-
dering precise substantive import but also
for releasing the innermost melodies in
those words. To Jack, words were to be
heard as well as understood, and part of
their meaning was the silent song that rose
from them even in print.
His sense of style-limpid, unified, and
coherent-was also present on those occa-
sions when we would publish a theme
issue-an issue devoted exclusively or pri-
marily to a single subject. Jack never per-
mitted these issues to be fleeting or
episodic anthologies-mere random col-
lections of articles on generic subjects.
Rather, he sought to ensure that each of
these issues was an example of literary
creativity-unified whole and entire. He
sought to mold each of the constituent arti-
cles of the issue into a mosaic: sought spe-
cial meanings in them and, most impor-
tantly, always tried to make sure that the
entire issue had the focus and unity of a
mirror held up to the relevant subject, lay-
ing bare not only its organic scaffolding,
but also the interstices of each facet of the
The reach of Jack's interests, and the
sweep of his intellect, were wondrous to
behold-especially in the wide-ranging
conversations (usually accompanied by a
great dinner and a fine bottle of wine), that
I was privileged to share with him, at least
twice a year, for over two decades. Like all
great conversationalists, nothing was for-
eign to him. He knew everything about
everything--events and peoples of all
ages. His court was always in session.
There was in him a simple, unaffected
quiet; a wholly unvociferous acceptance,
understanding, and empathy for a wide va-
riety of men and causes. His tastes and in-
terests were catholic in the most formal
and universal sense of that word.
But as a child of New York City, and a
reverent but not always observant Jew, it
was Jewish history that particularly at-
tracted and fascinated him. Every period in
Jewish history had a special zest and fla-
vor for him-a peculiar combination of
tsores, naches, and bewildered bedazzle-
ment. Jack's knowledge of Jewish his-
tory-political, sociological, literary, theo-
logical, folkloric-was truly phenomenal.
Moreover, that knowledge was never
merely journalistic, nor even scholarly in

the narrow sense. It was a fund of infonna-
tion that his mind had distilled, bringing
forth innumerable nuances.
And so, perhaps, in closing it is fitting
to invoke two Yiddish phrases-Uhayim'
and Mensch-in attempting to summa-
rize this richly variegated man. L'hayim,
to life! was to Jack Podell the animating
impulse of his very existence. He truly
loved life and while sensitive to its infinite
possibilities, was not unmindful of its cruel
perversities and limitations. Having, at last
attained the Psalmist's years, what he
learned-for certain-is that life's greatest
events outrace planning or expectation. He
knew, instinctively, that there could be po-
etry in the world, and in our lives-even
miracles if only we would become open
to them. He knew also that when life gets
ready to open up, the only valid choice is
to be ready to embrace it. Near the end, in
a long conversation when we both realized
that, likely, there would be not further talk
between us, he said: Frank, never, ever
pass up the opportunity to look over that
approaching horizon and ask: 'What might
While Uhayim, to life, caught his
credo, it was the more familiar Men-
sch--connotirog the rare combiatior of
goodness, grace, and gallantry of the
human spirit-that both denoted and de-
fined the man. For surely his greatest
legacy was a human one. It is a legacy that
lies-and will continue to lie-in the
hearts of all those whose lives he touched;
not only the colleagues he encouraged and
guided, but in all of us who were the recip-
ients of his shining smile, his kindness, and
his concern.
With the passing of Jack Podell, what
we have lost is not his life. He lived that
out, if not to the full, at least more fully
than almost any other man. What we have
lost is the man himself. And who can
name the warmth and richness of that. If
virtue and talents are the grounds of a nat-
ural aristocracy (as Jefferson held), Jack
Podell was-if I may use an old-fashioned
word a true gentleman; one who con-
stantly put his virtues and talents at the dis-
posal of all he touched. We will not see his
like again.
But ... his memory will endure.
Francis J. Larkin is Dean of the
Southern New England School of Law
and Chair of the Editorial Board of the
The Judges'Journal.

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