The following is a copy of the court transcript of the 2004 Bar Memorials remembering those members of the Bar Association of Lehigh County who passed away during the year 2003.
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEHIGH COUNTY
HONORABLE WILLIAM H. PLATT, P.J.
HONORABLE CAROL K. McGINLEY, J.
HONORABLE EDWARD D. REIBMAN, J.
HONORABLE WILLIAM E. FORD, J.
HONORABLE LAWRENCE J. BRENNER, J.
HONORABLE ALAN M. BLACK, J.
HONORABLE ROBERT L. STEINBERG, J.
HONORABLE J. BRIAN JOHNSON, J.
HONORABLE KELLY L. BANACH
February 2, 2004
9:00 o'clock a.m. Courtroom No. 2
Lehigh County Courthouse Allentown, PA 18101
MR. RABER: All rise, please. The Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
THE COURT: You may open court.
MR. RABER: Oyez, oyez, oyez. All manner of persons having anything to do before the Honorable, the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, and which is here holden this day, let them come forward and they shall be heard. God save the Commonwealth and this Honorable Court.
Please be seated.
PRESIDENT JUDGE PLATT: Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues on the bench, I welcome you to this annual Lehigh County Bar Association memorial ceremony. This is a special session of The Court convened to honor the memories of those members of the Bar Association who have passed away during the previous year.
Judge Wallitsch, who is not here today, expresses his regrets. He had a fall and is going for X-rays this morning for the second time.
The Court recognizes Paul E. Trainor, Esquire, president of the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
MR. TRAINOR: Thank you, Your Honor. May I address the courtroom?
PRESIDENT JUDGE PLATT: You may.
MR. TRAINOR: May it please The Court, President Judge Platt, the Honorable Judges of The Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, colleagues, family and friends. On behalf of the Bar Association of Lehigh County, I welcome you today, this first Monday of February.
We gather to honor, to pay tribute, and to celebrate the lives of the members of the Bar Association who have passed away last year. It's important that the family and friends of our deceased members know that their colleagues will never forget them. Therefore, this annual memorial service is one of the finest traditions of the Bar Association.
I'd like to thank President Judge Platt, the Honorable Judges of this Court, for their continued commitment to this tradition. I would also like to thank John Baker, who, over the years, has diligently nurtured and helped organize this event.
Today, we remember Leonard Rapoport, who was admitted to the Bar on May 19th, 1952, and passed away November 13th, 2003. With The Court's permission, I would like at this time to introduce our speaker, the Honorable Judge Arnold Rapoport.
JUDGE RAPOPORT: Good morning, Your Honor, may it please The Court, to the guests here, and for the empty seats. I want to talk about Attorney Leonard Rapoport.
To those of you who don't know me as I was introduced, I'm Leonard Rapoport's first cousin. Leonard was the son of Julius Rapoport. His father was the oldest of six children. My father, also a lawyer, was the youngest of six children. They practiced law together. They, of course, both passed on.
Leonard practiced law with them, with that firm. That firm was known as Groman and Rapoport, to some of our members. Clinton Groman was a common pleas judge and he and my uncle formed the firm, as I recall, sometime in the late twenties. That's just a little bit of the history.
Let me tell you something about Leonard Rapoport. He was born October 24th, 1923. As you heard, his date of death was November the 13th of 2003. He would be eighty-years old. He graduated from Allentown High School in 1941.
He graduated from Blair Academy in '42. He entered Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and at the end of his semester enlisted in the Army Air Corps. I will get back to that part of his life.
He came out of the service, finished his courses at the University of Pennsylvania, went onto Dickinson Law School, graduated in 1951. He was admitted to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on April the 21st, 1952.
He became a member of the Bar Association on May 22nd, 1952. So he was a member for fifty-one years. He was active in community affairs. He was a member of the Lehigh County Bar, Pennsylvania Bar, and American Bar Association.
He was a member of Barger Lodge. His father was very active in the Masonic organization. His father was one of the founders of the Lehigh Valley Club.
Leonard followed in his father's footsteps. He was a member of Barger Lodge, Lehigh Consistory, Rajah Temple and the Royal Order of Jesters. He belonged to the American Legion. Leonard was active in the Girls Club and the Boys Club. He was a trustee of the Charles Kline Foundation. He belonged to Congregation Keneseth Israel.
He never married. He lived at 2620 Tilghman Street, which was his parents' home. He lived there his entire life and died there. He also had a home in Curacao and he would spend time both of those places.
The last few years, he became reclusive because of health problems. He died of respiratory failure. But the most interesting part of his life was his military career. And I'm not going to just tell you, I'm going to read something to you.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the end of his first semester at the University of Pennsylvania, I think with the idea of becoming a pilot. He was interested in flying.
His father had an interesting hobby. It was first flights. His father was very friendly with Juan Trippe, who was a founder of the Pan American Airways. Julius Rapoport was on every first flight. Pan American was the airline that created and expanded the interest in aviation by pioneering long distance commercial flights.
There were a whole series of first flights. I remember the first commercial flight around the world. I have a clipping from Time Magazine, 1939, I believe, although, it may be a little earlier. You may recall Pan Am was flying large Bowing flying boats that were luxurious.
But I remember the article, at least about my uncle. It listed all the passengers, and you knew the name of everybody. They were either involved in political life or they were involved in the theater and entertainment. A long list of recognizable names. The last line said, "and a lawyer from Allentown, Pennsylvania,
Julius Martin Rapoport". He was quite a guy. Leonard, of course, followed that interest, and I think that he had in mind being a pilot. He went into the service. He always wore glasses as long as I knew him.
So he didn't have the kind of eyesight that allowed him to get into pilot training, so he ultimately became a gunner on a B-17 and was stationed various places. I think he got his gunnery training at an Army base in Denver, Colorado.
He spoke very, very, very occasionally about his military career. I remember him talking about Clark Gable, who was an instructor at gunnery school.
In any event, he went through training at various bases. His last base was MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Florida. And from that point they were ordered to Europe.
It was a hazardous flight. They flew across the country, Nova Scotia, Greenland, across the North Atlantic to Ireland. These were hazardous flights. And ultimately, to England. He was a member of the 8th Air Force, I think it was three hundred 8th bomb group.
He got there in May of '44, late May, in time to be involved in the assault on the French coast. Port of Calais was a diversion that, apparently, worked quite well. They bombed it heavily. It was a natural port and it wasn't that hard to convince Hitler that that was going to be the port of entry into Europe.
Leonard's crew made a number of bombing runs in preparation for D-Day. On the 16th day of July they took off on a bombing run over Munich. Let me read to you some dark history.
This is a telegram dated July 27th, 1944, delivered at nine-O-three p.m. It's addressed to his mother, Lena Rapoport, who, by the way, was Lena Silverman, born and raised in Lebanon. His father was born here and raised here.
It's addressed to his mother, 2620 Tilghman Street. "The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, Sergeant Leonard Rapoport, has been reported missing in action since the 16th of July over Germany. When further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified." Signed by the Adjutant General.
The next telegram is dated August 16th, 1944. "Report just received through the International Red Cross states that your son, Sergeant Leonard Rapoport, is a prisoner of war of the German government. Information follows." Signed by the Provost Marshal General.
The next telegram is dated August the 22nd, 1944. "An intercepted unofficial shortwave broadcast from Germany mentioned the name of Sergeant Leonard Rapoport as a prisoner of war. No personal message was included. This information supplements previous official report received from International Red Cross."
The fourth telegram is dated June the 8th, 1945. "The Secretary of War desires me to inform you that your son, Sergeant Leonard Rapoport, returned to military control."
While he was in that camp, he met John Lush, who some of you may recall owned the Pennsylvania Restaurant here on Turner Street between Fifth and Sixth. Actually, I think it was his father-in-law's and then he took it over.
There was also a man by the name of Mike Rishko. They all ended up in the same camp. I don't know if any of you knew Mike Rishko, but Mike was one tough man. My cousin went to his grave with scars on his legs and back. As you look at his record, and I have copies of it here, religion is blank because of the Geneva Convention. The guards figured out he was Jewish and they turned a bunch of guard dogs loose on him and he was badly, badly mauled.
And then there was another event when Mike Rishko, who had already escaped twice from that camp, punched a prison guard totally unconscious while the prison guard was attempting to bayonet Leonard. As the saying goes on the street, Mike really cold-cocked the guard. And so Mike got punished again, but managed to survive.
Leonard's only direct family is Ruth Morrison and her husband, both who are retired and live in Sarasota, Florida, along with their children and grandchildren. Other than that, there are cousins, including myself.
Ruth told me that when Leonard came home he looked wonderful because he had remained in England and had gotten medical treatment, rest and good food. The Air Force put him on a ship bound for the United States. The sun was shining and he got some color and rest and he looked well when the ship docked.
He was terribly stressed, for obvious reasons, and I think that probably affected the rest of his life. But you wouldn't really know that if you knew him and talked to him because he was very quiet about his military experiences. He was just that sort of person.
I'll tell you something interesting. I talked to his sister Ruth and I asked whether she knew what awards he got in the military. She said, "I know he had a purple heart." I said, did you know about others? She didn't know.
He had two bronze stars, a Presidential citation, the Victory Medal, another medal showing that he was in the European-African campaign, all in one tour, but she never knew that he had those. And I never heard him speak of them and I don't think he ever told anyone. He was just that sort of person.
He came back, as I said, to join his father and my father in the practice of law. My father passed away in 1960 and his father passed away in 1965. He continued the practice of law.
The house that he died in was the home that he lived his entire life. The home he had in Curacao he owned until a few years ago when he sold it and his health began to deteriorate.
My guess is that there are few Bar members who really knew him. He was not, to the best of my knowledge, active in the affairs of the Bar Association.
That's the story of a very reluctant war hero. And he surely was.
I have copies of his prison record here. If anyone would like to see it you are welcome to take a look at them.
Thank you. Thank you, Your Honors. Thank you everybody.
PRESIDENT JUDGE PLATT: Thank you, Judge Rapoport.
JUDGE Rapoport: Yes.
PRESIDENT JUDGE PLATT: The Court wishes to express our thanks and appreciation to the Bar Association of Lehigh County for continuing this tradition, John Baker for all the work he did into its preparation, to all who managed to attend this ceremony this morning, including two former members of this Court, Judge Young and Judge Gardner.
This is a wonderful tradition. I wish there were more people here today. I suspect it's because we only have one and because he wasn't that well known to many of the new members of the Bar and because, probably, the weather.
But I would urge the Bar Association to increase their efforts in advertising and promoting this ceremony so that more people will attend. We learn a lot about our former colleagues, things that some of us have forgotten and some things that we didn't know before. This is a wonderful tradition. It's a memorial to all of us.
I'm going to direct that the official court reporter transcribe the notes of testimony from this proceeding and provide a digital copy to the Bar Association of Lehigh County.
Since 2002 the Bar Association has been publishing the notes of these ceremonies on their web site at LehighBar.Org. And they are available for anyone to peruse and read. This will become a historical log of our former members as years pass.
Are there any members of The Court who wish to make any remarks at this time?
If not, we will adjourn this ceremony at this time. And when we do so, it would be out of respect for our departed colleague. Mr. Raber?
MR. RABER: Please rise. This court is adjourned