Morton L. Friedman, whose drive and vision as a lawyer, businessman and philanthropist shaped the culture in Sacramento from law and medicine to the arts and retailing, died on Dec. 6, 2012, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Marcy and Mort Friedman
Per the Bee, ”
Friedman had been ill in recent years with progressive supranuclear palsy, a brain disease, his family said.
Few movers and shakers in Sacramento have made as big a mark in as many areas of civic life as Friedman. He was a man of boundless energy and generosity, and his name regularly appeared on lists of the most influential people in the region.
With his wife of 57 years, Marcy, he built a fortune that they tapped freely to benefit the community. Their philanthropy included a $10 million donation that made them a driving force behind a major expansion of the Crocker Art Museum.
Friedman landed in Sacramento with a Stanford law degree in 1957 and within three years started a practice with partner Bill Collard. He made his reputation as a tenacious lawyer who won cases that made headlines and set precedents.
He was the lead attorney for plaintiffs in the 1972 Farrell’s disaster, which killed 22 people when a plane crashed into a Freeport Boulevard ice cream parlor. In 1984, he won $41 million for a 6-year-old boy who was paralyzed by a drug overdose at UC Davis Medical Center. He won millions of dollars for patients who sued Sutter Memorial Hospital in a 1979 operating-room sex scandal.
He argued cases that led to changes in state law, including a suit that gave owners of defective cars the right to sue the manufacturers as well as dealers. He filed lawsuits against hospitals that prodded reforms in care procedures. He trained lawyers who became top personal injury litigators.”
According to Jewish Week, ” Judaism was central to my father’s identity and persona,” said son Philip Friedman, who today serves as general counsel for AIPAC. “He always understood that to pass on the importance of Judaism, you do it not only by personal example, but also by being active in promoting Jewish institutions and causes.
Added Rabbi Reuven Taff of Mosaic Law Congregation, the synagogue Friedman twice served as president: “He was always a vivacious man who embodied the spirit of tikkun olam. He was a role model for everyone in this community.”
Friedman was born in Aberdeen, S.D., the son of Russian immigrants who wound up in the Great Plains. As a child, he helped out in his father’s general store. Though not especially religious, every fall the family would travel to Sioux City, Iowa, the closest town with a big enough Jewish population to celebrate the High Holy Days.
A gifted athlete, Friedman attended the University of Michigan to play football, but soon realized he did not have what it took to excel on the gridiron. So he moved West, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business and a graduate degree in law, both from Stanford University.
While there, he met Marcy Lichter. The two married in 1955, and after a short stint as a lawyer in Fresno, Friedman moved with his wife to Sacramento, where he would spend the rest of his life. The couple had three sons.
As an attorney, he often represented victims of corporate or medical negligence. According to the Sacramento Bee, he would sometimes juggle as many as 300 cases at a time.
Friedman parlayed his earnings as a lawyer into shrewd real estate developments, some of which became Sacramento’s most successful investments, including the Arden Fair Mall and Town & Country Village.
After Friedman died, the Bee ran a staff editorial headlined “Morton Friedman did much good for his adopted home of Sacramento.” In addition, a columnist wrote a piece headlined “Sacramento sadly lacking lions like Mort Friedman,” using words such as “indispensable” and “powerhouse” to describe him.
Charity work, especially in the Jewish community, was one of Friedman’s great passions. He served on the national boards of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, making many trips to Israel over the years.
“He felt strongly about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Philip Friedman said. “Growing up in South Dakota, he understood Israel’s own isolation, and having become a mature adult shortly after the horrors of the Holocaust, he really vowed to give meaning to the term, ‘never again.’ ”