Arthur Joseph Goldberg was born on August 8, 1908, on the West Side of Chicago. He was the youngest of eight children born to Russian immigrant parents, Joseph and Rebecca Perlstein Goldberg. Goldberg's father was a peddler, delivering produce by horse-drawn wagon until his death in 1916. After his death, the older children were forced to quit school and go to work to support the family. As the youngest, Arthur Goldberg was able to continue his education. By the age of twelve, he was working at odd jobs, such as wrapping fish, selling shoes, and - his favorite -selling coffee to Cub fans at Wrigley Field during the prohibition years. By the time of his graduation from Benjamin Harrison Public High School at age sixteen, Goldberg had detennined to study law. His interest in legal matters was prompted by the well-publicized 1923 murder trial of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.
Goldberg accepted a scholarship to Chicago's Crane Junior College and also enrolled in classes at DePaul University. In 1926, he began his study of law at the Northwestern University School of Law, where he achieved a distinguished scholastic reputation. John Henry Wigmore, dean of the Northwestern School of Law, selected Goldberg to assist in the preparation of the third edition of his celebrated Treatise on Evidence. Goldberg also became the editor-in-chief ofthe Illinois Law Review, the Northwestern University law journal. He received a Bachelor of Science in Law from Northwestern, magna cum laude, at age 19 in 1929. Goldberg applied for admission in October, 1929, into the Illinois Bar Association. Disinclined to accept so young an applicant, the IBA admitted Goldberg only after a successful litigation of the issue. In 1930, Northwestern awarded him the JSD (Juris Scientiae Doctor) degree.
On July 18, 1931, Goldberg married Dorothy Kurgans, an art student at Northwestern University. They had two children: Barbara in 1936, and Robert in 1941. Goldberg began his legal career in 1929 as an associate in the firm of Kamfner, Horowitz, Halligan, and Daniels. Prior to joining the firm as an associate, Goldberg was employed as a clerk to that firm. In 1931, he joined Pritzker and Pritzker. As he saw the Great Depression taking its toll on the working American, Goldberg's interest in labor law increased. He left Pritzker and Pritzker in 1933 and opened his own law practice under the name of Arthur 1. Goldberg. In 1938, on behalf of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Goldberg represented the Chicago newspaper employees striking for higher wages and better working conditions. During World War II, Goldberg served from Captain to Major in the United States Army. From 1945-1947, Goldberg was a partner of Goldberg and Devoe. Then in 1947, he became senior partner of Goldberg, Devoe, Shadur, & Mikva in Chicago. In 1948, Goldberg was appointed general counsel for the CIO and the United Steelworkers of America. He participated in and was a legal advisor on the merger of American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the CIO in 1955.
Goldberg was senior partner of Goldberg, Feller & Bredhoffin Washington from 1952 to 1961. He was active in the Civil Liberties Committee and served as a public director of Chicago's Amalgamated Labor Bank. He was briefly a member of the National Lawyers Guild.
By this time, Goldberg had established a name for himself in the Democratic Party and was becoming an important figure in national politics. It was no surprise when President John F. Kennedy appointed him to be Secretary of Labor in 1961. Then, just twenty months later, after Felix Frankfurter resigned from the Supreme Court due to poor health, Kennedy nominated Goldberg to fill the empty seat. Such an appointment had been a dream of Goldberg's since law school, and he was deeply honored when the Senate confirmed his nomination. Goldberg took his place on the bench in September 1962.
Goldberg joined the Court just as the Civil Rights movement was beginning to shake America, and many of the decisions made by the Court were related to this issue. Among the noteworthy cases argued before the Court during Goldberg's tenure wereEscobedo v. Illinois (1964), Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (1963), and Zemel v. Rusk (1965).
Three years after Goldberg took his seat on the Supreme Court, President Lyndon Johnson asked him to step down and accept an appointment as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. At first, Goldberg declined the offer, but after much prodding by Johnson, he finally accepted. Goldberg's change of mind was prompted by his sense of duty to the country during the war in Vietnam. He said, “I thought I could persuade Johnson that we were fighting the wrong war in the wrong place, [and] to get out. … I would have love to have stayed on the Court, but my sense of priorities was [that] this war would be disastrous” (Stebenne, 348). On July 26, 1965, Goldberg assumed the responsibilities of Ambassador to the UN.
The ambassadorship proved frustrating for Goldberg, involving many confrontations with Johnson concerning the war in Vietnam. Goldberg came to believe that he could affect American foreign policy better as a private citizen than through a governmental position, and on April 23, 1968, he resigned from the ambassadorship. He returned to the practice of law in New York City from 1968-71 with the firm of Paul, Weiss, Goldberg, Ritkind, Wharton, & Garrison.
In 1970, he ran for Governor of New York against the incumbent Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller won re-election by a sizeable margin, about 700,000 votes out of3.5 million cast. After his humbling loss, Goldberg eventually returned to his farm in Marshall, Virginia, and to the private practice of law in Washington, DC.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter called upon Goldberg's abilities as a diplomat and negotiator and appointed him United States Ambassador to the Belgrade Conference on Human Rights. For his distinguished service to the nation, Goldberg received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1978.
Goldberg wrote three books: AFL-CIO: Labor United (1956), Defenses of Freedom (1966), and Equal Justice: The Warren Era of the Supreme Court (1972). He also wrote numerous articles concerning legal matters, foreign affairs, and diplomacy. He received several awards and honors from a variety of organizations and institutions including his alma mater, Northwestern University. Goldberg also participated in many different advisory committees, community groups, and legal organizations such as the American Bar Association, the American Jewish Committee, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Jewish Center for the United Nations, and the International Judicial Conference.
Goldberg died of a heart attack on January 19, 1990. This was his second heart attack since the death of his wife in 1988. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife and near his friend, Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Note: This biography is based largely on David L. Stebenne, Arthur J. Goldberg (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Scope and Content
The Arthur J. Goldberg papers span the years ca. 1961-78 and fill 43 document boxes. The papers consists primarily of Supreme Court case records from the Court's October Terms, 1962 through 1964. The remaining records pertain to Goldberg's administrative affairs while on the Court, and to his involvement with numerous community organizations, civil committees, and scholarly institutions. The records are arranged in four categories: biographical materials, Supreme Court case records, Supreme Court administrative records, and general subject files.
Biographical materials, mainly copies of clippings, press releases, and related materials are filed chronologically with Box 1, Folder 1 of the papers.
The Supreme Court case records fill 29 boxes and are arranged primarily by October Term and then by decision date, similar to the standard order of the United States Reports. Every folder typically contains one or more drafts of majority decisions, concurring statements, and dissenting opinions, as well as correspondence between the justices. These records from each term also include bench memos, slip sheet opinions, certiorari memos, and miscellaneous cases all arranged numerically by docket number. At the beginning of the records from each October Term are cases decided within that term, but with the undetermined decision dates (box 5, folder 1; box 16, folder 4-7). Several other cases - usually two or three cases with similar content - were decided together. Seven folders contain over four cases and are arranged alphabetically by the first case listed (box 8, folder 1; box 10, folder 5, 10, 11; box 16, folder 11; box 11, folder 9-10). Box 24, folder 12 consists of dissents written by Justice Harlan on cases that are documented in the folders immediately preceding it.
The Supreme Court administrative files, in boxes 30 and 31, pertain to case assignments and decisions executed by the justices during each October Term. The first two folders in box 30 contain records of five sit-in cases argued before the Court in the October Term, 1962. These cases concerned sit-in demonstrations, which were the only major cases decided in 1962 under the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause. Several other folders contain lists, which name the justices drafting the Court's majority opinion in various cases as well as records of votes cast during conference meetings. The remaining folders contain applications and recommendations concerning clerkships to Justice Goldberg.
The subject files (boxes 3-42) consist of non-court-related materials organized into folders, which then are alphabetized according to topical headings. Some of the subjects documented here are divided into subgroups based on the amount of material available. These subgroups include Goldberg's Asian trip (ca. 1963-65), the Belgrade Conference (ca. 1977-78), the Harriet Elliot Lectures (1963), and congratulatory letters received from family, friends, and the public upon his appointment to the Supreme Court (1962). Also contained within the subject files are copies of Goldberg's speeches, arranged alphabetically by title (ca. 1963-65). Box 41, folders 2-9 contain various photographic portraits of Goldberg. Box 40, folders 1-7 contain correspondence and program information pertaining to Mrs. Goldberg's interest and involvement in the national School Volunteer Program.
For more, view the Collection's Finding Aid.