March 3, 2009

The Boss

Robert M. Morgenthau and David G. Marwell 
(Photo by Melanie Einzig)
We learned last week that Robert M. Morgenthau, the Chairman of the Museum, has decided not to seek reelection and will step down as District Attorney of New York County (Manhattan) at the end of his ninth term in December.  The Boss (as he is called), who will turn 90 in July, has been a remarkable force in New York public life for more than four decades, serving first as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York  under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. President Nixon threatened to fire him when the Boss wouldn't step down explaining that he still had important work to do.  He was elected DA following the death of the legendary Frank Hogan, who had held the record for having served  as DA for the longest period until the Boss overtook him early last year.  He made of the DA's office a creative and relentless force that contributed to making New York City a safer and fairer place to live.  He devoted his efforts and resources not only to combating crime in the streets but also in the suites, taking on white collar crooks with same kind of gusto that he employed in going after the mob.  He extended the reach of his office far beyond the island of Manhattan, and legions of his former Assistant DA's have occupied judges' chambers and law firm offices around the country for decades.  
I first met Morgenthau when he interviewed me for the Museum director position in the fall of 2000, and I quickly realized that getting to know him and work with him would be the most rewarding part of my job.  Over the past eight and a half years, I have spoken to him every week (sometimes every day) and meet with him regularly.  From the very beginning, I learned that the Boss has what I have called "exquisite instincts" -- he senses the solution to  a problem or the right path to take and is confident in these instinctive judgments.  I also learned that one will underestimate him at their peril.  In a recent interview in Jewish Week, Leslie Crocker Schneider, who challenged Morgenthau in the last election -- and was trounced -- intimates that he is no longer entirely with it.  She could not be more wrong.  I was at a meeting with him on the day the article appeared, and he was as sharp as ever.
I will admit that, when I learned that he was not running again, I was a bit concerned. But upon reflection, and after speaking with him, I feel much better.  I know that he is in good health and completely at ease with his decision and I know that he will continue to work hard for the Museum.  My colleagues and I wish him the very best and look forward to working with him for many years to come.

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