Living the New Deal: David Ginsburg (1912-2010)

8 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2010

See all articles by John Q. Barrett

John Q. Barrett

St. John's University School of Law; Robert H. Jackson Center

Date Written: December 21, 2010


David Ginsburg, who died at age 98 on May 23, 2010, was, to my knowledge, the last living official who served at senior levels in the early Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration.

Ginsburg, after growing up in West Virginia and graduating from college, attended Harvard Law School and became a protégé of Professor Felix Frankfurter. In 1935, he helped Ginsburg get a position at the new Securities & Exchange Commission, where his work included defending the constitutionality of the Public Utility Holding Company Act and, as borrowed personnel, researching speeches for President Roosevelt. In 1938, Ginsburg worked as newly appointed Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas’s first law clerk. In 1939, Ginsburg returned to the executive branch, working on various aspects of national defense, ultimately becoming general counsel of the Office of Price Administration. In 1943, Ginsburg joined the U.S. Army as a private. He served in Europe and, after the war, remained in Germany to work in the U.S. occupation government. In later decades, he headed one of Washington, D.C.’s great law firms (Ginsburg, Feldman & Bress), was a co-founder of Americans for Democratic Action, and was appointed by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to significant positions. In 1967, LBJ, responding to riots and racial unrest, created the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known popularly as the Kerner Commission, and appointed Ginsburg its executive director. He in large part wrote its March 1968 final report.

This eulogy, delivered at a memorial gathering in September 2010 and based in research in Ginsburg’s newly available papers in the Library of Congress, describes his paths and his work in the New Deal and World War II periods.

Keywords: Ginsburg, Frankfurter, Roosevelt, FDR, New Deal, SEC, PUHCA, Douglas, Supreme Court, Law Clerk, OPA, World War II, Germany, Kennedy, Johnson, Kerner

Suggested Citation

Barrett, John Q., Living the New Deal: David Ginsburg (1912-2010) (December 21, 2010). St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-29226, Available at SSRN: or

John Q. Barrett (Contact Author)

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