Frederick B. Abramson

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Frederick B. Abramson, (born in New York, New York, 1935; died in Washington D.C., June 1, 1991), has a lengthy and distinguished career in the Washington D.C. legal community, including service as President of the District of Columbia Bar from June 1985 to June 1986.

Abramson was raised in Harlem - his father was an elevator operator, and his mother was a food service worker - but he attended a program for gifted students at Stuyvesant High School, before transferring to Cornwall Academy in Connecticut after receiving a scholarship that his sister had seen advertised in the Amsterdam News. He was the first African-American student to attend Cornwall, and later became one of only four African-American students in his class at Yale University, from which he graduated in 1956, also after receiving a scholarship. Although his first ambition was to teach English, Abramson went on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago School of Law in 1959, and a few years later settled in Washington, D.C., where he would practice law and participate in the governance of the legal profession for the rest of his life.

After stints in the United States Justice Department and with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Abramson went into private practice. He was one of the first black associates in a major Washington law firm while working for the firm of Arnold & Porter from 1969 to 1973, when he become a partner in Rollinson & Schaumberg. In 1977, Abramson became a partner in Sachs, Greenebaum & Taylor, where he would remain until 1990. In January 1991, he became the first African-American head of the Office of Bar Counsel for the D.C. Court of Appeals, supervising investigations of attorneys alleged to have violated the Rules of Professional Responsibility. He held the position for only five months before succumbing to pneumonia at the age of 56.

At the time of his death Abramson was also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the District of Columbia Law School. Among the other civic commitments undertaken by Abramson:

  • Nine years on the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission, four as Chair
  • Member of the ABA Commission on Opportunities for Minorities
  • Member of the board of directors of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law
  • Member of the board of directors of the D.C. Public Defender Service
  • Member of the board of directors of the National Women's Law Center.
  • Member of the board of directors of Century National Bank of Washington.

Abramson's death prompted members of the District's legal community to create the Frederick B. Abramson Memorial Foundation, which provides opportunities for young African-American men and women to further their education.

Quotations[edit]

"My parents brought me up to believe in honesty, hard work and achievement. Most of my life growing up was spent on one block. It was the rough section of Harlem with the notorious 146th Street gangs. My parents knew this was a setting fraught with danger. So they instilled discipline."

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