Morris Berthold Abram

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Morris Berthold Abram
Born (1918-06-19)June 19, 1918
Fitzgerald, Georgia, US
Died March 15, 2000(2000-03-15) (aged 81)
Geneva, Switzerland
Nationality American
Occupation Lawyer, civil rights activist
Spouse(s) Jane Isabella Maguire (1944-1974)
Carlyn Fisher (1975-1987)
Bruna Molina (1990-2000) (his death)

Morris Berthold Abram (June 19, 1918 – March 15, 2000) was an American lawyer, civil rights activist, and president of Brandeis University.


Abram was born into a Jewish family, the son of a Romanian immigrant, Sam Abram, and a German mother, Irene Cohen.[1] He grew up in the small town of Fitzgerald, Georgia. He attended the University of Georgia, where he excelled academically. At UGA, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society and graduated (reportedly) with the highest grade-point average in the school's history at that time. Abram then earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. Although Abram was forced to forgo a Rhodes scholarship because of the Second World War, he later attended Oxford University and earned a master's degree there.[2]

As a civil rights activist, Abram was instrumental in ending the County Unit System of voting in Georgia, which many argued favored Georgia's rural, white population at the expense of its more urban black population. Abram was deeply affected by the Holocaust and later became an ardent supporter of Jewish causes.

In his long and distinguished legal career, Abram held a variety of high level positions, among them chief counsel of the Peace Corps and partner at the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He was President of Brandeis from 1968-1970.[3] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969.[4]

POTUS George H. W. Bush appointed Abram as the Representative of the United States to the European Office of the United Nations and he served in that office 1989–93.[5] In 1990, serving as the US Representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights, he explained the US's solitary veto on the UN Resolution to "The Right to Development", stating that the right to development is an "empty vessel" and would be "a dangerous incitement".

In 1993 he founded UN Watch while he was Honorary President of the American Jewish Committee.[6]

Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremberg Tribunal and later involved in the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention, was on record as stating that the convention: "was not designed to cover situations like Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, but rather the forcible transfer, deportation or resettlement of large numbers of people."[7]

After being diagnosed with a thought-to-be-fatal cancer in 1973 but overcoming it, Abram published a memoir in 1982 titled The Day is Short.[1] He died of a viral infection on March 15, 2000 in Geneva.[8]

He had five children, Ruth, Annie, Morris, Adam, and Joshua Abram.


  1. ^ a b Morris Berthold Abram: New York Times Article
  2. ^ brandeis university: Past presidents page
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "Representatives of the U.S.A. to the European Office of the United Nations (Geneva)". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  6. ^ "UN Watch, AJC Seal Partnership". CharityWire. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  7. ^ The Settlements Issue: Distorting the Geneva Convention and the Oslo Accords
  8. ^ Honan, William (March 17, 2000). "Morris Abram is Dead at 81. Rights Advocate Led Brandeis.". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-21. Morris B. Abram, a small-town boy from Georgia who went on to play a role in the civil rights movement, become a leader of the American Jewish community, serve as president of Brandeis University and fill posts on a variety of commissions and panels under five presidents, died yesterday at a hospital in Geneva. He was 81. The cause was a sudden viral infection, said Pranay Gupte, a family friend. 

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