| Check Still In The Mail
By TIM BOXER
LMER GERTZ, who died at 93 in Chicago, was one of the country’s leading civil rights lawyers. He defended both black and whites in various landmark cases. He got the courts to overturn Jack Ruby’s conviction of assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald, but Ruby died in jail awaiting a new trial. His other famous triumphs involved getting thrill killer Nathan Leopold released from prison and successfully defending Henry Miller against obscenity charges for “Tropic of Cancer.”
Gertz was a nationally renowned champion of civil rights, fighting for black lawyers’ right to join bar associations, and helping to write a bill of rights in Illinois.
That did not stop him from defending the rights of a white person experiencing injustice from a black person.
That’s why he represented me in a lawsuit against Dick Gregory.
As a young reporter in the Windy City in the early ‘60s, I discovered Greg playing in a coffee house. I thought he was the most brilliant standup of the new breed of cerebral comics.
With a handshake deal, I became his publicist. In short order, the press began to take notice of this fresh new humorist with his unique outlook on hate and prejudice.
He appeared in the newspapers every single day for three months straight, until NBC’s Jack Paar Show booked, which brought him to the big time in New York.
Greg promised me $25,000 for making him a star overnight. When I mentioned Greg’s unfulfilled promise to Gertz, the fearless civil rights fighter saw the injustice inflicted on me and did not hesitate to bring it to the attention of the court.
After a jury trial that lasted less than a week, Greg agreed to settle. But wouldn’t you know, after three decades, the check is still in the mail.