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New exhibit now on display in the Biddle Law Library: Remembering Lou Pollak

September 28, 2012


On May 8, 2012, the Penn Law community lost a great man, Judge Louis Heilprin Pollak. Pollak was a civil rights advocate, former Penn Law dean, U.S. District Court judge, and was regarded as one of the leading members of the judiciary in the country. He was revered by his colleagues and students at Penn Law, and beyond. Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter said what set Pollak apart was his “moral integrity” and “powerful heart.” The exhibit, Remembering Lou Pollak, features photographs, texts, and news clippings from the Law School’s Archives.

Lou Pollak was born in New York City on December 7, 1922. His father was Walter Pollak, an attorney known for his work in major civil rights cases, such as Gitlow v. New York.  Lou Pollak received his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1943 and his LL.B. from the Yale Law School in 1948, where he was editor of the Yale Law Journal. After completing his undergraduate studies at Harvard, Pollak entered the United States Army in 1943, during World War II. Upon his graduation from law school, Pollak began his law career as a clerk to Justice Wiley B. Rutledge of the United States Supreme Court. After completing his clerkship, Pollak worked at the law firm now known as Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, from 1949 to 1951. He then served in the United States Department of State as special assistant to Ambassador-at-large Philip C. Jessup until 1953. In the early 1950s, Pollak also helped work on the landmark school-desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1955, Pollak joined the faculty of the Yale Law School and remained there until 1974 when Pollak joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, becoming dean the following year. In 1978, he left the University when he was nominated to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by President Jimmy Carter on June 7. Until his death, Pollak remained an adjunct member of the Penn Law faculty and taught regularly.
Judge Lou Pollak died on May 8, 2012, at his home in Philadelphia after a long battle with heart disease, and is survived by his wife, Katherine, daughters Nancy, Elizabeth, Susan, Sally, and Deborah, and eight grandchildren.
Michael A. Fitts, dean of Penn Law, said of Pollak, “[he] was simply a beloved figure, deeply kind, and thoughtful, adored by his clerks, students, and colleagues.”
Judge Pollak’s memorial service was Friday, September 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the US Courthouse at 601 Market Street Philadelphia, PA.
The exhibit, Remembering Lou Pollak, will remain up in the Gateway through December 2012. For more information, please email