My family were pioneers in Sunnyside – only the wrong side of the El. My mother remembered walking home from the Bliss Street station to her parents’ apartment whistling because it was all farm land and no one was around. My grandparents opened a hardware store to service the residents of the new Metropolitan apartments which rented to Jeannie Cagney (sister of Jimmy) and Gerhart Eisler (who escaped the country for East Germany a step or two -as usual- ahead of the FBI), but the Met did not rent to Jews.
My father moved to Sunnyside after he and my mother were married and opened a children’s store which my brother always claimed was their favorite child. In our apartment house on 47th Avenue, across from the fish market, we were the only Jews. My parents joined their neighbors and became Republicans (that didn’t last forever). After Bryant I went to Queens College. I hated living at home so much that I wasted a wonderful education. My politics became Red, and I remember frightening my father when I brought the Daily Worker home. When I graduated from Queens, I had the opportunity to go to the University of Hawaii as a T.A. in government. I became good friends with Patsy Mink (who later authored Title IX). Most of my friends at Hawaii were as red as I was, and a radio disk jockey called us the “fellow travelers” in the Government Department (he made us very proud). I left Hawaii to go to Indiana University to study for a PhD.
Once there, I decided to go to law school (you could do that in those days). Indiana was Brigadoon for me. I finally enjoyed the undergraduate life I had missed earlier and met my wife, Jan, and we have been together for fifty-two years. How lucky we have been because we hardly knew each other when we got married. I was not very interested in practicing law. I was offered a job in a New York law firm, but I had no interest in returning to N.Y. After nineteen weeks in the Army Reserves and a couple of years practicing law in Bloomington we moved to Ann Arbor for a year and then to Cleveland. I was interested in teaching at Mississippi or Alabama and the good fight, but Jan said she was too young to be a widow. When I told her we were likely going to Cleveland (then Western Reserve University), she said if she had known there was a law school in Cleveland, she would have added it to Mississippi and Alabama. I was ready to move after two years, but by then we had settled in, and Jan decided Cleveland was not such a bad place. We would see Joan (Tenzel) and Bob Davis periodically, and Joan and I would bore our spouses reminiscing about all of you.
Jan and I were active in the Bobby Kennedy campaign and still have not recovered from his assassination. After Bobby was murdered, we faded away from politics and raised our three children. We are very lucky that all three live here with their families, and we see our seven grandchildren very often. I have continued to become more liberal as the years have gone by and have been tempted to throw something at the television every time I saw your brother David spouting the right wing line and complaining about university professors (he always was a true believer). In 2006, I ignored Jan’s better judgment and ran for Congress against the Iraq war. My advocacy of women’s abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control assured that I was trounced.
Second only to my family, I have enjoyed a career that I have truly loved. I have loved teaching law so much that I continue to do so full-time. The first class that I taught created a scholarship in my name. In 1992 I began a Master’s program for foreign lawyers and in 2012 started a doctoral program for the same population. These programs have given me the opportunity to travel almost all over the world. Next Sunday I head for Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Kuwait. I’m not much of a tourist but having close friends in all of the countries that I visit assures that I am treated very well.
I feel that I have been very blessed with a wife, children and grandchildren that I love more than I ever imagined possible as a kid, a job that has kept me fascinated for half a century, and knowing all of you. Now that we are all old, it is time we do something for our country. I hope you will join me in fighting against the Trump Administration’s plan to deport as many as twelve million undocumented Americans and oppose his plan to exclude Muslims from America, and pack the Supreme Court. That will help keep us young.
John C. Hutchens Professor and Director
Foreign Graduate Studies
Case Western Reserve University