Murray Schwartz, former chief judge for U.S. District Court in Delaware, passes away

The Hon. Murray F. Schwartz, known for his oversight of Delaware’s controversial school desegregation order, passed away this week. Schwartz was named one of Delaware Today’s 50 most influential people of the past 50 years. We’re re-posting that tribute in his honor.

Few people are more deserving of a first-class seat in the pantheon of Delaware icons than Murray Schwartz. I have known Judge Schwartz for well over 50 years: in law school, as prosecuting colleagues, as a judge before whom I appeared, and as a fellow judge with whom I shared federal-state judicial collegiality. In all those settings I came to admire not only his keen, incisive and scholarly mind, but also his humanity, unselfishness, patience, dedication, courage, grace and civility. Let me focus, for now, on courage. As judges, we are called upon at times to make unpopular decisions. Judge Schwartz was required to make unpopular decisions not only in the celebrated school desegregation case, but also in other cases, including the prison overcrowding case. For that judicial service, he “was repeatedly excoriated by people who should have known better; his life was threatened; and he and his family lived in constant danger of hostility and retaliation” as Judge Walter Stapleton has noted. Yet, in the words of Judge Thomas Ambro, he has the “quiet grace to act courageously when out of step with public sentiment.” The stories of his life paint a portrait of one whose many qualities are among the most legendary of the influential Delawareans honored here. In Judge Stapleton’s words, he “literally changed the course of history.”

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