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Robert M. Morgenthau Biography

Photo of Robert M. MorgenthauRobert Morris Morgenthau is a New York City native who joined the Navy after graduating from Amherst College in 1941. He served throughout World War II aboard destroyers in the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Theater, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Mr. Morgenthau was the Executive Officer and Navigator aboard the USS Lansdale when that ship was torpedoed and sunk by German aircraft while protecting a convoy. He was then the Executive Officer and Navigator on a new destroyer assigned to support the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions. That ship, the USS Harry F. Bauer, was torpedoed and was hit by a 550-pound bomb that failed to explode. The ship’s crew received a Presidential Unit Citation for its conduct during the Okinawa campaign.

After World War II, Mr. Morgenthau graduated from Yale Law School and entered private practice in New York City. He began his career as a prosecutor in 1961 when he accepted an appointment from President John F. Kennedy, a boyhood friend, as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

During his eight-year tenure, Mr. Morgenthau was widely acclaimed for his prosecutions of cases involving tax fraud, organized crime and white-collar crime. He also established a special unit to investigate securities fraud and prosecuted bribery cases against city officials, IRS attorneys and accountants.

After a few years in private practice and an unsuccessful campaign as the Democratic nominee for governor of New York, Mr. Morgenthau was elected Manhattan’s district attorney in 1974 after the death in office of Frank Hogan, who had served for more than 30 years. Mr. Morgenthau, who was 55 when he was elected, held that position through nine terms until his retirement in late 2009.

As district attorney, Morgenthau continued his reputation as a staunch fighter of organized crime and white-collar crime. He also left a legacy of training many who served as assistants in his office, including 81 who have gone on to become judges.

Mr. Morgenthau is the father of seven children and is married to Lucinda Franks.