The Robert L. Levine Distinguished Lecture Series, established through the generosity of Dr. Eric P. Kane and Mrs. Susan Levine, Mr. and Mrs. Jay H. Levine, and Mr. Laurence W. Levine (now the Laurence W. Levine Foundation, Inc.), honors Robert L. Levine’s great legacy and affords the Fordham community access to some of the best minds in the country for fresh perspectives on the latest legal issues.
Robert L. Levine graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 1926 and served as the Secretary of his class. Born in Yorkville, New York, he was the youngest of six children in a family that emigrated from Russia in 1902. After law school, Levine went into private practice, joining Skinner and Bermant. Three years later, he and classmate, as well as lifelong friend William F. Walsh, established their own firm, Walsh & Levine, initially practicing theatrical law, but gradually expanding to a cross-section of commercial, banking, and international law.
Walsh & Levine counted among its clients a host of celebrities associated with El Morocco and the Stork Club, centers of New York City nightlife from the 1930s to the 1950s. Levine represented two children of actress Ethel Barrymore in a successful lawsuit to dismantle a trust of Samuel Colt, founder of U.S. Rubber. Levine’s interests extended well beyond the law. He was active in the Masons and served as Master to the Franklin Lodge in 1936, during the initiation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s two sons. On the eve of World War II, Levine and Walsh joined two of their clients to form Cambridge Shipyards in Maryland, which built “crash rescue boats” used to pick up survivors of downed Army aircraft in the waters of Europe and the South Pacific. Levine also co-founded the Marvel Packaging Company in Georgia, which produced the first plywood for a bomber used during the early raids on Europe.
Following the war, Walsh & Levine resumed their core specializations, representing several Argentine families and defending the government’s anti-trust action against the Forrestal Land Timber & Railways Company and U.S. importing of tanning extracts used in fine leather. Levine, as a major shareholder of the Peoria and Eastern Railway Company and eventually one of its five board directors, led a proxy fight in 1963 against the majority shareholder, New York Central. After a long history of success, Walsh & Levine eventually merged with Bigham Englar Jones & Houston in 1990. Mr. Levine’s death on February 18, 1992 ended a vibrant legal career that spanned 62 years. He is remembered for the vigor and excellence with which he pursued the practice of law and also for the great and enduring friendships he created throughout his life.
Since its inception in 1992, the Lecture Series has attracted distinguished speakers from the legal community, including jurists, such as A. Leon Higginbotham, John T. Noonan, Jose A. Cabranes, and Robert A. Katzmann; prominent scholars, such as Ronald Dworkin, Louis Henkin, and Randall Kennedy; and eminent public intellectuals, such as Martha Minow, Harold Hongju Koh, and Jeffrey Rosen. Below are transcripts of the past Levine Lectures.