Career Corner: 102-year-old ’35 grad recalls memories at UF Law

Published: October 14th, 2013

Category: News

Maury Goldstein (JD 35), left, walks to the Jacksonville courthouse with attorney Herbert Panken (deceased in 1999). (Photo courtesy of the Goldstein family)

By Jenna Box (4JM)

“They were frightened that I was gonna beat the hell out of them,” Maurice (Maury) Goldstein (JD 35) said with a chuckle on a Friday afternoon in September, recalling being pitted against young lawyers in the courtroom. “And I did, most of them.”

Until 2002, Goldstein was still practicing law and winning cases against the “young guys” alongside his brother, the late Billy Goldstein (JD 49), in their Jacksonville-based practice, Goldstein & Goldstein. He was 91, and Billy was 79 when they retired in 2002.

Maury Goldstein is now 102, but just like those young lawyers learned, he shouldn’t be underestimated because of his age. This litigator of more than 50 years can still recite the Power of Attorney by heart and recall details of cases as if they happened yesterday.

He’s been married to his wife, Hilda, for 73 years “without any interruption.” The pair still reside in Jacksonville.

Goldstein litigated cases in Florida courtrooms, negotiated settlements and even held a trial on a merchant ship when he was a commander in the Navy during World War II. In his leisure time, he played golf until he was 98 and proudly noted that he made two holes-in-one.

“(My brother and I) did an honest practice all the way through,” Goldstein said. “When we tried cases we didn’t tear (lawyers) down like some other lawyers do. We just went on the facts, and we got along fine.”

Goldstein shared stories about his most memorable work, ranging from gambling cases to defending Armed Guard members to negotiating big settlements.

“I won a lot of cases,” Goldstein said, “but we didn’t make a lot of money.” But he insisted that the time spent in his job was worth it. “I was thrilled to be a lawyer. I just loved it,” he said.

“I never saw him come home in a bad mood,” said Evelyn Moskovitz, Goldstein’s daughter.

But Goldstein’s passion for the law wasn’t something he discovered on his own or always planned on doing. During the Great Depression, his mother wanted him to go to law school “because there weren’t any lawyers in the family,” Goldstein said.

So he applied and was admitted to UF Law. When he began his education, the law school was housed in one building, Bryan Hall, and tuition was about $40 — books included, he said. Classes had about 30 students in them, and according to UF Law records, there were 144 total students enrolled in 1935, when Goldstein graduated.

“I loved the law school,” Goldstein said sentimentally. “The professors were wonderful. Classes started at 8 a.m., and we wore nice, clean clothes every day. The students in the class were all very nice people.”

Every day, he walked to class from the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity house, which was just a block away from the law school. His room in the house was his favorite place to study, and Evidence, a five-credit-hour course, was his favorite class. Clarence TeSelle — who is honored with a bust in Bruton-Geer Hall at UF Law — was his best professor, who happened to teach his favorite course, Goldstein said.

After Goldstein graduated, he went to war, returned and established a practice in Jacksonville. He found himself becoming a mentor to many other lawyers.

One such lawyer was Enoch Jon Whitney, assistant attorney general of Tallahassee. But before he entered law school, Whitney’s dad brought him to visit Goldstein.

“He told me that to succeed in law school, I needed to wear a coat and a tie to class every day and to avoid missing class,” Whitney said. “I faithfully followed his advice.”

By doing so, Whitney said he was able to successfully navigate law school with confidence, even while working a part-time job.

“Perhaps Attorney David Robbins (JD 72) of Jacksonville, also a UF Law graduate, said it best when he told me that he considers Mr. Maury to be ‘a national treasure,’ ” Whitney said.

Closer to home, Goldstein’s niece — and daughter to Billy Goldstein — Nancie Severs (JD 77) said watching her dad and uncle’s law practice taught her to “always take the high road.” She admired that they upheld their reputation of honesty and fairness in their practice.

So why did he retire at 91? Goldstein has a joke he likes to tell.

“We had to quit because all of our clients had died!” he quipped.

On being 102, Goldstein attributes his longevity to “staying healthy” and “never smoking.” Having a beautiful wife, he said, keeps him happy, too.

“He’s always (said he’s) lived a good life,” Moskovitz said.