Larry Lee is president of Leepoxy Plastics, Inc. in Fort Wayne.
When Leonard Goldstein passed away two weeks ago at age 97, our community lost so much more than a successful businessman, civic leader, public school advocate and prolific writer of letters to the editor.
We lost a patriot of uncommon courage – not a war hero or one who wraps himself in the American flag and spouts simplistic slogans reflecting supermajority sentiment. Rather, Leonard cloaked himself with reason, eloquence and a scholarly knowledge of our Constitution's Bill of Rights to defend minority rights while exposing bigotry, prejudice and hypocrisy.
In socially and politically conservative northeast Indiana, he was a proud, active, outspoken leader of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the face of vitriol and vilification while supporting so many social issues, he was resolute, rock solid in his convictions.
Here stood a mensch. Here stood a man of principle, a man of highest moral integrity. Whether or not you agreed with Leonard on any number of the most emotional, controversial, high-profile issues of the day, you had to respect his principles and integrity.
The social conscience of Fort Wayne. The revered voice of our Jewish community. Immediate, effective responder via letters to the editor or opeds to local instances of bias or bigotry of all kinds, especially anti-Semitism. Staunch, passionate supporter of Israel. Persistent critic of the media, including The Journal Gazette, for judging Israel's treatment of its Palestinian population by a standard unjustly harsh, a standard never implemented to judge any other nation in the world.
He was all of these. In sum and above all, he was a humanitarian of the highest order. A champion of civil rights and social justice for the ages. In this respect, over the past 60 years, along with Ian Rolland, he heads a short list of local giants: Jerome Henry, Sr., Joan Uebelhoer, Jesse White, James Bledsoe, James Nickelson, Clyde Adams, Charles Redd, Hanna Stith, Don Schenkel, Betty Hill, John Gardner, George Smith, Harriet Miller, Tom Hayhurst, Helen Brown, Dick and Harriett Inskeep, Larry Hayes, and the editorial staff of The Journal Gazette. In recent years, Chuck Surack, Bill McGill, Randy Schmidt, Trois Hart, Sue McGrady and Jack Morris have joined the list.
Leonard Goldstein's legacies are many. May his greatest legacy be to have inspired a new generation, a new legion, of outspoken, passionate champions of civil rights and social justice in our hometown.