Oral history interview with Sidney Lezak [Sound Recording 01]

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Oral history interview with Sidney Lezak [Sound Recording 01]


  • 1988-08-16 (Creation)


Audiocassette; 00:30:28

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Biographical history

Sidney I. Lezak was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1924. He attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, for one semester. He then studied at the University of Chicago. In 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and he served in Europe during World War II. After his discharge in 1945, he returned to the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor of philosophy degree in 1946 and a law degree in 1949. That same year, he and Muriel Deutsch were married; they later had three children. The couple moved to Oregon the night of their wedding. He practiced law in Portland, Oregon, and also served as legal counsel for the Democratic Party of Oregon. He was appointed U.S. attorney for Oregon by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. He resigned in 1982 and worked as a mediator until his death in 2006.

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Tape 1, Side 1. This oral history interview with Sidney Lezak was conducted by Jack G. Collins from August 16, 1988, to June 6, 1990. In this interview, Lezak discusses his family background and early life in Chicago, Illinois. He speaks briefly about beginning his college studies before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1942. He describes flying missions in Europe during World War II. He then briefly talks about completing his studies at the University of Chicago; his marriage to Muriel Deutsch; and relocating to Oregon.Lezak discusses practicing law in Portland, Oregon. He talks about some of the cases he worked on, particularly regarding labor law and civil rights. He also talks about judges he argued before, including Gus Solomon. He discusses his involvement with the Democratic Party of Oregon, including serving as legal counsel. He then talks about his appointment as U.S. attorney for Oregon and his service in that role from 1961 to 1982. He discusses his work toward making the U.S. attorney’s office non-partisan; working with the FBI and local law enforcement; and some of the cases he prosecuted, including mail fraud. He talks about civil unrest during the Vietnam War, and about prosecuting protestors and conscientious objectors. He talks about judges on the U.S. District Court that he argued before, including William East, Gus Solomon, and John Kilkenny. He also speaks about his staff and law clerks, particularly Kristen Olson, who later became U.S. attorney. He discusses the American Indian Movement in Oregon, including relations with the Warm Springs tribe. Lezak discusses his resignation in 1982 in response to the policies of the Reagan administration. He closes the interview by talking about his activities since leaving office, including his career as a mediator.

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Joint copyright for this interview is held by the Oregon Historical Society and the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society. Use is allowed according to the following statement: In Copyright – Educational Use Permitted - http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/

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  • English

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41.9 MiB


June 16, 2020 5:23 PM

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