BRACK: Remembering Leo

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher | A friend died last week and I’ll miss his wise counsel and long, engaging conversations.



Leo Fishman, a Massachusetts-born Washington lawyer who retired to the Lowcountry, believed in something many Americans seem to have forgotten – the vital need to protect and promote the common good to keep our democracy strong.

Leo knew the country gets in trouble when private, often selfish agendas impede that which is best for all. Investing in the common good got America out of the Great Depression and won World War II because Americans worked together to meet common goals. Investing in interstate highways, education for veterans through the G.I. Bill and even the space program moved our democracy forward.

In a 2008 video for the Center for a Better South, Leo, a former Marine who battled for better conditions in President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, outlined the need for the country to make progress instead of trying to turn back the clock:

“Progressive ideas are ideas that advance the common interest of the community. They are not ideas that merely expand government, or contract it for that matter, or nurture interests that are special or isolated. We cannot restrict our public dialogue merely to tax reduction and shrinking government when government as a representative of our community can advance all of our interests.”

Americans, some of whom are now toying with the xenophobic rancor of some presidential candidates eyeing a darker future, should care about the common good and progress for one reason, Leo reminded us: “Because this is your community. This is your society and it’s your children and it’s your relatives. These are interests that are dear to you, or at least they should be.”

Born in 1938 in Brockton, Mass., Leo was a tax lawyer who retired to the Lowcountry with his wife, Carol, after a successful career in Washington, D.C.  Always involved in civic affairs, Leo served a term as president of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra board of directors and was  a councilman and former mayor pro tem for the Town of Kiawah Island, S.C.

Fishman served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps before attending and graduating from Harvard College (B.A., economics, 1961) and the Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., 1964). Later, he worked with local communities in the Southeast as an administrator in Johnson’s War on Poverty. In his law practice, he represented a variety of nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations.  He retired in 1996, first to Kiawah Island, later to downtown Charleston.

“Simply put, they don’t make ’em any better than Leo,” said John L.S. Simpkins, a lawyer with the U.S. Agency for International Development who served as a founding director of the Center with Fishman.  “A Marine, lover of the arts, fighter for social justice, intellectual and all-around good guy, Leo made everyone around him better for having known him. I consider myself grateful to have been in that group and cherish our all-too-brief interactions.

“The world needs more Leo Fishmans.”

Yes, it does. Our hearts ache at Leo’s passing at age 77, but will remain strong and inspired by his intelligence and example.   He led a full life. Full of ideas and verve, Leo pushed people to do what is right and best in our communities.  We’re glad to have known, engaged and dined with him.

Fishman was buried in his hometown on Thursday.  To read an obituary, click here.

Leo Fishman, 1938-2016.  Rest in peace.


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