Morton C. Pollack, former attorney, public servant and loyal political backer, known to family and friends as a straightforward man of his word, died on Aug. 24. He was 88.
Pollack was born in Baltimore on Aug. 8, 1929 into a political family, son of James “Jack” Pollack, a one-time light-heavyweight professional boxer who became Baltimore’s first Jewish political boss, well-known for the power he wielded as head of the Trenton Democratic Club of Northwest Baltimore.
Morton attended Baltimore public schools and McDonogh School, as well as the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore. He served in the House of Delegates representing the 4th District from 1952 to 1954 and 1956 to 1958. He also served as a Maryland state commissioner and on the Maryland State Employment Appeals board.
As a criminal attorney, Pollack, said friend Gary Hyman, was fair and supportive, going out of his way to help clients.
“If people were in trouble, he’d help them out,” Hyman said. “If they couldn’t pay his fees, he would still represent them. When they were looking for work, he would do his best to find jobs for people, whether in the courthouse, in government or outside of government through the people that he knew and, I guess, inherited from his father.”
And although Hyman, who had been friends with Pollack since 1970, described him as his father’s “right-hand man,” he also said the two were cut from different cloth.
“Mr. [Jack] Pollack was outspoken, liked to have his name in the paper every day, if he could,” Hyman said. “Morton was kind of laid back. Because he was an attorney, he had to watch what he would do and say and who he was in contact with.”
The two also differed in their views of who should be in politics, according to Hyman.
“Mr. [Jack] Pollack believed a woman’s hands should be in the sink washing dishes, as opposed to being in politics,” Hyman said. “When Mr. Pollack passed away and Morty took over, he took the best people available to support. We started with women members and backing them for election. And if you look at [former 5th District City Councilwoman] Rikki Spector, we did a pretty good job.”
“He was a terrific guy. Straightforward,” Hyman added.
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (D-District 41) had similar recollections of Pollack as a man of his word.
“The people who were helping me — people like Rikki Spector — told me that Morty’s club met every Thursday night in Morty’s basement in Ranchleigh,” Rosenberg said. “It was an opportunity for the club members to discuss politics and to have comaraderie and get to know each other. I’m sure candidates introduced themselves to both Jack and Morty and the members. And that’s what I did. For more than a year before my election, which was September of ’82, I would go to Morty’s at least once a month for the weekly meetings, to let people know who I was, to meet them, to talk about issues. Morty supported me, and then subsequently, when I ran for re-election in 1986.”
Rosenberg said one of the issues he ran on in 1986 was trying to mitigate the lead-paint poisoning that was happening to children living in old buildings in Baltimore City. He said a group of city landlords pressed Pollack to back another candidate against him.
“And Morty told them, ‘No thanks,’ he was supporting me and that was the end of [that] candidate,” Rosenberg said.
Former City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector said she had known Pollack all her life and thought of him as a “big brother.” She lauded Pollack for his unerring support of Democrats and of her campaigns.
“We didn’t always agree, but to the end of the day he always supported me,” Spector said. “He was as good as his word and that’s what made him special to all of us.”
Other candidates backed by Pollack included Sen. Ben Cardin, former Sen. Paul Sarbanes and former Baltimore State’s Attorney William A. Swisher.
Pollack is survived by wife Mary Pollack (née Rodriguez), stepsons John Munoz and Fred Munoz, sisters Sandra Stuart and Edwina Bergman and loving nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by daughter Stephanie Pollack and sister Rhona Dorf. Interment at Shaarei Tfiloh Cemetery, 5800 Windsor Mill Road. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be sent to the charity of your choice.