Morton R. Bearman, 92; attorney, political, environmental activist

Morton R. Bearman 

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Morton R. Bearman, a pioneering attorney in the field of environmentalism, a longtime key figure in Democratic politics and a lover of Jewish history, died Friday, June 27. He was 92. Mr. Bearman, a longtime resident of Ladue, died of liver failure in his home, according to family members.

Morton Robert Bearman was born June 11, 1922, the youngest of three sons of Helen (Gross) and Harry Bearman, who managed the S. Bearman Shoe Co., which had been founded by his grandfather, Samuel Bearman. He graduated from Soldan High School in 1939 at age 16. He was a 1942 graduate of Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

During World War II, Mr. Bearman enlisted in the Army, serving in the United States until 1946 in the anti-aircraft artillery as an aide to Brig. Gen. James G. Devine, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. After completing his military service, he graduated in 1947 from the Washington University School of Law. In 1948, Mr. Bearman married Mary Fuller, an artist. She died in 2011.

Mr. Bearman began his legal practice with a local judge for several years. He then became an insurance underwriter, and later returned to the practice of law. His twin passions were Democratic Party politics and environmentalism. He was associated with Sidney Salomon, Jr. & Associates, headed by the original owner of  the St. Louis Blues, who was also a key figure in the Missouri Democratic Party, and a former chair of the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign.

In his long career in Missouri Democratic politics, Mr. Bearman chaired the campaigns of the late four-term U.S. Senator Stuart Symington, and later for Symington’s son, James, who was elected to four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, in the Second Congressional District. Mr. Bearman served as both chair and treasurer of Senator Symington’s 1952 campaign, and for all four of his successful campaigns. Mr. Bearman was also a Missouri delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1964, which nominated Lyndon B. Johnson for a full term with Sen. Hubert Humphrey as his running mate.

Mr.  Bearman became an early attorney activist in environmentalism after passage of the federal Environmental Project Act in 1972, deploying both his legal skills and philanthropic generosity in support of that cause. He was a member of Trailnet, Inc., which promotes hiking, biking and public transportation in the St. Louis region. He was named by three successive governors to terms on the Bi-State Development Agency, now Metro Transit, serving from 1956 and 1973. He was a strong advocate for public transportation which he said benefitted the environment by reducing the need for cars on the road.

He was an expert in the laws of real estate, forming the Real Property Associates, a real estate brokerage firm.

Mr. Berman was a member of numerous local educational, financial and philanthropic boards, including the board of directors of John Burroughs School.  He was a director of Clayton Bank and Mark Twain Bank, and the Private Banking Board of Mercantile Bank.  He was a member of Westwood Country Club for 66 years and served on its board.  He was a longtime member of Temple Emanuel.

Mr. Bearman was a member of the Jewish Community Center board of directors from 1961-1963 and was a volunteer for Jewish Federation Campaigns from 1951 onward, serving as co-chair of the Keystone Division in that year.

Mr. Bearman was also a member of the Bar Association of St. Louis and was a Life Qualifying Member of the 1968 Milion Dollar Roundtable of the National Association of Life Underwriters.

Mr. Bearman was interested in both local general and Jewish history, and served on the board of the Jewish Geneological Society of St. Louis from 1996-2005.  He was also an active member of the St. Louis Jewish Archives Committee, which is under the aegis of the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library.

Barbara Raznick, director of the Brodsky Library told the Jewish Light, “Morton had a strong interest in local history and genealogy and we were honored to  have him as a member of the St. Louis Jewish Archives Committee.”

Mr. Bearman was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Fulller Bearman, who died in 2011, and brothers Edward G. Bearman and Bernard L. Bearman.

Survivors include three children, Mary B. Rusk (Ladd) of Shawnee on Delaware, Pa., Morton R. Bearman II (Marcie) of Highland Park, Ill., and Lee F. Bearman (Julie) of St. Louis; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Services and burial were private.

Contributions may be made to Forest Park Forever or the Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy and Government at Washington University.