Norman London, 83, acclaimed attorney, former public defender

Norman London

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

Norman S. London, a widely acclaimed St. Louis criminal defense attorney and former head of the federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, died Sunday, March 1 at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center in Town and Country. He was 83 and a longtime resident of the Brentwood.  

In September, Mr. London fell after leaving a restaurant in Brentwood and suffered multiple broken bones and a traumatic brain injury, according to his wife, Michelle.  He recently developed pneumonia.

Norman Sidney London was born in Springfield, Ill. on Sept. 6, 1930, the son of the late dentist Maurice London and the late Mary Kohn London.  After graduation from Springfield High School, Mr. London came to St. Louis in 1948 to attend Washington University, where he earned a bachelor of science in business administration in 1952 and a doctor of law degree in 1954.  As an undergraduate, Mr. London was an active member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, and was elected to Omicron Delta Kappa, the national collegiate leadership honorary society.

At law school, Mr. London was an editor of the Washington University Law Quarterly and was elected to the Order of the Coif.  While Mr. London was attending law school, his brother, Stan London of Ladue was in medical school; he later became the surgeon for the St. Louis Cardinals.

After graduation from law school, Mr. London served as a law clerk to the late Rubey M. Hulen, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.  He was engaged in private practice in criminal defense from 1954 through August 1995. His client list included many prominent members of the wealthy St. Louis elite including August A. Busch IV, a member of the brewery family.  Mr. London also defended several high profile organized crime figures.  He readily took on clients from all strata of society because of a firm belief that under the U.S. criminal justice system, everyone is entitled to skilled defense and a fair trial.

In 1995, Mr. London began to represent indigent clients in criminal cases as head of the federal Public Defenders Office for the Eastern District of Missouri. He was named to the post by the judges of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Mr. London was equally respected and admired for his years of private practice as well as for his leadership of the Public Defenders Office.  He enjoyed difficult and challenging cases and was known for his impressive courtroom presence.

He helped organize the St. Louis Police Officers Association and represented the group for several years.  Mr. London and his wife were active members of Congregation B’nai Amoona.

Arthur S. Margulis, another prominent St. Louis criminal defense lawyer, was a friend and admirer of Mr. London. “He possessed all the attributes every lawyer should strive to attain—smart and intelligent, and there is a distinction between the two—a gentleman always, respectful of others regardless of station and a courtroom ‘natural.’  His passing is a major loss to the profession and the community,” he said.

A funeral service for Mr. London was held last Thursday at B’nai Amoona, where Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose officiated. Rose noted that the late Rabbi Bernard Lipnick had been the couple’s longtime spiritual guide. 

“As Rabbi Lipnick lay on his death bed, he insisted that I come with pen in hand to take notes on certain highly sensitive matters that were best discussed face to face,” Rose recalled.  “Amongst those notes was a list of people to turn to if things ever got ‘rough.’ ‘If you’re ever in trouble, and I mean really in trouble, call Norman London.  He’ll know what to do.’ So, though only a Johnny come lately, I have lost a go to guy–and for that and so much more, I am profoundly sad.”

Burial was at the Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery on Ladue Road.

Survivors include his wife, Michelle Godi London; a brother, Dr. Stanley London (Jackie) of Ladue; two daughters, Stefanie London (Steve Littlejohn) and Brittany Marquardt, both of St. Louis; a son, Gary London of St. Louis, and three grandchildren.

Memorial contributions are preferred to Stray Rescue, 2330 Pine Street,  St. Louis, Mo. 63103, www.strayrescue.org.