Far from his soon-to-be home in Prestonsburg, a Jewish lawyer and Holocaust survivor got a cellphone name that could alternate Eastern Kentucky forever.
It was the summertime of 1970.
John Rosenberg and his spouse, Jean, had recently decided to leave their careers on the U.S. Department of Justice and opted for an avenue ride.
They loaded a Peugeot with a tent and a child carriage for their three-month-old son and drove north.
The trip lasted months. From their home in Washington D.C., they cruised thru Canada’s park gadget alongside the Bay of Fundy, into Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Then, one day, Rosenberg got the decision. It could set him on a route to grow to be one of the most influential attorneys and public servants in Eastern Kentucky.
He talked with Terry Lenzer, a Department of Justice attorney who worked with Rosenberg on some of prominent civil rights cases. Lanzer instructed Rosenberg to go to Eastern Kentucky, wherein a collection of attorneys primarily based in Charleston, West Virginia, had been hoping to expand their criminal provider.
So he did.
He visited Prestonsburg, in which he would quickly pass and open his own loose felony aid workplace known as the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (AppalReD).
Rosenberg’s loose legal resource carrier now has six offices during Eastern Kentucky and has introduced legal illustration to heaps of the location’s poorest residents.
As a legal professional, he labored on cases and initiatives that helped skip a constitutional change outlawing using extensive shape deeds, which for many years allowed coal agencies to strip mine the property of landowners without their consent.
Rosenberg, now 87, additionally helped establish the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, a nonprofit regulation firm in Whitesburg that has helped heaps of former miners and widows searching for black lung advantages.
“He is sincerely irreplaceable,” stated Ned Pillersdorf, a Prestonsburg legal professional who first met Rosenberg 38 years ago. “I shudder the day when he’s long past. Where might the less lucky be without him, and wherein will they be when he’s long past?”
Rosenberg’s resume lists his involvement, either as a founder or a board member, of countless nonprofits and criminal institutions. Within the prison network, he’s called a champion of supplying prison aid offerings for the terrible and has campaigned for their country and federal funding for years.
AppalReD has provided unfastened prison representation and advice to thousands of people as they fought for housing, social offerings and freedom from domestic violence.
Tony Oppegard, a Lexington legal professional who worked for AppalReD for about 18 years on coal mine safety and protection discrimination instances, recalled a case within the mid-1980s while a circle of relatives domestic became destroyed via a boulder knocked unfastened by a strip mine operation on the mountain above their residence.
Under huge form deed laws, coal companies were most effective accountable for the harm that become “wanton,” that means that an agency could not purposefully tear down a assets proprietor’s domestic for no motive, but agencies have been not liable for unintentional harm, like falling boulders.
“In that case, they were a poor own family. There were no local attorneys that had been going to sue coal groups — AppalReD changed into their handiest recourse,” Oppegard said. “When AppalReD sued, that became sincerely stepping on humans’ feet there.”
Oppegard has many comparable stories, in which AppalReD become the handiest group willing to stand up to the powerful judges and coal corporations that dominated existence in the mountains.
“I never knew of John to back off from a controversial case,” Oppegard said. “To me, he simply is a massive of a man and has finished superb matters in his life.”
On November nine, 1938, a 7-yr-old John Rosenberg and his family have been pulled from their 2d-floor condominium in Magdeburg, Germany, by Nazi infantrymen.
The Nazis led Rosenberg into the courtyard of the synagogue around the corner and compelled him and his circle of relatives to observe as they made a bonfire of Jewish books and holy scrolls.
Then, they blew up the synagogue.
That night might emerge as referred to as “Crystal Night,” whilst the Nazi authorities set hearth to and destroyed almost every synagogue in Germany.
Rosenberg’s father and two hundred different Jewish men in Magdeburg could ultimately be arrested and dispatched to an attention camp.
After 16 days, his father and the rest of the two hundred who survived — 20 died for the duration of the ones 16 days, Rosenberg said — were released and given 30 days to leave u . S.
The Rosenbergs ended up in a detention camp in Holland, and, through a connection of Rosenberg’s father, boarded one of the closing ships to depart Holland for the United States. (The Rosenbergs narrowly prevented being transferred to the Westerbork camp, wherein, after Germany’s profession of Holland, the Nazis might load Jews onto trains and send them to Auschwitz).
The boat arrived in New York on February 22, 1940.
Rosenberg recalls what number of flags were flying in New York City that day — it changed into President’s Day — and how an immigration officer directly modified Rosenberg’s first name from Hans to John, and his brother’s from Horst to Harry.
The own family moved south, bouncing between cities in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Rosenberg graduated from Duke University in 1953 with a chemistry degree and, thru his participation in Air Force ROTC, became a 2nd lieutenant after graduation.
It changed into on a train experience with a fellow soldier from New York to the Carolinas that Rosenberg first has become appalled by, and hoped to trade, the device of total segregation that ruled Southern life for the duration of his upbringing.
A black soldier followed him on the educate but, in Washington, D.C., moved to the lower back of the train before it entered Virginia.
“John changed into sincerely struck via that,” said Steve Sanders, the previous director of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, who labored for Rosenberg for years at his prison resource service in Prestonsburg.
Using the G.I. Bill, Rosenberg earned a law diploma from the University of North Carolina and commenced an illustrious career as a trial lawyer for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
He presented a case in Alabama, in which local officials in Dallas County tried to dam the votes of black citizens inside the country’s first election after the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
He investigated the Freedom Summer murders, and it changed into additionally on the Civil Rights Division in which he met his wife, Jean, who would move directly to make her personal Kentucky legacy that specializes in social justice in Eastern Kentucky.
“That’s a marriage made in heaven there, the 2 of them,” said Janet Stumbo, who became the first lady to be elected to the Kentucky Supreme Court without being appointed, and is an established buddy of John and Jean Rosenberg. “They’ve made a big impact at the community, and not simply the criminal career.”
Annie Rosenberg, John Rosenberg’s daughter, stated her father’s dating with Jean fashioned an essential a part of his professional achievement.
Along with acting as an associate on some of the tasks, which include the founding of the East Kentucky Science Center and Planetarium in Prestonsburg, Jean Rosenberg “stimulated his work and stimulated him,” Annie said.
“She’s constantly been a part of the cloth of Dad’s lifestyles,” Annie Rosenberg stated. “Without her strength and insight and ideas, I don’t assume Dad would have achieved what he had.”
After his 1970 go to Kentucky, Rosenberg opened his own AppalReD office in Prestonsburg.
During a current interview, Rosenberg recalled the transition to lifestyles in Eastern Kentucky. It wasn’t clean.
His arrival becomes no longer welcomed by using many nearby lawyers, and downtown landlords refused to lease his area.
“Yeah, we weren’t very famous at first,” Rosenberg said.
For starters, the nearby bar affiliation held a meeting in hopes of persuading individuals to prevent Rosenberg and his office from working towards locally. People have been unsure approximately this outsider, especially one that had labored for the federal authorities.
Acceptance got here with time, and even his critics got here around, in step with many of Rosenberg’s former colleagues.
“He is certainly quite a humans person,” Sanders said. “A lot of his adversaries, or individuals who might be opponents, surely appreciated him and loved talking with him, and wanted to retain the one’s conversations. He’s simply a completely, very likable character.”