This is a passage from the autobiography of Joseph M. Proskauer, partner in a major law firm (Proskauer, Rose), judge, speechwriter for Al Smith and a contemporary of Newton D. Baker. “A Segment of Our Times” was published in 1950 and I was struck by his inclusion of this passage about Baker who had died in 1937, quite number of years before. It gives striking testimony of at least one man’s admiration for Mr. Baker.
Joseph M. Proskauer
From the Chapter: “The Fight Against Bigotry” (the .pdf is here)
I cannot close a discussion of this war against bigotry without a tribute to the creator and leader of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the late Newton D. Baker. This last phase in a brilliant career was the ultimate flowering of a great soul. The seed was a profound and reverent belief in human brotherhood. At every stage of his life, not merely at its end, he could say: “Write me as one who loved his fellow men.”
He was a great lawyer, entitled by genius and position to command. Yet those to whom was given the high privilege of association with him bear witness to his gentle consideration for his colleagues, his innate modesty, his impulsive readiness to yield the glory while the labor was his.
It was a paradox that to this ardent follower of the Prince of Peace was entrusted the solemn responsibility of leadership of his country’s army in the awful catastrophe of war. In the discharge of that responsibility, he never permitted rancor to poison the wellspring of his compassion and though he had to devise the horror of battle, always his goal was a healing peace that should find its fruition in a benevolent parliament of the world. For that he never ceased to fight. And those of us who were so fortunate as to hear his glorious proclamation of his creed at the Democratic National Convention in 1924 can never forget his passion for peace nor ever doubt the eternal rightness of his call to beat the swords of nations into plowshares.
Charity for the underprivileged found in him its champion. In outstanding struggles against injustice, by reason of his very nature, he became of course the head of this great association to enforce the gospel of peace on earth. At a time when the world was rent asunder with hatred and bigotry, he above all others, gave practical and wise and self-sacrificing leadership for all men of good will who believe that no human being should be made to suffer for the choice of his religion. Sympathy, mutual understanding, forbearance and tolerance, he preached and exemplified. We shall not look upon his like soon again.