JEFF DAVIS, Executive Director State Bar of Georgia
Aaron Buchsbaum: An Example of What Human Beings Should Be
During the American Civil Rights
Movement of the 1960s, change swept through communities across the South— in some cases amid great resistance and eruptions of violence, while in others through the influence of local heroes who were determined to bring an end to segregation and injustice.
In Savannah, Georgia, one of those heroes was a lawyer named Aaron Buchsbaum, whose abhorrence to bigotry and a belief in equal justice for all were the driving forces in his legal career, along with a lifelong dedication to the betterment of his community and the lives of his fellow citizens.
Aaron Levy Buchsbaum was born April 9, 1931, the son of Herbert and Sarah Levy Buchsbaum. According to his obituary in the Savannah Morning News, his father was co-owner of Buchsbaum Brothers wholesale grocery. His mother was the daughter of Aaron Levy, the founder of Levy Jewelers, for whom Aaron was named.
Buchsbaum attended Massie School, which was behind his house on Gaston Street, and Savannah High School where, despite being the top-ranked tennis player, he was barred from becoming team captain because of his religion. He graduated from Tulane University in 1952 and earned his law degree from Emory University School of Law, with honors and as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Law, and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1954.
Before starting his career in the legal profession, Buchsbaum served in the Army as a specialist first class with the Army Audit Agency in Paris. He then returned to Savannah, where he had grown up amid widespread poverty and racism, witnessing abuses he could neither comprehend nor accept. As a lawyer, he would spend the next 50 years working to end injustice and inequality in his hometown and elsewhere.
Early in his career, Buchsbaum successfully challenged legal practices used in Savannah to jail civil rights demonstrators, including a teenager named Edna Jackson, who was arrested at a Ty-bee Island sit-in. In 2012, Jackson was the first African-American woman elected as mayor of Savannah.
Buchsbaum also took on the case of Rick Tuttle, a civil rights Freedom Rider who had come to Savannah in 1963 to help register black voters. Tuttle, who went on to serve as city...