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Herbert A. 'Herb' Glieberman, last surviving founder of divorce lawyers group

Herb and Evie Glieberman | Sun-Times file photo

Some veteran Chicago divorce attorneys say that at one time, the courts paid more attention to cases involving broken bones than broken hearts.

“They gave us very few judges, the worst courtrooms,” said Bernard Rinella, 80. “They provided no rooms for negotiations or meetings.’’

Some judges seemed to think family law was unsavory — or didn’t require expertise, he said.

In 1962, Chicago’s Herb Glieberman and several other area attorneys co-founded the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers to promote excellence and improve the image and treatment of divorce attorneys.

“It has now grown into a national organization with chapters in every state,” lawyer Stephen Botti said. To become a member of the group, attorneys need years of experience and a reputation for knowledge and integrity. They undergo certification and continuing education to ensure they are up to date on everything from alimony to visitation.

Unlike his clients, Herb Glieberman was married to the same woman for nearly 60 years, once telling the Chicago Sun-Times of his enchantment with his wife, Evie: “I’ve never been a drinker, but hearing her voice is like a glass of wine.”

Mr. Glieberman, the last surviving founder of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, died on Jan. 25 at Weiss Memorial Hospital. He was 85.

Born to Eastern European immigrant parents who ran the Bryn Mawr Bakery on its namesake street, he grew up in Albany Park and Rogers Park.

“He got up early in the morning and picked up fruit to sell on Maxwell Street,” said his son, Joel. Young Herb sledded in Gompers Park and watched movies at the Terminal theater on Lawrence Avenue. He went to Roosevelt High School and Roosevelt University.

After attending Chicago-Kent College of Law, he started his own firm in 1956. Mr. Glieberman practiced for nearly 60 years.

He prized reconciliation rather than conflict. When a new divorce client came to him, “He would send them to someone who might heal them before he took the case,” said his brother, Cary. “He would first send them to their respected religious leader for consultation. He would send them to a counselor.”

In court, “He never raised his voice,” Rinella said.

“He was a class act,” said lawyer Joy Feinberg. “He made his points with sound reasoning and case law that was rock solid behind him.”

“He treated all the other lawyers with respect, in a way that it would defuse the animosity and aggressiveness that sometimes accompanies contested divorce litigation,” Botti said.

An author of three books, Mr. Glieberman wrote about courtroom victories in which he thoroughly trounced his opponents. He could have named the losers, but he didn’t.

And he tried to help women when family law was just opening to them as a career. He pitched for them to be speakers before bar groups as well as authors of articles for the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education.

“When I started, there were very few women in the field,” Feinberg said. “There was a time I was in court and a judge was giving me a real hard time. He [Herb Glieberman] stepped up and said, ‘You know, your honor, I have known this attorney for a long time and her word is true.’ The judge went back, did some reading, and said, ‘You know, I think Miss Feinberg is right.’ ”

Mr. Glieberman also hosted two WMAQ radio shows, “Ask the Lawyer” and “Law and Controversy.”

He was a doting father, said his daughter, Gale Thornton. “He would read to me all the time, all kinds of books, wonderful fairy tales and stories that children love,” she said. “When he was home he was never distracted, and always gave us his full attention.”

“My dad and I would have long walks and talks about things,” his son said. “We went on vacation to Florida for years. He got me interested in reading early. He taught me how to swim.”

He spotted his future wife when he was out with a just-divorced client who wanted to celebrate his freedom. As Mr. Glieberman extolled the single life, he saw Evelyn Eraci singing in a Chicago club. He pursued her with extravagant floral arrangements and a diamond ring.

When she accepted his proposal, they broke her contract with MCA Records. “I told them I was giving her a lifetime contract,” her husband told the Sun-Times in 2002. Evie Glieberman died last year.

Mr. Glieberman also is survived by three grandchildren. Another son, Ronald, died before him. Services have been held.