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David R. and Muriel K. Pokross Papers

 Collection
Identifier: P-1041

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains awards and honors, business records, meeting minutes, financial documents, correspondence, manuscripts, interview transcripts, and speeches documenting the lives of lawyer and philanthropist David R. Pokross and his wife Muriel K. Pokross. Included are administrative records of the many organizations with which David was actively involved, including the American Jewish Historical Society and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, as well as those of Hubrite, Inc., the company owned by the Kohn family. Also included are the many awards and honors David received, as well as the many speeches he gave throughout the country.

Dates

  • undated, 1898-2015

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org

Biographical Note

David R. Pokross was born on December 30, 1906 to Israel and Jennie (Lucksniansky) Pokross in Fall River, Massachusetts. Israel had immigrated to Fall River in 1893 from Gorodishche, Ukraine at the age of 21. He worked as a peddler and eventually was able to bring his parents, Penny and Jennie, and his three siblings, Moses, Jacob, and Bertha, to join him in Fall River. Circa 1904, he married Jennie Lucksniansky, who was born in Russia in 1887 and had moved to Providence, Rhode Island at the age of four. The couple had 2 children, Eva (born 1905) and David. In 1909, when David was two years old, his mother died of pneumonia at the age of 22. Two years later, Israel married Lillie Goldstein, and together they had three children: Sophie, Ethel, and Estelle.

David attended Davis School and then BMC Durfee High School, graduating in 1923. He enrolled at Harvard College that year, graduating in 1927 with a degree in French literature, and then attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1930. After earning his law degree, he was hired by Gaston, Snow, Saltonstall & Hunt, and later, in 1932 at Peabody, Brown, Rowley & Storey (later Peabody & Brown, and today, Nixon Peabody), where he worked for the rest of his law career. In 1939, David became a partner at the firm.

In 1943, during World War II, David volunteered for military service, joining the United States Navy as a lieutenant junior grade. He worked at the General Counsel of the Navy and was assigned to the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics and then the Army Air Corps’ Wright Field as counsel to Admiral Arthur Miles, where David was promoted to lieutenant commander. He was discharged in February 1946 and returned to Boston and his law firm, where he was promoted to senior lawyer in 1952.

At Peabody & Brown, David specialized in general corporate law and electric public utility law. In 1966, he was a key figure in the merger of Western Massachusetts Companies, Connecticut Light & Power Company, and Hartford Electric Light Company to form Northeast Utilities, which became the fifteenth largest public utility holding company in the country, as well as the first multi-state public utility holding company since the passage of the Utility Holding Company Act of 1935. He also served as a trustee and member of various committees at Northeast Utilities. David also was of counsel to the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute, with which he had a lifelong affiliation. In 1974, David was elected chairman of Peabody & Brown’s Executive Committee, serving in this role until 1981, when he stopped practicing law full time. From 1981-2003, he served as counsel to the firm.

In addition to his law career, David was especially active in many local Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. He served as president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) from 1968 into the 1970s, as well as chair of its Facilities Planning Committee from 1978-1983, during which time he was instrumental in the opening of the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center on the Gosman Jewish Community Campus. David served on the Executive Council of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) from 1976-1979, as vice president from 1975-1976, and as president from 1976-1979. In 1982, he was named honorary president of AJHS. He also sat on and served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Florence G. Heller Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare (now the Heller School for Social Policy and Management) at Brandeis University from 1972-1989, after which time he was appointed chairman emeritus. In 1986 David was honored with the establishment of the David R. Pokross Chair in Law and Social Policy.

David also served on the Board of Directors of United Community Planning Corporation (UCPC), an organization designed to do social planning for the community, from 1972-1992 and served as president from 1974-1976. He was similarly active in the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, sitting on its Board of Directors from 1976-1982, and in the Boston Foundation (originally called Permanent Charity Fund of Boston), serving on its Board of Directors from 1982-1994. Through the Boston Foundation, he created the David R. Pokross Fund for Children in Need. David was also involved in numerous other organizations, including the Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) and Computer Assisted Information and Referral Network (CAIRN) (for which he served as president of both organizations), as well as Beth Israel Hospital, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and Buckingham Browne & Nichols School.

On June 17, 1936 David married Muriel Kohn. Muriel was born on October 18, 1913 to Samuel and Anna (Wasserman) Kohn. Samuel was treasurer of his family’s business, a dress manufacturing business, Hubrite Informal Frocks, Inc. (later known as Hubrite, Inc). Muriel attended Girls’ Latin School, graduating in 1930; Smith College, graduating in 1934 with a degree in French literature; and Simmons College, graduating the following year with a degree in retailing. She later returned to school and earned a Master of Education in Guidance in 1959 and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Rehabilitation Counseling, both from Boston University. Soon after she began a job as a rehabilitation counselor at the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing, working there for twenty years. For the rest of her life, she was an advocate for the hearing impaired and, with the help of her Smith classmate Julia Child, persuaded WGBH (Boston's public television station and the station which produced and broadcast Child’s show, The French Chef) to provide captioning for their programs.

The couple had three children: Joan Sydney (Curhan), born August 5, 1937; William (Bill) Rodman, born June 13, 1939; and David Jr., born October 15, 1945. The family moved to Belmont, Massachusetts in 1939.

David died on October 28, 2003 at age 96, and Muriel died on March 16, 2011 at age 97.

References

  1. Materials in the collection.
  2. Pokross, David R. Onward: Memoirs of David R. Pokross. Boston: David Pokross, 1994.

Chronology

December 30, 1906
David R. Pokross (DRP) is born.
October 18, 1913
Muriel K. Pokross (MKP) is born.
1923
DRP graduates from BMC Durfee High School,
1927
DRP graduates from Harvard College with a degree in French literature.
1930
DRP graduates from Harvard Law School.
1932
DRP begins working at Peabody & Brown.
June 17, 1936
DRP and MRP marry.
1939
DRP becomes a partner at Peabody & Brown.
1934
MKP graduates from Smith College with a degree in French literature.
1935
MKP graduates from Simmons College with a degree in retailing.
1952
DRP is promoted to senior lawyer at Peabody & Brown.
1959
MKP graduates from Boston University with a Master of Education in Guidance.
circa 1964
MKP begins working as a rehabilitation counselor at the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing.
1968-1970s
DRP serves as president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
1972-1989
DRP is chairman of the Board of Directors of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
1974-1976
DRP serves as president of the United Community Planning Corporation.
1976-1979
DRP serves as president of American Jewish Historical Society.
1976-1982
DRP sits on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay.
1982-1994
DRP sits on the Board of Directors of the Boston Foundation.
1986
The David R. Pokross Chair in Law and Social Policy is established.
October 28, 2003
DRP dies.
March 16, 2011
MKP dies.

Extent

4.5 linear feet (2 document boxes, 5 manuscript boxes)

Abstract

This collection contains awards and honors, business records, meeting minutes, financial documents, correspondence, manuscripts, interview transcripts, and speeches documenting the work and personal lives of lawyer and philanthropist David R. Pokross and his wife Muriel K. Pokross.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Joan Curhan, December 2016.

Processing Information

Processed by Lindsay Murphy, 2018.
Title
Guide to the David R. and Muriel K. Pokross Papers, P-1041
Author
Processed by Lindsay Murphy
Date
2017
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245