Remembering Alumnus Harold Mesirow

In 1952, the Phi Alpha touch football team won the interfraternity competition. Top row, third from left: Harold Mesirow, who passed away in December 2013, followed by GW fraternity brothers Sylvan Goldin, CCAS BS ’54, (now practicing medicine in Florida) and civil rights attorney Len Weinglass, CCAS BA ’55. Bottom row, far right, Burton H. (Buddy) Wolfe, CCAS BA ’54, who was the sports editor of The Hatchet. (Courtesy Burton Wolfe)

Late last year, Harold Mesirow, CCAS AA ’52, BA ’54, LAW JD ’57, passed away at the age of 81. In the following piece, fellow Colonial, Burton H. Buddy Wolfe, CCAS BA ’54, fondly remembers his friend and celebrates Mesirow’s legacy:

On December 24, 2013, Harold E. Mesirow, a prominent attorney practicing law in Washington, DC, passed away after a lengthy illness that had him confined to his home in the care of his devoted wife, the former Diane Blanken.

Mesirow was a brilliant student who graduated with honors and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. During his years at the GW Law School, from which he graduated and earned his Juris Doctor in 1957, he wrote deeply analytical articles for the Law Review that are still remembered. One of them, on maritime law, led to his career as an attorney noted for that specialty, supplemented by work in the transportation field.

Following graduation, Mesirow practiced law in Washington with four law firms: Hydeman & Mason; MacLeay, Lynch & McDonald;  Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Cires, wherein he was a senior partner; and finally as associate counsel with Troutman, Sanders, an international law firm that maintains offices in several countries.

During his career that lasted 50 years, Mesirow represented a variety of domestic and foreign commercial interests before the U.S. Congress, regulatory agencies, and the federal courts. For many years he was counsel for the international maritime industry and the Federal Maritime Commission, and a consultant to the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was considered to be an expert on international transportation and oil pollution law.

Because of his expert knowledge of the Oil Pollution Act, Mesirow was called upon by the U.S. Congress to present argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the widely publicized case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

While serving as counsel for the Federal Maritime Commission, Mesirow wrote a lengthy, scholarly treatise on the work of that agency which concluded that its members were failing to carry out their regulatory duties. Its effect was dramatic, causing increased regulation by the Commission. Among other tributes to his career in law, Mesirow was elected to the Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society.

At various times in his varied life, Mesirow was president of the Woodmont Country Club and Chairman of the Board of PBN Hill & Knowlton Strategies, a communications and public relations firm with offices in 52 countries that handles research and advice on Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan affairs for many Fortune 500 global companies. He was also a founder and director of the Franklin National Bank.

In an obituary prepared for publication in the Washington Post by his family, Mesirow was described as “an ardent golfer, paddle tennis player, [and] lover of the Washington Redskins and Washington Nationals.”

According to the family-prepared obituary, Mesirow “was a generous supporter of such organizations as the Jewish Council for the Aging, the Herb Gordon Foundation for Gastrointestinal Cancers, FRAXA [a research foundation involved in seeking a cure for Fragile X Syndrome, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities and autism], Mobile Medical Care, OAR [the National Institutes of Health Office of AIDs Research], the National Brain Tumor Society, and…the Washington Hebrew Congregation” [the temple where Mr. Mesirow and his wife attended services].

Among the most intriguing of Mesirow’s activities was his invention with three other avid golfers of a “Low Center of Gravity Golf Club” that he patented. According to Justin Patents, the invention features a mechanism in a golf club head that “reinforces the striking surface to more efficiently impact the force of the golfer’s swing to the golf ball.”

Mesirow’s father, Albert Parchey Mesirow, (1904-1974), was the owner of a popular steakhouse at the corner of 19th and K Streets, NW, bearing his middle name, and author of a spritely column in the Washington Post that he paid for. (He opened the restaurant in 1928, closed it in 1970, and retired.)

In addition to his widow, Mesirow is survived by a sister, June Statmore, three children – Tod, Jodi Lee, and John (a personal injury lawyer practicing in Washington) – and six grandchildren.

–Burton H. Wolfe, Class of ’54

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