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Martin D. Ginsburg dies at 78; Georgetown law professor, husband of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ginsburg was among the nation's foremost experts on tax law. He and his wife met as students at Cornell on a blind date in 1951 and were married in 1954.

June 27, 2010|By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

Georgetown University law professor Martin D. Ginsburg, the husband of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died Sunday of cancer, the Supreme Court announced. He was 78.

Though he was among the nation's foremost experts on tax law, Ginsburg relished his role as the outgoing half of one of Washington's prominent couples.

Marty and Ruth Ginsburg were married for 56 years, and friends often described theirs as a successful marriage of two seemingly quite different individuals.

He liked to cook, entertain and tell jokes for guests at their Watergate apartment. His wife, on the other hand, is serious, soft-spoken and shy. They had met on a blind date at Cornell in 1951 when she was 18. They married three years later.

Since they were teenagers, he was "my best friend and biggest booster," Ruth Ginsburg said in an earlier interview. He was "the only young man I dated who cared that I had a brain."

Her husband summed up their happy marriage this way: "As a general rule, my wife does not give me any advice about cooking, and I do not give her any advice about the law," he told the New York Times in 1997. "This seems to work quite well on both sides."

Martin David Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 10, 1932. He graduated from Cornell in 1953 and, after two years of service in the U.S. Army, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1958.

He and Ruth moved to New York City, where he joined a law firm and she became a leading advocate for women's rights at the American Civil Liberties Union. They moved to Washington in 1980 when Ruth was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In 1993, Ruth Ginsburg became the second woman to join the Supreme Court.

They have two children: Jane C. Ginsburg, a law professor at Columbia University; and James S. Ginsburg, founder and president of the Chicago Classical Recording Foundation.

Martin Ginsburg remained active as a professor and counsel for the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. His official biography could have been written only by Marty Ginsburg. It ends with this passage:

"Professor Ginsburg's spouse was a lawyer before she found better work. Their older child was a lawyer before she became a school teacher. The younger child, when he feels grumpy, threatens to become a lawyer."

Ginsburg is also survived by four grandchildren. He will be buried in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

david.savage@latimes.com

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