Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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On November 11, 1943, Charles Kleiner, the oldest member of the New Haven bar, died in his ninetieth year, ending a long and distinguished career as a lawyer and public official. He was born in New Haven on June 4, 1854, a son of Israel and Eva Meyer Kleiner. His parents came from Bavaria, Germany, in 1848.
When Charles Kleiner was graduated from Webster Grammar School in New Haven at fourteen, he became an apprentice in the printing trade. His first job was on "The Lever," a newspaper published in New Haven. Afterwards, he worked on the Yale Courant and the New Haven Register. From the late seventies until 1881, he was superintendent of the Stafford Printing Company on State Street. After thirteen years in the printing business, he entered the Yale Law School in 1881 and was graduated in 1883 with the degree of LL.B. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar on June 27, 1883, and in the same year, to practice in the state of Minnesota. For a year and a half he practiced law in St. Paul, but returned to New Haven on account of the death of his father in 1884.
In 1886, Mr. Kleiner was married to Miss Clara Lautenbach, who survives him. They had two daughters and two sons. One son was Dr. Israel Kleiner, who died in 1929, cutting short what promised to be a brilliant career in medical research. Their other son is engaged in business in Cleveland, Ohio. Their daughter Leah is principal of the Ezekiel Cheever Public School of New Haven and their daughter Estelle is sewing teacher in the city schools.
Mr. Kleiner was first associated in the practice of law with Henry G. Newton, who for many years was referee in bankruptcy in New Haven. In 1891, Mr. Kleiner and William P. Niles took offices in the Exchange Building at the corner of Church and Chapel Streets. About 1911, the late Judge Sheridan T. Whittaker became associated with Mr. Kleiner. In 1919, the latter formed a partnership with Michael J. Quinn under the firm name of Kleiner and Quinn; with the firm were John V. O'Brien, James A. Morcaldi, and William B. Turley. The firm was dissolved in 1923, when Mr. Kleiner was appointed compensation commissioner for the Third Congressional District and gave up the private practice of the law. He continued as compensation commissioner until 1938, when he retired at the age of eighty-four because of ill health.
When Mr. Kleiner returned to New Haven in 1884, he resided in the old Fifth Ward. He attracted the attention of the leaders of the Democratic Party and was nominated and elected to the board of councilmen, serving from 1885 to 1887. In 1886, he was elected president of the board. His popularity with the voters was further attested by his election to the board of aldermen in 1888 for two years. When his term in the board of aldermen expired, Mr. Kleiner devoted himself exclusively to the practice of law, handling all kinds of cases and building up a large practice. In 1896 he left the Democratic Party because he could not agree with William Jennings Bryan's theory of free silver, and from that time until his death he was a Republican.
In 1909, Mayor Frank J. Rice of New Haven appointed Mr. Kleiner to the office of corporation counsel, which he held for eight years. At the time of his appointment as compensation commissioner in 1923, he was sixty-nine years old, but in spite of his age he was in full possession of his physical and mental vigor. He carried out his duties with great ability for fifteen years.
Mr. Kleiner was a lifelong member of Congregation Mishkan Israel and was president of the Temple from 1898 to 1905. He was a member of the first library board of the New Haven Library, from 1887 to 1890, and an honorary member of the New Haven Typographical Union, No. 47. For more than twenty-five years he was a corporator and trustee of the Connecticut Savings Bank of New Haven. He was also a member of Hiram Lodge, A.F. and A.M., the Free Sons of Israel, the New Haven County Bar Association, the State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
It was as a lawyer that Charles Kleiner did his greatest work. The law to him, as to so many young men of his time, was an end in itself. His experience in pleading was well known to the profession and his advice in drafting pleadings was constantly sought by young and older members of the bar. He was always accessible to the younger lawyers and got much pleasure and satisfaction from helping them with their legal problems.
Mr. Kleiner was a true gentleman, one of God's noblemen, an aristocrat in the sense that the Ancient Greeks used the word, meaning "the best." He lived a long, happy and successful life, faithful to his family, his church, his profession, his city, his country and his fellowmen, and the influence of his noble character will long remain with those who were fortunate enough to have known him.