Robert Morgenthau, who served for 35 years as Manhattan’s district attorney and was known for his crime fighting in the city, also had roots in the lower Hudson Valley.
Morgenthau died Sunday, just 10 days before his 100th birthday. Morgenthau owned a working farm in Fishkill, which he inherited from his parents. He lived there with his family when they were not at their residence in Manhattan. The farm operations were run by a professional manager at that time.
“When the manager died, Morgenthau was faced with a dilemma: sell the farm or poll the family to see if any of his children were interested in agriculture,” Business Journal reporter Kathy Kahn wrote in a story about the farm published in April 2011. It turned out that Morgenthau’s son Josh was interested in the 270-acre farm.
The farm in Dutchess County was begun in 1914 by Morgenthau’s father, Henry Morgenthau Jr., who is probably best known for having served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It has been a popular spot for apple picking, and Robert Morgenthau often would be on the property to welcome visitors to the orchards and promote the cider being produced at the farm.
During his nine terms as New York County District Attorney, Morgenthau is credited with being responsible for about 3.5 million criminal prosecutions. His final term ended in 2009.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Morgenthau as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position he resigned in 1962 to run as the Democratic nominee for New York governor against Republican Nelson Rockefeller. After being defeated, he was again named to the U.S. Attorney position and served until late 1969. In 1974, he was elected District Attorney of New York County in a special election following the death of District Attorney Frank Hogan.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Morgenthau “a true New York hero whose dedication to public service and the law was matched only by the impact he had on the young prosecutors and lawyers like me who worked for him.”
“Morgenthau was the gold standard of prosecutors and the model public servant,” Cuomo said, “dedicating his life to achieving justice and protecting the public over the course of a storied career as a federal prosecutor under two presidents and as the longest serving Manhattan DA in history.”
Cuomo said that flags on state government buildings would be lowered to half-staff starting Wednesday until Morgenthau’s interment.
“On behalf of the entire New York family, I extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Morgenthau’s family, including his wife Lucinda, his children Jenny, Anne, Elinor, Robert, Barbara, Joshua and Amy and his six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren,” the governor said.