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Morris M. Cohn (1852–1922)

Morris M. Cohn was a nationally recognized lawyer, an author who published articles on a wide variety of subjects, and a Little Rock (Pulaski County) civic leader.

Morris M. Cohn was born on March 14, 1852, in New Albany, Indiana, to Mathias Cohn—a businessman, newspaperman, educator, and lawyer—and Theresa Cohn; sources differ on the number of siblings he had, from seven to ten. Cohn received his early education in the grammar schools of Cincinnati, Ohio. He later received private instruction in German, Hebrew, and law. At some point, the family settled in Arkansas. In 1873, he moved from Woodruff County to Little Rock, where he met Addie Mary Ottenheimer, whom he married on September 16, 1886; they had three children.

He studied law in the office of the Arkansas attorney general and with noted lawyer T. D. W. Yonley, and was admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1873 and U.S. Supreme Court bar in 1883. In addition to private practice with his father in the firm of Cohn and Cohn, he was Little Rock’s city attorney for two years and a law professor at the city’s law school. He was active with the Arkansas Bar Association (being a member of the association executive committee in 1903–1904) and an organizer of the American Bar Association, for which he served as a member of its general council and many of its important committees. Johns Hopkins Press published two of his books, The Growth of the Law (1882) and Introduction to the Study of the Constitution (1892); the former has been reprinted a number of times and remains in use in some law schools, while the latter was used as a textbook at Harvard University. His shorter articles appeared in the American Law Review, Central Law Journal, and the Virginia Law Register.

Cohn’s broad range of intellectual interests was reflected in his substantial library, which contained 2,500 volumes and which, after his death, was donated to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). These interests were also reflected in his non-legal publications and public lectures. His insights on Reform Judaism were contained in Essay on Religion published by Block & Co. in 1876 and in numerous articles appearing in the Reform Advocate and The American Israelite. As vice president of the Sound Money League for Arkansas, he published articles supporting the gold standard in Sound Money, the league’s journal. His interest in governmental regulation of railroads resulted in at least one article in The National Corporation Reporter. His interest in arbitration prompted “The Legal Phase of the Question,” an article that appeared in the Industrial Compilation report of the proceedings of the 1901 conference published by G. P. Putnam. His knowledge of government, history, and philosophy were reflected in his editorial pursuits as a reviser of articles in the United Editors Encyclopedia and in speeches as diverse as a graduation address to the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) to a presentation about the resinous substance amber before the Little Rock Women’s Club. He was a member of the American Historical Association and the American Economics Association.

Cohn served his community as a member of the original board of trustees of the Little Rock Public Library; president of the Little Rock Board of Trade, where he promoted the building of the Choctaw Oklahoma and Gulf Railway (Rock Island); director of the Special School District of Little Rock; director of the Bank of Commerce in Little Rock; and a founding director of the American Jewish Committee (representing the state of Arkansas).

Cohn, a lifelong Democrat, died of heart failure in his home in Little Rock on April 3, 1922. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

For additional information:
American Jewish Yearbook 1903. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1903.

Landman, Isaac, ed. Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Co., 1948.

LeMaster, Carolyn Gray. A Corner of the Tapestry: A History of the Jewish Experience in Arkansas, 1820s–1990s. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

“M. M. Cohn, Veteran, Local Attorney Claimed by Death.” Arkansas Democrat, April 3, 1922, p. 1.

“Morris M. Cohn Claimed by Death.” Arkansas Gazette, April 4, 1922, p. 8.

Who’s Who in America. Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Company, 1913.

Alfred S. Joseph III
Louisville, Kentucky

Last Updated 10/24/2012

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