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Fred E. Weisgal Papers

Identifier: R0161-FEW

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Scope and Contents

The collection documents Fred E. Weisgal’s notable Baltimore legal cases and professional activities during his law career as an attorney in Baltimore and during his career in Israel. The collection also documents Weisgal’s jazz music and creative projects including his music composition. The collection contains a significant amount of news and article clippings relating to his legal work and his activities as a jazz pianist. It also includes correspondence to and from Mr. Weisgal, published legal briefings related to his career and legal cases, bound copies of his weekly newspaper which he founded and edited titled “People: the New Weekly,” legal case files and clippings, immigration records, Weisgal's redacted FBI file, materials related to “And Justice for All: The Double Life of Fred Weisgal, Attorney and Musician” by Barbara Mills, and other collected items. Samples of Weisgal’s music and writings about his father, ‘Abba,’ are also present in the collection.

Some significant topics represented in this collection are civil rights, the ACLU, fair housing discrimination, and Baltimore history,

The materials of this collection are mainly textual, including information about legal cases, published legal reviews, clippings, awards, collected materials, and correspondence. Other formats present in the collection include ephemera related to civil rights in Baltimore. This collection contains oversize materials


  • circa 1940-2008
  • Majority of material found within Bulk dates: 1940-1991



Materials are primarily in English. Some materials are in Hebrew.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. One file from the series: Legal Work and Work in Israel, is restricted until 2058 due to sensitive information. Restricted file is indicated in the collection inventory.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright of this collection to the University Foundation. However, copyright for some items in this collection may be held by their respective creators.

Biographical Note

Fred Weisgal (b. 1919 - d. 1991) was a prominent civil rights attorney in Baltimore, Maryland during the mid-twentieth century. Weisgal immigrated to the U.S. with his family as a child and was a life-long resident of Baltimore. He attended the Johns Hopkins University, and earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore Law School in 1946. During his time in law school he founded and edited a weekly newspaper in Baltimore titled "People: the New Weekly", which lasted approximately 10 years. He married Jeanne (neé de LaViez) Weisgal in 1948 and they had five children.

Weisgal was also a musician and artist. He played Jazz piano in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York nightclubs to support himself while in school. Though he did not pursue a professional career in music, he continued to play jazz, perform, write fiction and music, and remain involved in creative activities throughout his life in Baltimore and later in Israel. He also sang with his father’s choir during holidays and both wrote and directed plays for a variety of charities around Baltimore. Weisgal was active in the Jewish community in Baltimore. Weisgal also collected art and antiques, wrote stories and articles for various publications, and composed music, including a piece for the 1982 TV movie titled, "A Woman Called Golda."

During his career in Baltimore, Weisgal worked for the ACLU of Maryland and focused on criminal law, constitutional law, and civil rights. In his first major case after graduation from the University of Baltimore Law School, Weisgal represented an African American Army veteran in his suit to admit African American students to the Maryland Institute art school (now Maryland Institute College of Art) in 1947. Weisgal’s career involved numerous note-worthy cases. He successfully argued before the Supreme Court in White v. Maryland for reforms to rights for persons arrested for serious crimes. This case established the principle in the U.S. that a person accused of a crime is entitled to counsel at the first stages of judicial proceedings. Weisgal also represented atheist Madalyn E. Murray O'Hare in her case protesting prayer in public schools in 1960. The case later led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against prayer in schools. He also represented Philip Berrigan, a Baltimore Catholic anti-war activist. Weisgal also supported fair housing in Baltimore.

During his law career in Maryland, Weisgal taught courses and lectured at the University of Maryland School of Social Research, and at Law Schools and other departments of Harvard University, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, University of Chicago, and Sarah Lawrence College. Weisgal also participated in various community and professional activities in the Baltimore region.

In 1969, Mr. Weisgal emigrated with his family to Israel. There, he first served as a senior adviser to the attorney general and later was head of the American law section and foreign relations for the Ministry of Justice. He maintained his musical and creative activities while living in Israel. Weisgal retired in 1987 and returned to Baltimore with his wife.

Information for this biographical note came from materials in the collection and from local newspaper obituaries.


5.83 Linear feet (7 containers)


Fred E. Weisgal was an active Baltimore civil rights attorney, Israeli government official, and jazz musician. Mr. Weisgal’s career began in Baltimore in the 1940s when he fought and won a suit to admit black students to the Maryland Institute art school. He then joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) where he continued to fight for civil rights. Weisgal represented a number of noteworthy civil rights cases during his career in Baltimore before emigrating to Israel. This collection consists of Fred E. Weisgal’s professional papers, personal and professional correspondence, and other records relating to his personal and professional activities.


Collection is organized into four series and each is arranged chronologically:

  • Biographical Materials
  • Legal Work and Work in Israel
  • Music, Art, and Writings
  • Correspondence

Custodial History

The collection was donated to the University of Baltimore Foundation by Margit Weisgal on May 31, 2017. Two additional accruals were received from the donor by Aiden Faust in 2017 and 2018.


Items weeded include facsimiles of articles already published elsewhere, items unrelated to Weisgal's papers and work, student transcripts, and copies of ununique Christmas music scores.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Laura Bell in 2018.

Finding aid for the Fred E. Weisgal Papers
Finding aid created by Laura Bell (2018).
September 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Baltimore Studies Archives Repository

H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons, Room 104
1415 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore Maryland 21201 USA