Obituary: John H. Bingler Jr. / Noted lawyer devoted to public

John H. Bingler Jr. | June 4, 1938-Oct. 30, 2013

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John Bingler's legal career took him from the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, to the position of public safety director for the city of Pittsburgh to two nominations for a federal judgeship.

But his most significant professional accomplishment, his friends and colleagues say, was his drive to achieve fairness and justice for all.

It led him to serve on a number of voluntary boards -- including the Citizens Police Review Board, Negro Educational Emergency Drive and the Civil Service Commission -- as well as to help create the gender bias committee and women in law division of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

"It was all a part of his personality," said his wife, Marsha Bingler. "It's how he lived his life."

"He lived an ideal through his work, his life, his commitment to the community and to equality," said Kim Brown, an attorney who was mentored by him.

Mr. Bingler died Wednesday from complications of Parkinson's disease in Portland, Maine.

He was 75.

Mr. and Mrs. Bingler previously lived in Park Place in Pittsburgh until moving to Maine in 2010.

They were married in 1965.

"He really loved life," Mrs. Bingler said.

Mr. Bingler grew up in Shadyside and attended Peabody High School.

He earned a degree in electric engineering from Princeton University in 1959 before joining the Navy, where he served aboard the USS Norris, and later as a Navy frogman with Underwater Demolition Team 21, based at Little Creek, Va.

Following his service, Mr. Bingler attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School, graduating in 1965.

Immediately after, he joined the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, based in Washington, D.C., but primarily practicing in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Mr. Bingler served for about 18 months as public safety director for the city of Pittsburgh in 1970 and 1971 before joining the law firm Thorp, Reed & Armstrong.

He also spent 10 years as the president of Pittsburgh's Civil Service Commission and was president of the Allegheny County Bar Association in 1990.

During his legal career at Thorp Reed, Mr. Bingler practiced in both civil and criminal law, and represented a number of high-profile clients, including Bernard Fisher, a renowned breast cancer researcher with the University of Pittsburgh, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly.

Mark Nowak, a partner at what is now Clark Hill Thorp Reed, met Mr. Bingler when they represented two different clients in an airport parking tax case in the mid-1980s.

Mr. Bingler invited the young, newly married attorney to work at Thorp Reed.

"He was just a very generous guy," Mr. Nowak said.

He remembered how his mentor was not only happy to share his knowledge and experience to help nurture young lawyers, but also his time and connections, introducing them to judges or political figures, including presidential candidates.

Mr. Bingler served as the chair for former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy's first campaign.

Both Mr. Nowak and Judge Kelly remembered that Mr. Bingler would regularly send congratulatory notes, along with newspaper clippings and cartoons to young attorneys in the field.

"I was very moved that a guy of that stature would even remember me," Mr. Nowak said.

Judge Kelly said that Mr. Bingler would send out as many as 15 notes a day.

Mr. Bingler had the highest ethical standards, Mr. Nowak continued, and would prepare meticulously for his cases. At the tops of his legal pads filled with notes, Mr. Bingler wrote the word, "Win."

He also emphasized to young attorneys the importance of community service and volunteerism.

Mr. Bingler retired from Thorp Reed in 1998, following the stall of his federal judicial nomination under President Bill Clinton by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

"It was a shame for the profession," Mr. Nowak said.

Mrs. Bingler said her husband had a marvelous sense of humor and was an avid reader -- of autobiographies, religious and spiritual works.

During his retirement, he audited courses at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Mr. Bingler was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about 13 years ago, although he had exhibited limited symptoms for several years.

An avid runner, Mr. Bingler ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., twice, as well as the 1984 Boston marathon and the first Pittsburgh marathon.

He also regularly competed in Pittsburgh's Great Race.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Bingler is survived by a daughter, Lynn Scott of Portland, Maine, and a son, Michael Bingler of Kansas City, Mo., as well as four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to: "University of Pittsburgh/PIND" in memory of John H. Bingler Jr. for Parkinson's research. Send checks to Jim Olsen, Forbes Tower Suite 8084, 200 Lothrop St., Pittsburgh, PA l5213.

A memorial service will be held at a later date at Waverly Presbyterian Church at 590 S. Braddock Ave., Point Breeze.

Paula Reed Ward can be reached at, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.


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