Jack Schwartzman:
A Life in Service to Liberty

Edward J. Dodson

[January, 2002]

In 1980 I began my association and involvement with what we lovingly refer to as the "Georgist Movement," completing the program that year on George's works at the Philadelphia extension ("the birthplace') of the Henry George School. Not long thereafter, George Collins invited me to become a member of the volunteer faculty. Not long thereafter I made my first visit to the School's headquarters at 5 East 44th Street in New York City to attend my first Georgist conference. Among the long-time Georgists I met was this remarkable and stimulating character named Jack Schwartzman.

What I began to learn from Georgists such as Jack was that the Henry George School was in something of a state of decline. I learned that funding had been taken away in the early 1970's when the Lincoln Foundation decided the School's adult education program was not accomplishing much, that Bob Clancy had been discharged as director even before Lincoln pulled its financial support and that the School had subsequently closed down nearly all of its extension and affiliate programs. In subsequent private conversations with Jack over the next few years, he did not withhold his contempt for the persons he held responsible for the decline of the School and, in particular, the treatment Bob Clancy received from the persons who controlled the school at the time. A decade later, those wounds were just beginning to heal.

In the interim years, Bob and others formed the Henry George Institute, offering correspondence courses in George's political economy for students all around the globe. The School had just moved into the headquarters at 5 East 44th Street and had invited the Institute to move its operation into the building. From this point on, many of the programs I attended in New York City were held by the Institute. Jack, looking more and more like a robust Einstein, was ever-present and a frequent presenter.

In 1982 I came up with a not particularly original idea for an Institute program. I compiled from their own writings a dialogue on "the land question" between eight or ten historic figures, including, of course, Henry George. Jack honored me by participating in the reading (although I do not recall which of the roles he played). My own Georgist involvement was now complete; and, as one of the youngest in age, was constantly invited to take on more of a leadership role. In 1984 I was elected to the boards of the Institute and of the School. My trips to New York City became more frequent but my time there was absorbed by matters affecting the School. As a consequence, the time I was able to spend with Bob Clancy sadly diminished. Jack was only infrequently at the School on the days I showed up for board meetings, so I saw him less often as well. Still, we remained good friends and cemented our friendship each year at the annual conferences. In 1985 I delivered a paper on "Proudhon, Tolstoy and George" at an Institute symposium, and Jack had a number of nice things to say on my treatment of these three great thinkers.

One of my hopes when joining the board of the School was to work to expand the School's program, to somehow return the School to its former leadership role within the Georgist movement. And so, in 1986, when Paul Nix informed me he wanted to step down as President and put my name in nomination, I agreed. Jack, Bob Clancy and others were encouraging but did not hold out much hope that the vision I had for the school would get very far with other board members.

The School's financial situation had improved considerably since arriving at 5 East 44th Street; however, the location did not prove to be good for attracting students; so, there were few classes being held. Faced with this sitution, Stan Rubenstein concentrated his efforts on development of materials that could be used by high school teachers teaching history or economics. During 1986 we made a decision to relocate to a more desirable part of Manhattan and began looking for a building that would be more promising from the standpoint of attracting students. Eventually, a building at 121 East 30th Street was selected and purchased. A Japanese firm paid the School around $5 million for the existing building, which allowed us to make moderate renovations in the new building and add funds to the School's asset base. And, then, surprising many people, students began to enroll in larger and larger numbers. The classrooms began to fill up every semester. Stan still wanted to concentrate on the high school program (which was also taking off nicely), so the board invited George Collins up from Philadelphia to become overall director of the School, with Stan taking on a subordinate role as director of the high school program.

Somewhere along the road, Jack and I had a falling out. We never really talked about it. It just lasted for a couple of years. The source of the tension was clear to me. When I first joined the board of the School, I was hopeful of bringing Jack (and, possibly, Bob Clancy) on as trustees. Bob was not really interested; his energies were focused on the Institute and Council of Georgist Organizations. Moreover, some of the trustees still on the board had been there at the time of his removal. He expressed sincere hope that the School was back on a path of growth but was not interested in any role with School. Over the next few years as openings on the board became available, Jack's name would be brought forward (usually by Oscar Johannsen) but he could never secure the votes. In private conversation, those who opposed his presence on the board thought he would be disruptive and too argumentative, which is ironic given the frequent heated exchanges that subsequently occurred during my years on the board. Whether an expression of support from me would have changed the way a few trustees voted or not, I cannot say. But, I must admit that I remained silent. There were issues and proposals under consideration I thought more crucial to the future of the School than bringing Jack (or any particular person) onto the board. I guessed that Jack was informed that I did not support his candidacy and that his feelings for me turned less friendly. A second incident occurred when Jack asked the School to reimburse him for expenses he incurred delivering a paper on Henry George at an economics conference in Canada. He had not asked the School for any support prior to the event, and he was not speaking as a representative of the School; so, the board voted down his request.

Jack and I would see each other at Institute events and at the annual CGO conferences but scarcely spoke to one another. Finally, I decided to write him a letter. I said, "You may think of me as a ..., and maybe I am. But, from one ... to another, we need to bury the hatchet and work together to do some good in this world" (or words to that effect). He did not respond, but the next time we saw one another he approached me and began a conversation just as though there had never been a lapse in our friendship. And, so it continued from that day on. Jack was eventually elected as a trustee of the School and was neither disruptive or argumentative at the meetings. He remained after I stepped down as President at the end of 1996 and resigned from the board the following year.

Jack would periodically encourage me to submit something for publication in Fragments, but I had entered that period of life many of us experience when there just does not seem to be enough time to do everything we would like to do. Finally, however, I wrote an essay that appeared in the Summer of 2001 edition of Fragments. I would have enjoyed knowing what Jack thought of the essay and whether he and I agreed on its sentiments and essential points. Wouldn't it be great if there is, in fact, an afterlife, and that Jack is there now engaging in dialogue with Henry George, Henry David Thoreau and others whose words and ideas he treasured as beacon lights into a true age of reason.