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Albany Institution Sol Greenberg Dies At 95; Was DA For A Quarter-Century

WAMC composite image by Dave Lucas / wikipedia

Sol Greenberg's trademark wavy silver hair and pipe once personified the office of District Attorney in Albany County. Greenberg died Thursday at age 95.

Greenberg retired in 2000 after more than 25 years, seven terms, as DA. He won his first term by 487 votes in 1974, then a little-known lawyer and Democratic committeeman who was picked for the office by party boss Dan O'Connell. Greenberg's last election was in 1997, where he was endorsed by the Democratic, Republican, Conservative and Independence parties. He retired in 2000, after turning 78. His last hire was current Albany County DA David Soares, who says Greenberg's death leaves his staff with heavy hearts.     "It's a very somber mood here at the Justice Center. There are still many of us in this organization, from support staff to prosecutors who were hired by Sol, and continue to work here. So many of us have benefited from our experience working for Sol. I don't think I have ever worked for someone who is as tolerable and patient and kind. I think that's what we're all reflecting on."

U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian of the Northern District also worked as an ADA under Greenberg between 1990 and 1997 :   "Many of us can remember going to his office late in the afternoon and being captured there for an hour or more as he told us stories about his life, about his time in the Navy, about his upbringing, and y'now we didn't realize at the time how much we were learning from him."

Hartunian counts himself lucky to be among several judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors who came through Greenberg's shop.  "He taught us so much, but he taught us the importance of humility and kindness. Those were trademarks of his. And yet he had a steely determination to do justice, to do it with honesty and integrity. These are just so important in our business. And I'm so proud to have been an alum of Sol Greenberg's office for sure."

Soares recalls another lesson:   "The other thing that he also taught us was the fact that he had a great life at home. And always prioritized us maintaining that great life at home, something that we continue to instill in our staff here."

Albany Law school Professor Michael Hutter says retirement couldn't slow the Class of '48 grad down.   "I would see him a lot at Bar Association activities. He would always show up at these activities, he enjoyed mingling with the lawyers, even though of course he was retired. He would be up at the law school for various alumni activities. So he got around. He did not just simply stay at home. Even at 95 years old he was still very active out there talking with the younger lawyers, law students and the like, imparting upon them some life lessons about being in the trenches and how that was gonna help these kids in the future."

Soares hailed Greenberg as an innovative prosecutor and champion of public safety throughout his nearly three decades in office, who was also very influential in the New York State District Attorney's Association.  " On of the things that seemed to bother him very very early on was the fact that we did move our location from the building that he occupied to the newer building, and in an effort to keep the bonds very strong with Sol, we did, in fact, have a ribbon-cutting here early on and named our conference room after him, and it's affectionately referred to as the Greenberg room. Sol's influence and his connection to this office will always be here."

In a 2011 interview Greenberg told the Times Union the highlight of his career was the introduction of DNA into the Albany County criminal justice system. Greenberg leaves behind his wife Bea, two adult children and three grandchildren

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