Merton Roland Nachman, Jr., a prominent Montgomery lawyer and lifelong resident, died on November 24th at the age of 91.
Rod, as his many friends knew him, was born and raised in Montgomery. After graduating from Sidney Lanier High School at the age of 16, he boarded a train to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard College. His education was interrupted to serve in Naval Intelligence in World War II, but he returned to Harvard and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1948. Rod adored Harvard and considered his years there among his happiest. While living in Boston, he met and married Louise Hanchett. They moved back to Montgomery where Rod started his extensive law career and they raised their family of 4 daughters. They later divorced. He was also formerly married to Martha Street, which ended in divorce.
Rod's highly successful law career began as Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama, followed by years as a partner in the law firms of Knabe and Nachman, Steiner, Crum and Baker, and Balch and Bingham. He had a brief stint in Washington, DC in 1956 as Administrative Assistant to Senator John Sparkman.
Rod served as President of the Alabama Bar Association and Director of the American Judicature Society, was an active member the American Bar Association Board of Governors, the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, American Law Institute, and Chairman of the Alabama Supreme Court Advisory Committee. During those years he was the court-appointed Chairman of the Human Rights Committee for the Alabama prison system and the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his service to the legal profession. His most well-known and representative case was the landmark New York Times vs. Sullivan that established a new "federal rule of libel." As Rod was often fond to say, "he wished he had been known for a case he had won rather than lost", but as he added, "the only way he would lose that case was if they changed the law", which is exactly what happened.
As a young man Rod was an accomplished violinist. Throughout his life he was an avid tennis player, reader, listener of classical music, and crossword puzzler. He enjoyed his many years as a member of the Unity Club. Rod loved spending summers on Cape Cod playing tennis, enjoying friends and escaping the Alabama summers. He later spent time in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, which he also loved. He could quote Shakespeare, Dickens and W.C. Fields right up until the end despite his battle with Alzheimer's disease. His valiant spirit and determination to live remained steady throughout his decline. Known for his quick wit, keen intelligence, generous and caring nature, and love of Bombay Blue Sapphire gin, he will be sorely missed.
Rod is survived by his loving and devoted family, daughters Nancy Yardley (Jim) of Houston, Texas, Linda Connelly of San Francisco, CA, Betsy Wild (Peter) of Sandwich, MA and Amy Nachman of San Francisco, CA; six grandchildren, four great grandchildren, his sister Nancy Kops of Branford, CT, a niece, two nephews, and several grandnieces and nephews. The family wishes to thank his wonderful and dedicated caregivers and Gentiva Hospice who enabled him to die peacefully at home. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to your charity of choice . There will be a graveside service at 2:00PM on Tuesday, December 1 at Greenwood Cemetery followed by a celebration at his home.
Published in the Montgomery Advertiser on Nov. 29, 2015.