Morton R. Bearman, who helped elect two generations of Symingtons to Congress and who became one of the St. Louis area’s first environmental attorneys, died Friday. He was 92.
Mr. Bearman was a staunch Democrat who was active in politics throughout his life. He served as campaign chair for both the late Stuart Symington, the former four-term U.S. senator from Missouri, and Symington’s son, James, who was elected four times to the U.S. House of Representatives.
When Stuart Symington Jr. hit the campaign trail for his father or brother, he said he was glad they had Mr. Bearman on their side.
“He was the kind of person you could trust; he was as stalwart as could be,” Symington said. “It was a comfort to be associated with someone like Morty.”
Mr. Bearman, a longtime resident of Ladue, died of liver failure on June 20, 2014, at his home.
Mr. Bearman’s son, Morton R. Bearman II, said his family was immersed in politics, even around the dinner table. They always knew who their father was supporting.
“Dad was a true-blue Democrat and he greatly admired the Symingtons,” his son said.
He put his admiration into sustained action.
Mr. Bearman was chair and treasurer of Stuart Symington’s first campaign for the Senate in 1952. He served as Symington’s chair for each successive – and successful – Senate bid in 1958, 1964 and 1970. Symington’s final campaign was spurred on by a major fundraiser chaired by Mr. Bearman. He organized The Tribute to Clark Clifford Dinner, which honored the adviser to four Democratic presidents.
Mr. Bearman was a delegate to the racially charged 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. It was held in the shadow of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the prior year. Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert H. Humphrey became the Democratic nominees, but not before the entire Mississippi delegation and most of the Alabama delegation walked out in protest over efforts to seat black representatives.
As involved as he was in politics, it was not Mr. Bearman’s full-time job. He was an attorney turned insurance underwriter, who later returned to practicing law.
After graduating from law school in 1947, he set up practice with a local judge for several years before becoming a life insurance underwriter and estate planner for two decades. But his enduring interest in the environment lured him back to law.
In 1972, following the passage of the U.S. Environmental Protection Act, Mr. Bearman became one of this area’s first environmental attorneys.
Much of his philanthropic efforts were influenced by his environmental interests as well.
He became a member of the board of Trailnet Inc., which promotes walking, biking and public transportation throughout the area. After retiring, he volunteered at the visitors’ center in Forest Park, his and his brothers’ old stomping grounds while they were growing up nearby on Maryland Avenue in the Central West End.
Between 1956 and 1973, three governors appointed him as a commissioner of the Bi-State Development Agency (now Metro Transit).
Experience as a transit commissioner and his willingness to buck the status quo prompted Mr. Bearman to lobby for free public transportation. In a letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1990, he outlined his premise that “unless bus service is very efficient and very attractive (i.e., no fare), the licensed driver will not use it regularly.”
His efforts seemed a natural fit for an environmentalist whom his son said was “a walking encyclopedia about the history and culture of this city.”
Mr. Bearman was also an expert in real estate law; and in 1981, he formed Real Property Associates, a real estate brokerage firm. The company’s efforts included managing many of the relocation transactions for Enterprise Rent-A-Car employees.
Morton Robert Bearman was born June 11, 1922, at the old St. Louis Maternity Hospital. He was the youngest of three sons of Helen (Gross) and Harry Bearman, who ran S. Bearman Shoe Co., a shoe store founded in 1896 by his grandfather, Samuel Bearman.
He graduated from Soldan High School in 1939, at the age of 16. In 1943, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Washington University. He immediately enlisted in the Army and served stateside until 1946, in the anti-aircraft artillery as an aide to Brig. Gen. James G. Devine. He attained the rank of first Llieutenant. Following his military service, he graduated from the Washington University School of Law and the next year, 1948, Mr. Bearman married artist Mary Fuller. She died in 2011.
Mr. Bearman served on the board of John Burroughs School and was a director of Clayton Bank and Mark Twain Banks and served as chair of Mark Twain Bank Frontenac and the Private Banking Board of Mercantile Bank. He was on the board of governors of Westwood Country Club, where he was a member for 66 years.
He served on the board of the Jewish Genealogical Society of St. Louis from 1996-2005. In 2001, he told the Post-Dispatch why genealogy interested him: "Genetics show what your parents and grandparents were, but I wanted to know how in the hell I got this way."
Along with a sense of humor, he appeared to have inherited equanimity.
“Morty was a gentleman in every sense of the word,” Symington said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Bearman was preceded in death by his brothers, Edward G. Bearman and Bernard L. Bearman.
Among his survivors are three children, Mary B. (Ladd) Rusk of Shawnee on Delaware, Pa., Morton R. (Marcie) Bearman II, of Highland Park, Ill., and Lee F. (Julie) Bearman of St. Louis; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Services will be private.
Gloria S. Ross is the head of Okara Communications and AfterWords, an obituary-writing and design service.