The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Rubin, William Benjamin

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Rubin, William Benjamin

RUBIN, William Benjamin, lawyer, author, and sociologist, b. in Borispol, Government of Poltava, Russia, 1 Sept., 1873, youngest child of Henri and Bertha (Bernstein) Rubin. He was about nine years of age when he was brought, by his parents, to America. Consequently, most of his life has been spent in this country. Always bookish in his tastes, he early manifested a desire for knowledge, and through close application, strong concentrative ability, and quick perception completed the regular high school course in the short space of two years. After completing the course in the public schools of Milwaukee, he entered the engineering department of the University of Wisconsin, where he studied for three years, and then attended the University of Michigan, from which he received his literary and law degrees. He then returned to Milwaukee, where he was admitted to the bar, and established himself immediately in the practice of his profession. From a small beginning, his clientele has grown until he now maintains one of the largest law offices in the State of Wisconsin. His reputation as a lawyer of ability and integrity has traveled far, and in certain fields of the law he has an interstate, if not a national, reputation. He is engaged in general practice, and has been eminently successful as a trial lawyer, in civil litigation as well as in criminal cases, and he has, without doubt, conducted more jury trials, has tried more homicide cases and secured more acquittals, than any other attorney in his State. He has not confined himself to court work merely. As a consulting attorney and along commercial lines, he has achieved a reputation second to none. Above all, Mr. Rubin is the attorney for the people, and the champion of organized labor. Realizing the world-old struggle of the working-classes, and the bitter injustice that has been heaped upon those who toil, he has made their cause his own, and has been instrumental in securing from the courts new and progressive decisions which are of inestimable value and wide-reaching significance. As was well said by one of the justices of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, he has done more to change the law of master and servant as interpreted by the bench of the State than any other lawyer in Wisconsin. He has, in particular, directed his efforts against the use of contempt proceedings in strikes, and against the injunction, and in a large measure, he has revolutionized the world of capital and labor by summoning to his aid, and using in labor's service these weapons, formerly considered the legitimate property of, and for use solely by, employers. Through his exertions they have been found equally available as instruments of offense and defense in the hands of the workman seeking justice. All this he has done without a retainer, having steadfastly refused all remuneration from organized labor. Mr. Rubin, though known as a fighter in court, is, nevertheless, a man of peaceful inclinations, favoring principles of arbitration and methods of conciliation wherever possible. Through his wise counsel and direction, and his splendid exercise of common sense, many serious situations have been averted, and matters in controversy compromised to the satisfaction of all concerned. However, when definite principles are at stake, when it is clearly a matter of sacrificing honor or fighting to the bitter end, then is the time that Mr. Rubin manifests that firmness of character and able generalship which have meant so much to the cause of labor. Part of the year 1913 Mr. Rubin spent abroad, studying labor conditions and unionism in various countries. On his return, he wrote for the “International Molders Journal,” a series of articles which set forth his observations in the various countries which he visited in Europe, bearing upon the relationship between capital and labor, the theories of organized labor, and the policies and methods by which the workmen in the several countries have endeavored to work out their industrial problems. These articles are so masterly in their conception, display such a keen psychological understanding of human nature, and have created so much favorable comment among those privileged to read them, that Mr. Rubin has been induced to have them published in book form. The volume is entitled “The Toiler in Europe.” During 1915 a serial story from his pen appeared monthly in one periodical, while numerous articles, essays, and short stories — all in connection with his favorite subjects, “Organized Labor,” “Unionism,” and “The Man Who Labors,” have been contributed to magazines throughout the country. Conscientious in anything that he undertakes, he gives his readers nothing but the best, and everything that he writes contains some moral, some thought that they can take with them and ponder over. Although Mr. Rubin does not believe in private charity, his hand is ever in his purse to alleviate the misery of the poor, and he gives, not only of his worldly goods, but of himself. In his works of benevolence and charity, he was always most ably assisted by his charming wife, who was his real partner in all his thoughts and deeds, until her death. In honor of her memory, Mr. Rubin endowed a number of charitable beneficences. Mr. Rubin has been a moving spirit in the foundation and maintenance of some of the most important public and charitable institutions in the city of Milwaukee; he was the prime factor in the organization of the Union Bank of Milwaukee, a bank which has the unique distinction of being the only one in the United States which is controlled by and under the direction of those who sympathize with organized labor. A number of labor unions are stockholders, and the bank, which is still young, gives every promise of becoming an element of importance in the financial world. Often “big business” corporations have approached Mr. Rubin with offers of large retainers which, no doubt, would have proved irresistible to many, but true to his ideals, he has steadily refused to subsidize either his conscience or his services, preferring to remain free to fight for the right in each instance, as he sees it, more often than not without retainer of any sort. Although he has always had definite and decided views on all matters of public concern, whether local or national, he has not been active politically, but in keeping with his tolerant views, the man or measure which to him seems best, irrespective of party politics, always receives his support. He is most progressive, in fact, may be said to be considerably in advance of his time; the reforms and measures which he advocates are bound to become realities at some time in the future, and many of the laws on the statute books of the State have had his authorship. Mr. Rubin is also a dreamer — not a visionary — the type of man who sees what the world needs to make it a better place for humanity, and then proceeds to build foundations beneath his “castles in the air.” He combines within himself those qualities so rarely found in company, for he is at once an idealist and a man of practical judgment, one who sees conditions as they are, yet, at the same time, with keen insight, has complete realization of what they should be, and can bridge the gulf with suggestions applicable to present-day problems. Until the time is ripe for the fulfillment of his ideal, he has some tangible solution for immediate difficulties, something whereby suffering mankind is to benefit and progress at least one step forward toward the goal of human happiness and right living. He has always been identified with the real, the big things of life. An understanding of the character of the man, however, may best be gained, perhaps, from the words of one of the big leaders in the labor world, who wrote of him: “I look upon him (Mr. Rubin) as one of the most useful men in America, and I am convinced that he is writing himself deeply into the history of our development toward industrial justice. I have met a number of exceedingly able lawyers, but Rubin exceeds them all in the clearness of his reason, soundness of mind, knowledge of things as they are, and resourcefulness in fighting for the right.” Mr. Rubin married 12 Sept., 1897, Sonia Mesirow, of Milwaukee. She died 12 April, 1915, leaving one son.