In Memoriam: Bernard B. Wolfe, Class of 1937

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Chicago-Kent community is saddened by the recent death of Bernard B. "BB" Wolfe '37, a former prosecutor, judge and legislator who earlier this year celebrated his 101st birthday. In 2013, BB was named one of Chicago-Kent's 125 Alumni of Distinction.

BB's remarkable career spanned 79 years. A self-described "Depression student" during law school, BB practiced commercial law from 1937 until 1942, when he joined the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant. Following World War II, he returned to private practice, then served as a federal prosecutor.

BB was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1964 and served for five consecutive terms, winning the Best Legislator Award from the Independent Voters of Illinois and the Distinguished Lawyer Legislator Award from the Chicago Bar Association.

As a legislator, BB led an initiative to change laws dealing with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In 1971 he co-founded the Illinois SIDS Study Commission, which promoted better reporting and information about SIDS.

He served as an associate judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County from 1974 to 1983, and as a judge from 1983 to 1984.

BB was recently asked about the key to a successful career: "Set a goal and be active in ‘people problems,'" he said. "Be independent. Work for ‘We the People.'"

BB often expressed pride in having served in all three branches of government. At age 100, he served as the JAG officer of Post 800 Jewish War Veterans.

Reflecting on his years at Chicago-Kent, BB recalled, "I was a Depression student and  dreamed of being a lawyer. The Kent staff and the dean gave me the basics to pass the bar... I took it and passed, thanks to Chicago-Kent."

The privilege was ours. For 79 years, BB was a credit to our law school and an inspiration to faculty and students, not to mention the many individuals whose lives he touched during his distinguished career. We extend our sympathy to BB's daughter Bunny, his son Rick, his stepson Steve, and their families.