R.I.P. Bob Lieberman
January 1, 2021 | View PDF
Submitted by John J. Davis – Special Guest Columnist
Assistant Attorney General, Appellate Division, Office of the Attorney General, State of Alabama
I got to know Bob Lieberman almost 30 years ago when I worked with his oldest son, Bruce, on the staff of then Attorney General Jimmy Evans. Bob immediately impressed me as a man of great wisdom and with an understated sense of humor. He had already retired from his job at the Environmental Protection Agency and was still working part-time for it. I knew that he had served in the Army during World War II and had seen combat in Europe. I also knew that he had at one point tried to start his own business, Mister Donut. That was one of the few things that Bob attempted in his life that was not successful. It failed not because of anything Bob did or didn’t do. Double-digit inflation and runaway interest rates did to Bob’s dream what the German army failed to do from 1944-1945.
In the spring of 2011, his son invited me to Atlanta where Bob was to receive the Legion of Honor awarded by the French government due to his actions in liberating the slave labor concentration camp located near Mittlbau-Dora. The ceremony was not what I expected. While I knew that Bob was deserving of the award that he was to receive that day, I expected a pro forma type of ceremony. It was anything but that. Until that day, I don’t think that I ever cried in public except as a small child. When the French ambassador broke down and started to cry, that is when I lost it. It really wasn’t about an almost 90-year-old man being honored that day for an obscure World War II event. It was about a young man, a Jewish-American man, who had just recently graduated from high school. A young man who had left his home in the heartland of America in Columbus, Ohio, to march across a continent to save the world from an evil totalitarian system. Lieberman’s unit was in combat 200 straight days, including the Battle of the Bulge before the liberation of that camp.
What he saw that day when he and his fellow soldiers liberated the camp would never leave Bob Lieberman’s mind or memory for as long as he lived. Some of the survivors of the camp came up to him and his fellow soldiers and thanked them. Some of the survivors were crying.
Bob’s story does not end there. He came back home and took care of his parents until the day that he started his own family somewhat late in life in the early 1960s. He was introduced to a girl named Lorraine who lived in Montgomery. He courted her assiduously sometimes writing multiple letters a day! It worked, and the marriage lasted until the day of his death. I remember discussing with Lorraine about Bob’s attempt to start his own business, the Mister Donut. She told me that although it had been at the time what seemed like a financial disaster, Bob paid back every creditor that he owed. Today our television screens and radios are blanketed with ads on how to walk away from debts, most of which are not as legitimate as the one from which Bob had refused to walk away. Bob rejoined working with the government and eventually earned his full pension. He put three children through college and was deservedly proud of paying off all debts regarding the purchase of his house in one of Montgomery’s nicest neighborhoods.
Like any man, I enjoy a good war movie, but I have a difficult time now when watching a movie about World War II because I know now what a real war hero looks like. It is men and women who are willing to put their lives on hold to protect and defend freedom both here and abroad. It is about young people who have barely begun to confront the difficulties of life and yet have stepped up to confront the greatest evils of life. It is men like Bob Lieberman. His life ended like so many in a nursing home shortly before Thanksgiving.
It was his last battle. I think that I speak for everyone when I say that we will always remember, and we will always be proud of Bob Lieberman. God bless you, my friend!