Lee Weinstein was a busy scholar-athlete at Grady High School when a violent event shook his carefree teenage world.
In 1958, 50 sticks of dynamite exploded at The Temple, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue. He heard the blast from his home in the Morningside neighborhood and rushed to the scene to view the damage.
Discrimination and the civil rights struggle had hit home. The incident influenced his lifelong support of human rights, Israel and his dedication to veterans.
“His parents had fled Europe to escape persecution, and hate was right here in Atlanta,” said his son Mark Weinstein of Sandy Springs. “It shaped his views on racial relations, and he instilled in us the importance of character rather than color.”
Weinstein, a Sandy Springs lawyer and military historian, died of complications from cancer treatment on March 22. He was 74. His memorial service was March 25 at The Temple.
The son of European immigrants, Weinstein was born in 1940. After graduating from Grady High, he headed to the University of North Carolina and married his high school sweetheart, Miriam Lobel. He was 19, and she was 17. They had two children. She died of cancer at age 55.
He graduated from UNC in 1961 and entered law school at Emory University – passing the bar exam a year before he received his law degree in 1964.
During his 52-year law career, Weinstein worked as a trial lawyer, a solicitor for the city of Sandy Springs, a senior attorney at the National Labor Relations Board and general counsel for several companies. He once represented Ted Kaczynski, known as the “Unabomber” who is serving a life sentence for bombings and murders, on a traffic case.
He also did a lot of pro bono work and always was willing to give legal advice to anyone who needed help, said Christina Weinstein, his wife of 22 years.
“He was a great lawyer. He was extremely honest and ethical. His clients all loved him,” Christina said. Up to his death, “he was still practicing. He didn’t want to quit. He still enjoyed it.”
Weinstein also loved cats and fast cars.
In addition to caring for his four felines, he left food outside every day for the hungry cats in the neighborhood. He had a red Porsche and high-speed driving skills that impressed his cousin Gene Felton of Roswell, a champion racecar driver and Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame inductee.
Although Crohn’s disease kept him out of the military, Weinstein worked on the home front to help and honor those who fought on the front lines.
“He became Mr. Patriotic, the servant of the server,” Mark said. “Along the way, because of his patriotism and love of country, he got into military history.”
Weinstein was a former commander of the Atlanta Civil War Roundtable and was commander of the Atlanta World War II Roundtable when he died. Both organizations promoted keeping the history of those conflicts alive. He also lectured at the Citadel and the Virginia Military Institute and talked to numerous civic and historical groups.
“He really worked to widen the scope of the group,” said John Kovach, adjutant of the World War II Roundtable. “He knew that a lot of people know very little about World War II or even the Vietnam War. So he wanted to expand the knowledge of people, especially schoolchildren.”
“He was a good, decent man,” said Pete Mecca, acting commander. “His heart and soul was in the World War II Roundtable. He wanted anyone interested in preserving military history to join.”
In addition to history presentations, Weinstein also organized events to raise money for veterans’ causes, such as the Wounded Warrior Project, said his friend Jimmy Ellis, president and CEO of the Jim Ellis Automotive Group, an event sponsor.
Their friendship developed after Weinstein became a car customer and Ellis’ company became a legal client. “He was a genuine guy,” Ellis said. “Even after he got sick, he was always positive and kept talking about how he could help other people. I respected his dedication to veterans.”
Weinstein served on the advisory committee that planned Veterans Park at the Atlanta History Center and helped expand the center’s collection of oral histories from veterans, said Sheffield Hale, president and CEO. A bench in Veterans Park will be named in Weinstein’s honor.
“We though it was appropriate for Lee because of the multitudinous ways he helped with our veterans project, particularly with World War II veterans,” Hale said. “He was always enthusiastic, always ready to help and delivered on what he said he would do.”
In addition to his son and wife, Weinstein is survived by his daughter Joy Hoffmann of Atlanta; sister Marlene Rinzler of Atlanta, two stepdaughters Cynthia Zettler Greeley of Jacksonville, Fla., and Caren Warren of Atlanta; and seven grandchildren.
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