By Romi Carrell Wittman –
Some years ago, local attorney Doug Clark was on an airplane with fellow lawyer Lowell Rothschild. The airplane wound up getting stuck on the runway for more than three hours. No take off and no return to the gate, just passengers killing time inside the plane while the airline sorted it out. For most people, this would be a nightmare scenario, but Rothschild saw it as an opportunity.
“Lowell talked to everyone on that plane,” Clark said. “By the time we left, he knew a little something about every person on that plane. He was a curious person, genuinely interested in people. He wasn’t trying to drum up business for the firm. He really wanted to hear what people had to say.”
Rothschild, an honorary native son of Tucson by way of Chicago, died last December at the age of 90. He left behind a long and treasured legacy, which includes son and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, daughter Jennifer Rothschild and several grandchildren and great grandchildren. His wife, Anne, passed away in 2016.
“He was a tremendous guy,” said Clark, one of the partners at Mesch Clark Rothschild, which Rothschild co-founded in 1957. “I’ll miss him. Everyone will miss him.”
Rothschild was born in Chicago, but moved to Tucson with his mother when he was 15. A single mother who relied on the help of her sisters to raise young Lowell, she opened a used furniture store on South Sixth Avenue. Rothschild attended Tucson High School for a time, but eventually returned to Chicago, where he graduated from high school.
After leaving high school, he enlisted in the Navy and steeled himself for deployment to fight in World War II. When Harry Truman effectively ended the war by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, Rothschild uneventfully finished his enlistment, then returned to Tucson where he enrolled at the University of Arizona.
At that time, there was a program that allowed GIs to finish their undergraduate degrees in just two years, so after two years of undergrad work and two years at UA’s law school, Rothschild went to work for the Arizona State Legislature. He eventually returned to Tucson and, in 1957, he co-founded Mesch Clark Rothschild.
“He had incredible integrity,” Clark said. “I worked with him for 51 years, every work day, and I never saw him do anything that wasn’t honest. He had a gruff manner, but he was a champion for everyone. He treated everyone the same and fairly.”
Melvin Cohen, an attorney at the firm, still remembers when he first met Rothschild. “I was opposite him in a legal matter,” Cohen said. “It was like facing a lion. If you were going to go up against him in a legal matter, you’d better be ready.”
Rothschild married Anne Silverman in 1954 and devoted himself to his family and his career, earning a reputation as a talented bankruptcy attorney who also took the time to mentor and raise up junior colleagues.
“He was raised by his mother and her seven sisters,” Cohen said. “I think that experience gave him a lot of different perspectives. I think it gave him a great ability to nurture and see the value of nurturing.”
At home, Rothschild was devoted to his wife and children. “He wanted the best for us,” Jonathan said of his father’s devotion to family. “He emphasized doing well in school and taught us the importance of being involved in the community. And he was totally devoted to my mom, which is something you don’t really notice when you’re a child.”
Rothschild’s two grandsons, Isaac and Nathan, went to work at MCR after earning their law degrees. “He really treasured working with them in those last eight years,” Jonathan said. Both grandsons had a standing Tuesday night dinner date with their grandparents and continued it after their grandmother passed away in 2016.
There was one hobby he loved – bowling. In fact, Lowell Rothschild is a member of the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
“He wasn’t very good at it,” Jonathan said of his father’s bowling skills. “But he was passionate about it.”
Rothschild served as president of the Tucson Bowling Association from 1962 to 1964 and served as president of the American Bowling Congress in 1977 and 1978. He was elected to the USBC Hall of Fame in 2009.
Rothschild’s community involvement stretched far and wide and, in 2017, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the UA. He also served on many boards, including the UA Foundation, Pima County Legal Aid, Handmaker senior services and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.
“I would not be where I am without him,” said Clark. “He was so accomplished in all facets of life, not just law. He was the most unique and influential man I ever met.”