Arlin Marvin Adams


As a federal judge and lawyer for nearly 70 years, Judge Arlin Adams’ extensive career was filled with fascinating anecdotes and lessons in persistence. His story is one of strong conviction, and a lifelong fight against discrimination. Adams was shaped by his parents—his father Aaron found work during the depression as an artist for Stetson—the well-known hat manufacturer. The younger Adams hustled to find a job, and was hired by The Philadelphia Inquirer as a $5-a-week copy boy. The owner, Moses Annenberg, persuaded him to attend college. Adams married his high school sweetheart, Neysa Cristol, and graduated from Temple University in 1941. A few months later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and Adams tried to enlist in the Navy. He was rejected for being 20 pounds too skinny, but received advice to binge on ice cream and bananas if he was determined to serve. Adams did just that, was accepted, and became a logistics officer in the North Pacific. Upon returning to Philadelphia, Adams went on to law school at the University of Pennsylvania. He soon found that it was common for law firms to discriminate based on religion. William A. Schnader changed that when he hired Adams in 1947 to Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, and after that, Adams worked in Center City until 2012. “Jewish firms had Jewish lawyers,” Schnader said in an interview with Temple’s Center for American Jewish History. “But no Gentile firm had any.” Adams said that he worked 365 days in his first year at the firm, when Saturday was still considered a workday. He liked to tell a story about Schnader, who had decided to add a partner, “Segal” and change the name of the firm, which was recorded in an interview in 1996 with the Center for Jewish American History at Temple University. “Schnader was a long-time member of the Union League. The Union League had tables in those days. He told his colleagues at the particular table for which he was a member, what he was going to do. One of them said, ‘Bill, if you do that, you will never represent a major bank, insurance company, or manufacturing company in this city.’ And (laughs) Schnader is supposed to have stood up and said, ‘That’s the best reason I’ve heard for doing it.’ And he left the table, and I don’t think he ever returned. He was still a member of the League, but he didn’t go back to the table.” Eventually, Adams was nominated by President Nixon to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia in 1969. He was also short-listed three times for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Adams also found time to give back, serving as a trustee for the William Penn Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, U.S. Constitution Center, and Bryn Mawr College. He was chairman of the board at Einstein Medical Center, Annenberg Research Institute, and Philadelphia Diagnostic Center, and president of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel.

Temple University Degree
Bachelor of Science ’41, Fox School of Business; Master of Arts ’50, College of Liberal Arts