Charles Wittenstein

January 16, 1928February 4, 2013

Charles Wittenstein 1928 - 2013

Charles Wittenstein died on February 4, 2013 at the age of 85 after a long battle with cancer. Charles Wittenstein contributed over three decades of service to the Jewish community as well as to numerous social justice causes throughout the country, earning him the respect and admiration of his colleagues and organizational leaders.

Charles was a native of Brooklyn, New York. After attending public school there, he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Columbia University and his Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School. He was admitted in the New York Bar in 1952 and the Georgia Bar in 1954.

Charles served in the NY National Guard 142nd Heavy Tank Battalion and spent six years as a Sergeant, First Class in the US Army Reserves Military Government/Civil Affairs Company.

Charles moved to Atlanta in 1953 where he began practice with the law firm of Heyman, Abram, and Young. Soon after his arrival, Charles began his notable contributions to the community. While working with the American Jewish Committee, Charles worked to desegregate public accommodations, schools, private and public hospitals in Atlanta. He performed evaluations for the U.S. Health, Education & Welfare Department throughout the South to ensure hospitals qualified for Medicare by complying with the civil rights act of 1964. During that same time, Charles also worked to change the employment policy at Agnes Scott College, a private women’s college under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, in reaction to its anti-Jewish faculty hiring policies.

Charles was also Chairman of the DeKalb Community Relations Commission in the 1960s. After leaving the American Jewish Committee, Charles served as Executive Director of the Atlanta Charter Commission, which revised and replaced the city’s 100-year-old charter. The Charter Commission met as Atlanta was turning from a majority white city into a majority black city; the changes put in place by the new charter would help elect Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor. As the professional staff director, Charles helped set the tone of the deliberations. He was particularly proud of the fact during the 18-months and hundreds of votes conducted by the Commission, no vote of the commission split along racial lines.

In 1973 Charles became the Southern Civil Rights Director and Southern Counsel for the Anti-Defamation League. His responsibilities included serving as legal advisor to the League’s eight offices covering twelve southern states on matters pertaining to legislation, litigation, and fact-finding on right- and left-wing extremist groups. He retired from the ADL in 1994.

Among Charles’ numerous contributions of historical importance were his efforts in securing the posthumous pardon for Leo Frank, an Atlanta Jewish businessman who was convicted of murder in 1913 in an atmosphere where anti-Semitic rhetoric and prejudice prevailed. Leo Frank was subsequently lynched by a mob in Cobb County, Georgia. Charles was also noted for his work in sustaining the constitutionality of the Georgia anti-mask law. Charles appeared on ABC’s Nightline, CBS’s Evening News and Nightwatch, as well as on many other television and radio programs dealing with racism and anti-Semitism.

Charles also established and maintained close ties with the law enforcement community in Georgia. He was appointed by the Governor to the Georgia Committee on Civil Rights Under Color of Law. This commission established and published guidelines for law enforcement agencies on protecting the civil rights of Georgia citizens. He frequently consulted with law enforcement and was a guest instructor at law enforcement training centers on issues dealing with hate groups and hate crimes.

Charles is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elinor Heyman Wittenstein, his three children and their spouses, Robert and Susan Wittenstein of Dunwoody, David and Lee Wittenstein, of Bethesda, MD, and Ruth and Gary Musicante, Silver Spring, MD and his six grandchildren, Rebecca Wittenstein, Daniel Musicante, Jonathan Musicante, Eric Wittenstein, Greg Wittenstein and Adam Wittenstein.

Funeral services will be held at The Temple, 1589 Peachtree Street, Northeast at 11:30am on Wednesday, February 6.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the Charles Wittenstein Summer Associate Research Program at the Anti-Defamation League.


  • Funeral Service Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Charles Wittenstein

have a memory or condolence to add?


receive updates when new memories are posted


January 19, 2014

i thoughtb about you of' often you were a true gentleman elinor ]please give me a call i i have pakinson]s and had a stroke tom neumann

Richard Mamches

March 9, 2013

My sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Wittenstein family. As a long-time student of the Leo Frank case since the 1970's, I am so very proud of Charles' hard work in getting Leo Frank his posthumous pardon in 1986.
G-d bless him and may he always rest in peace.

Richard Mamches

Neal Kuniansky

February 8, 2013

Sincere condolences to you all.

Malone Family

February 7, 2013

May our Creator comfort you during this time of sorrow. When a person dies, many are strengthen through the Scriptures by learning their love one is not suffering. (Genesis 2:7; 3:19)

February 7, 2013

Condolences to family and friends.Eccl.9:5.

G. Freeman

February 6, 2013

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.


February 6, 2013

I am sorry to hear about the loss of Mr Charles F.Wittenstein, I hope the family find comford in all his wonderful work and the wisdom he used *in dealing with other may GOD bless you all.

Linda Torossian

February 6, 2013

My prayers are with your family today. You are all very blessed to have had this amazing man in your family.

February 6, 2013

Although I've been out of touch for many years, I did enjoy seeing the Atlanta relatives. You are a great group of people and I am very glad that I know you.

I was, and still am, distressed to hear about Charles' death. He and I were the New Yorkers in the clan but we always felt connected to the non-New Yorkers.

God bless you. My sincere condolences to Elinor, David, Ruth and Robert and their families. I'm very sorry that I will not be able to attend the services. I'm sending love from Birmingham.

Larry Rosen

SAC Walt Brooks (retired GBI SAC)

February 6, 2013

Charles gave my children yellow rubber ducks....but that is not all I remember him fact, I treasured my friendship with Charles and always found it to be a great pleasure to be in his company. I am a career law enforcement officer and have always found myself doing what I thought was best to fight injustice much in the same light that Charles fought injustice in Georgia in his own style. Without Charles and the ADL Atlanta office, the citizens of the State of Georgia would not have had a sword of justice in the GBI's Anti-Terrorist Squad. Charles helped write the legislation that was passed by the representatives and senators of Georgia in order to truly make all peoples feel that they were indeed free. His friendship and guidance was so genuine that at times I was in awe of his committment and the fight he took on to limit injustice to Georgia citizens. I supervised the GBI's Anti-Terrorist Squad twice during my state law enforcement carrer and I always sought Charles' input on many matters dealing with the work of the men and women whom I supervised while in that position. Although it has been some time since we last talked, I believe it was when I decided to get back in the fight after retirement and once again became a peace officer, when I called Bill at the Atlanta office. I needed to let Charles know that I was back doing what he told me I did a good job at. I have never forgotten all the things that Charles taught me about the law and how it was always good to sit back and have a good laugh from time-to-time. I remember telling him once that one of my informants in a white supremscist group told me that the people he was at a meeting with said, "There must be one of them dxxx GBI Agents behind ever tree out there." Charles looked at me and said, "That can't be so Wally." "I haven't seen many Georgia pine trees that you could fit behind!" You will be missed my dear and faithful friend....thanks for the help over the years and for the memories.....and for the Brooks Boys' rubber duckies....