Ira M. Lowe, 88, a Washington attorney and longtime West Tisbury seasonal visitor, died on June 11 at his home in Washington, D.C..
In his long career, Mr. Lowe had represented such civil rights activists as actress Jane Fonda, singer Joan Baez and poet Allen Ginsberg. Among the artists who were his clients were David Smith, Larry Rivers, Frank Stella and the sculptor Louise Bourgeois. He had been a longtime friend of the sculptor Ella Tullin, whose work, Bronze Arch, decorates the yard of the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury. Among other Vineyard summer friends were Lillian Hellman and Art Buchwald, William and Rose Burgunder Styron and Olga Hirschhorn.
It was through Lester Abrahamson and his artist wife, Rose — Washington friends — that Mr. Lowe and Ella Tullin first came to the Island 30 years ago. They had been on their way to Bermuda, but when they learned that the Abrahamsons were coming to Martha’s Vineyard, they decided to take a look at it first. They never went any farther. Instead, summer after summer, they rented an Arnie Fisher camp at Flat Point on Tisbury Great Pond, returning year after year to its tranquility. There, Mr. Lowe would do some law work, then he and Ella Tullin would putter to the beach in an outboard and, evenings, enjoy their multitude of Island friends at cocktail parties.
As was the case at Kew Gardens in Georgetown, where Mr. Lowe had his winter home, celebrities were sure to be among the guests at any party. He and Olga Hirschhorn would sometimes share simple potato lunches at his Washington home — nothing but whatever potatoes could be found in the refrigerator and cooked up. It was Olga’s good company, not the luncheon menu, that mattered. A frequenter of Alley’s General Store, Mr. Lowe invited John and Anna Alley and Skipper Manter to be guests at his Georgetown home on trips they made to Washington — once for the inauguration of Jimmy Carter and later for that of Bill Clinton.
Bearded and with piercing dark eyes, Mr. Lowe had something of the look of an Old Testament prophet, the Washington Times said of him. That Old Testament look notwithstanding, Ira Lowe was regarded by his friends as a charmer and something of a gay blade, sporting about in Washington in a vintage white Jaguar or on a Harley-Davison, or on the Vineyard in a convertible with the top down.
But, as a lawyer, he represented many difficult clients with agility. Washington resident that he was, he numbered among his political clients U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark of the Johnson administration and John Erlichman, the assistant to President Nixon who was jailed after Watergate. He worked with him on prison reform, for Ira Lowe was renowned for his efforts on behalf of the underdog. He was a lawyer of sufficient renown to be invited to Cuba by Fidel Castro in 1959 to attend the trials of associates of deposed dictator Fulgencio Batista. He also attended the Jerusalem trial of Nazi Adolf Eichman and was an observer at trials of dissidents in Chile. Although a liberal himself, he numbered some conservatives among his clients.
He was particularly highly regarded in the legal field for his work on the estates of artists, managing to save the estates millions of dollars, according to the Washington Times,
He was born in Boston March 5, 1914, a son of Isadore Lowe and Etta Glaser Lowe, but the family moved to Washington a decade later when his Russian-born father went to work for the criminal defense lawyer Clarence Darrow. He attended Dartmouth College and George Washington University before joining the Navy in Wold War II. When the war ended, he returned to receive his law degree in 1949 from George Washington University. An early marriage ended in divorce.
He is survived by a sister, Tina Rips.
A memorial service is planned on the Vineyard in August.