Sol Linowitz, 91, a businessman who became chairman of the board of a small Rochester-based company that grew to become Xerox, a diplomat who was co-negotiator of the Panama Canal treaties and a lawyer who in later years became a forceful critic of what he saw as his profession's ethical lapses, died yesterday at his home in Washington. The cause of death was pneumonia, after a long illness.
When Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, Mr. Linowitz chaired a committee on U.S.-Latin American relations that identified the conflict over the Panama Canal as the most serious problem confronting the United States. Carter agreed with the panel's conclusions and asked Mr. Linowitz and Ellsworth Bunker to negotiate a treaty that was "generous, fair and appropriate."
In Egypt, President Anwar Sadat, right, meets with U.S. diplomat Sol Linowitz in 1980. Working for President Jimmy Carter's administration, Linowitz made strides in laying groundwork for Middle East peace as well as negotiating the Panama Canal treaties. He was a nationally recognized advocate of legal ethics.
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"In retrospect, I'd have to say that assignment was probably the most difficult and exciting challenge of my life," Mr. Linowitz once recalled. "It is also the accomplishment of which I am most proud."
He also served as the president's personal representative to the Middle East peace negotiations from 1979 to 1981.
"Our country has lost a great citizen and diplomat," Carter said in a statement released yesterday afternoon. "Sol Linowitz had a much distinguished career before joining me in addressing two areas of critical foreign policy important to the United States: the Panama Canal treaties and peace in the Middle East. Because of his vision, intellect, decency and hard work, remarkable success was achieved."
Mr. Linowitz was the quintessential "public man." He not only served presidents as a diplomat but also sat on countless boards and commissions, usually policy-oriented private organizations.
He was, for example, co-founder, with David Rockefeller, of the International Executive Service Corps, which sent mostly retired businessmen on six-month tours of duty to help local companies in developing nations. He was founder and co-chairman of Inter-American Dialogue and chairman of a 1978 presidential commission on world hunger. In a 1966 New York Times Magazine profile of Mr. Linowitz, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis recalled meeting him after President Lyndon B. Johnson named him a trustee of the Kennedy Center. "One doesn't, obviously, pour out one's soul at meetings," she recalled. "What's so special about Sol Linowitz, in these days when everyone is so busy, is that he really does pour himself out. He's quickly brilliant -- and he gets on with people. He's kind."
Sol Myron Linowitz was the eldest of four sons born to Joseph and Rose Oglenskye Linowitz, immigrants from a region of Poland under Russian rule. He was born in Trenton, N.J., in a multicultural neighborhood of Jews, Protestants and Catholics, as well as one African American family. His father was a fruit importer.
Mr. Linowitz graduated first in his class from Trenton Central High School, recalled his brother Robert Linowes, a prominent Washington area zoning and land-use lawyer. (As adults, Mr. Linowitz's three brothers changed their spelling of the family name.) Despite the Depression, he was able to go to Hamilton College in Upstate New York thanks to scholarships and part-time jobs that included waiting tables, selling newspapers and tutoring. One of only two Jews in his Hamilton class, he sold Christmas cards to supplement his income. He graduated in 1935 as salutatorian of his class at Hamilton and delivered a commencement oration in Latin.
Mr. Linowitz's career choice was determined at college. On Sunday afternoons, he often read to Elihu Root, who had served as secretary of state under President Theodore Roosevelt. Root was a Hamilton alumnus who spent time on campus during the last years of his life.
"One afternoon he stopped me and asked, 'What are you going to do after you graduate?' " Mr. Linowitz recalled in an interview with the Bar Report, a publication of the D.C. Bar.
"I said, 'I don't know. I can't decide between being a lawyer and being a rabbi.' "
Mr. Root had a word of advice: "Be a lawyer. A lawyer needs twice as much religion as a minister or a rabbi."
Mr. Linowitz enrolled at Cornell Law School in 1935 "burning with a desire to do good," he explained.