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Voice of the people –– Morris Kramer

For five decades, the civic and environmental activist has quietly protected the South Shore


First of two parts.

In 1965, Morris Kramer, a 30-year-old bachelor who lived in Atlantic Beach with his mother, claimed that the Lawrence Public School District and the State of New York were discriminating against him.

Kramer owned no property and had no children in the schools, so, by state law at the time, he couldn’t vote in a school district election. That, he said, violated his constitutional rights.

In June 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed in what many legal scholars say was one of the high court’s landmark decisions, which helped establish a citizen’s right to vote. States, the court said in its ruling, could impose only three qualifications on voters — age, citizenship and residency.

Kramer is now 77, and he and his wife of nearly 30 years, Ronni, still live in his mother’s home in Atlantic Beach. And he continues to fight the good fight that began with his celebrated Supreme Court battle, which made the front page of The New York Times. These days, though, Kramer is focused on protecting and preserving the South Shore bays and Atlantic Ocean beaches that he fell in love with as a child at play on the Long Beach barrier island.

Kramer is, one might say, an unlikely activist. He dresses in understated tan and olive-green shirts and blue jeans. He is soft-spoken, self-deprecating and clean-cut, with a shock of thick silver hair. He taught business in New York City public schools for a decade and a half before retiring in 1997. Before that, he was an accountant, stock broker and investment banker.

He belongs to no nonprofit groups, preferring to maintain his independence. He does not seek out issues. “They usually come to me,” he said with a smile. And he never asks for accolades. But make no mistake, say those who know Kramer best, he deserves them.

State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, a Democrat from Long Beach, has worked with Kramer for three decades on a number of environmental issues. “Morris Kramer is one of the most dedicated, caring people who live in our region,” Weisenberg said.

Kramer has taken on issues from Watergate to sewage-sludge dumping in the Atlantic to global warming. But it all began with his Supreme Court case, blandly titled “Kramer v. Union Free School District.

An activist is born

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