In memoriam: Alice Brandeis Popkin

Alice Brandeis Popkin

Alice Brandeis Popkin

Alice Brandeis Popkin, the only granddaughter of late Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, was a good friend to the university that carries his name. Together with her brothers Frank and the late Louis Gilbert, she was instrumental in providing a number of the justice’s personal belongings to the university, including two Supreme Court robes and the desk on which he wrote his famous “Brandeis Brief,” the first Supreme Court brief to heavily incorporate scientific information and social science. These items are on permanent display in the library.

Mrs. Popkin had been a Brandeis University Fellow since 1960 and was a life member of the Brandeis National Committee. She was also a supporter of the Susan Brandeis Gilbert Scholarship in memory of her mother.

Her family will hold a Celebration of Alice's Life on August 18th at 4 p.m. at the Eldredge Public Library to which the Brandeis community is invited.

Mrs. Popkin’s obituary was published in the Boston Globe on July 25:

Lifelong Commitment to Public Service

Alice Brandeis Popkin of Washington, DC and Chatham, MA passed away on July 18, 2018 at Liberty Commons in Chatham. She was born on May 14, 1928 in New York City and was raised there and in Chatham by her parents, Jacob H. and Susan Brandeis Gilbert. She is lovingly remembered as a remarkable and caring woman who provided inspiration to those who knew her. 

Alice was the only granddaughter of Justice Louis D. Brandeis and followed his footsteps into the law, graduating from Radcliffe College and the Yale Law School. She and her husband of 48 years, Jordan Popkin, were married in 1963 and moved to Morocco for three years. They returned to Washington, DC in 1966, where she raised her three daughters as she worked. Alice dedicated most of her career to public service law until 1987 when she returned to Chatham, MA, her family's summer home, and established a family law practice. 

Alice's lifelong commitment to public service began during her time at Yale Law School where she was an active member of the National Student's Association with fellow young Democrats, Sargeant Shriver, Allard Lowenstein, and Terry Sanford. After practicing law in New York City and Washington, DC, she joined the Kennedy Administration as one of the first administrators of the newly formed Peace Corps, traveling to India and other countries to establish Peace Corps offices and programs. When she and Jordan returned to Washington from Morocco, she worked for the Georgetown Institute of Criminal Law and Procedure and then was the Special Counsel to the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency chaired by Senator Birch Bayh. In 1976, she became the Associate Administrator for International Affairs for the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1987, she became the first family member since Justice Brandeis to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar and she was of counsel at Toabe & Riley until she retired in 2010. 

Alice was an avid reader and sailor throughout her life, two passions that she shared with her daughters and grandchildren. She particularly enjoyed mysteries, often skimming at least one a night, and could be seen accompanying her grandchildren to the Eldredge Public Library when they were in Chatham. She grew up sailing at the Stage Harbor Yacht Club and raced with her cousin, Walter Raushenbush. As a young mother, she took her family sailing in Stage Harbor in her parents' cat boat, the White Seal, and 40 years later loved watching her granddaughter sail from the yacht club's benches. 

Alice was also engaged politically both nationally and locally, holding fundraisers and campaigning for dozens of Democratic candidates. A high point was a 1984 fundraiser for women at her DC home in support of Geraldine Ferraro, Mondale's running mate, where attendees spilled out onto the front lawn and mini blueberry muffins, the candidate's favorite, were served. She was devoted to her family and often said that her greatest accomplishment were her three daughters despite a busy professional life.

When Alice became a full time resident of Chatham, having come for summers for close to 60 years at that point, she and Jordan became immediately engaged in all aspects of the town's civic and cultural life. She was also a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, of the legal profession as a member of the New York, DC and the Supreme Court Bars, and of education serving as a Trustee of Radcliffe College. She and her daughter, Anne, formed a scholarship at Harvard in math and science and a research fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute in support of environmental policy. 

Like they had done on a national level, she and Jordan worked tirelessly for what they believed were the needs of others and the community they shared. She served on the Community Preservation Committee; was a Trustee of the Eldredge Public Library (President 2005-2010) and served on the Harbor Management Committee. They were also fixtures on the "arts" circuit playing an instrumental role in Friends of the Monomoy Theater. They rarely missed a show. In addition, Alice liked seeing Jordan act in several shows. They were also members of the First Night Committee and avid supporters of the Cape Cod Opera.

While life in Chatham was full, Alice always looked forward to holiday and family celebrations and summers when her family visited. These times were marked by special meals ending with ice cream, local baseball games, and time on the water. Morning activities were a continuation of their life in DC with coffee, the New York Times and political discussions. In her later years, she was a passionate Red Sox and Patriots fan, enjoying games with her son-in-law and grandchildren. In her last years, her daughter Louisa sought to ensure many of those activities remained a part of her life. 

She is survived by her three daughters, Susan Cahn, Anne Popkin and Louisa Popkin, her son-in-law, Leon Cahn, and her grandchildren, Allison and Ascher Cahn, her brother, Frank Gilbert, and his wife, Ann Gilbert, and the Raushenbush cousins. She was predeceased by her brother, Louis Gilbert. 

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to: The Eldredge Public Library (In Memory of Alice B. Popkin), 564 Main Street, Chatham, MA 02633. The family will hold a Celebration of Alice's Life on August 18th at 4 p.m. at the Eldredge Public Library. Notes of comfort may be made to her family at


Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage