Michael Bader died 2 November 2001.He was a rare breed: an impeccably honest lawyer. His specialty was Federal Communications Commission law, both broadcast and common carrier.
He helped me with all of my applications for broadcast stations, ones that were soon to be known as "community" radio stations. I think over the years we worked together, we --- along with a variety of helpers --- put together fifteen or so stations, in places as diverse as San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, St. Louis, Santa Cruz, Miami, New Orleans, Austin, Dallas, Tampa-St. Petersburg.
I doubt if I would have succeeded if it weren't for him. He managed to temper my silly (some would say self-destructive) side, channel it into something that could bear fruit. No matter how different we were --- and we were an odd couple --- he was unfailingly patient with my efforts to do something distinctive with the æther.
He was also a dynamite attorney. He knew FCC case law to a fare-
thee- well. Part of the original order breaking up the Bell System may well have been his doing. In hearing --- I watched him several times --- he was patient, and thorough. He was renowned for his detail work.
Once 15 years ago, Washingtonian Magazine did an article on the Washington lawyers who would serve their clients best in the moil of the Independent Regulatory Commissions. Haley Bader & Potts was near the top of the list.
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I often think of me in those years from 1960 - 1980, with my fantasies about what American radio could and should be --- coupled with Bader, who, in his day-to-day work, represented dozens of the usual commercial radio and television station combines.
There I was in my rumpled Brooks Brothers clothes and my unwashed hair; there was Bader always impeccably dressed and groomed. There we were together before the FCC, trying to get me another renewal, another license, another construction permit, fend off another hearing.
At times I would go over to the FCC reading room with him. He once told me --- and I believed it --- that he knew, by name, everyone who worked not only in that office, but throughout the Commission: from the commissioners and G-15s down to the file clerks and (knowing Mike) probably the floor moppers, as well. Watching him go through the halls was like watching a well-loved politician visit home-base.
He wouldn't miss a chance to introduce me to those he thought might help my case. But once he had the temerity to present me to the man who had actively blocked me from receiving my earliest broadcast permits for "national security" reasons, a FCC staff attorney by the name of John Harrington. After all, I was, in the lingo of the time, a militant peacenik. And my hair --- and what little I could develop in the way of a beard --- were a scandal.
It was during lunch, long after we had finally gotten KRAB and KBOO and KDNA on the air, while we were working on the next batch of radio stations. We were in a restaurant near the Commission. Mike saw Harrington who, at the time, was certainly the person in the world I was least interested in meeting. He brought him over to the table, had us shake hands.
He wasn't baiting me (although he had a wicked humor, which he kept carefully hidden most of the time). It was nothing more or less than the fact that he didn't want enmity to persist. It wasn't his style.
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Last year I was interviewed by New Mobility Magazine for an issue on disability and aging. They wanted a picture of me for the cover. Because I am me, I persuaded them to photograph me in the buff. My theory was that few magazines in the country would put a nude geezer, much less a disabled nude geezer, out there for all the world to see. Reluctantly, the magazine went along with me.
I sent a copy to Bader, and he called me immediately to tell me how much he cared for the article. He even complimented me on the cover. I knew him --- knew that he was a bit prudish; but I also knew that he was infinitely amused by this dissonant part of me.
I think that my need to be stirring the pot might have been what made it possible for us to work together over the years. Under his apparent mildness, his elegant understatement (in dress, in style, in demeanor), there was an independent streak that valued this quality --- as long as it was carried out with aplomb and, always, with humor.
The word that must occur to any of us who knew Bader for any time at all would be "genteel." He brought that same spirit of gentility to his last years. He knew that he was dying and yet, when I spoke to him last summer, he was alert and cheerful. He knew that his time was nigh, but, in the least maudlin way possible, he insisted in keeping on keeping on --- without self-pity; with grace; with good humor; with a fine elegance.
A note on the pictures:
I cast about for a suitable photographs of Michael --- one that would show him at his merry best. There were none available to me, so I took the liberty of culling two photographs of one of his other great loves, trolleys and steam railroads. Whenever he could, if he had time, he would take the train instead of an airplane. Some of the last years of his life were devoted to trying to get an old rail line resuscitated in the Washington, D. C. area.
I once recall his telling me about the now long-gone days of the trolleys of D.C. Transit. During snowstorms, they often lost their power, were forced to discharge their passengers and await the drying-out of the third rails.
He told me he was once in an office overlooking the old 'G' Street line. There had been a great deal of snowfall and all the trolleys had stopped. He remembered looking out on five of them, one behind the other, at the last stop: quiet, moveless. He said, "They reminded me of a great herd of mastodons, lined up there in the dark street."--- Lorenzo W. Milam
The photos are taken from
When the Railroad Leaves Town
by Joseph P. Schwieterman
(©2001 Truman State University Press)