He was a vocal leader for the local Democratic party and a philanthropist for many organizations in the area.

CANTON  Allen Schulman Jr., prominent Stark County attorney and president of City Council, died Friday morning.

Schulman, who turned 71 last week, had been battling a long-term illness for months.

“His passing is a huge loss for City Council, for our community at large, the legal profession and his family and friends,” Mayor Thomas Bernabei said.

Schulman led the Allen Schulman & Associates law firm on Third Street SW. He also was a vocal leader for the Stark County Democratic Party and a philanthropist for many organizations in the area.

He is survived by his wife, Christine, and a daughter, Alexis. No funeral arrangements have been announced.

Path to Canton

Schulman grew up in Columbus and later settled in Canton.

Former Stark County Common Pleas Judge Richard Reinbold said he met Schulman briefly in 1971 when they were undergraduate students at Miami University.

It was the first anniversary of the May 4 shootings at Kent State and Schulman was debating the head of Miami’s campus security.

“I’m going by this group of people who are surrounding this kid with this incredible afro,” Reinbold recalled. “Of course, he had everyone laughing,” including the guy he was debating.

“You may be the funniest guy I’ve ever heard,” Reinbold told him, before heading to class.

Reinbold crossed paths with Schulman a few months later in law school at the University of Akron, but they didn’t become friends until they were both working as lawyers in Canton.

“Once you were Allen’s friend, you were Allen’s friend,” Reinbold said. “So it’s going to be a big loss, a big loss to us.”

Legal career

After passing the bar in 1975, Schulman built his career as a trial attorney who repeatedly won multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts in wrongful death, malpractice and personal injury cases.

In one memorable case, Schulman parked a crushed vehicle outside the Stark County Courthouse during a trial involving a workplace death. The defendants quickly settled for more than $5 million.

In 2010, Schulman was on the other side of the table, as part of a team of lawyers defending Aultman Health Foundation from Mercy Medical Center’s complaints of unfair competition. The case culminated in a two-month courtroom battle, the longest civil trial in local memory.

Lee Plakas, one of the attorneys for Mercy, said Schulman’s energy and vision made him a tough opponent.

On long nights during the Mercy-Aultman case, Plakas said, he would look out from his own downtown office to see if the lights were still burning at Schulman’s building. Generally, they were.

“He was in high gear and that was a wonderful thing to see because that’s how he got things accomplished,” said Plakas, who considered Schulman a friend and ally outside the courtroom.

To paraphrase poet Rudyard Kipling, Schulman had the gift to walk with kings and talk with crowds, but not lose himself or his ability to understand others, Plakas said. “I think that’s what made him successful in the law, in politics and in life.”

Passion for politics

Schulman was deeply involved with the Democratic Party at the local, state and national levels, with his office building doubling as a billboard for candidates.

“He was always involved behind the scenes, very influential,” said Phil Giavasis, former chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party. “He was the type of guy who had Sherrod Brown on speed dial. He was very connected nationally, as well.”

Schulman made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1994. From 2006 until his death, he was president of City Council.

Democratic Central Committee members who live in Canton will pick Schulman’s successor.

Former City Councilman and attorney Edmond Mack said Schulman helped him and other Council members navigate complicated issues. Although a tenacious advocate, Shulman could take the long view on issues and compromise to reach a goal.

"It wasn’t about Democrat or Republican, it was about being a progressive and trying to make the community better by helping others,” Mack said. “My world view of what a progressive is is very much shaped by what I saw and learned from Allen Schulman.”

Schulman regularly donated his salary as president of City Council to the Stark County Hunger Task Force.

"We were very saddened to hear of Allen's passing. He was a true community leader,” said Maureen Kampman Tate, executive director of Stark County Hunger Task Force. “Not only did he generously support our organization, but also was a champion for many others. Allen’s dedication to Canton and Stark County was truly inspiring, and we know his legacy of servant leadership and advocacy will long survive."

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