Xavier Magazine

Profile: Robert E. Manley

Robert E. Manley
Bachelor of Science in economics, 1956 Partner, Manley Burke LPA, Cincinnati Deceased March 2006, age 70

Latin Roots | A sixth-grade course in Latin American geography triggered Manley’s lifelong fascination with South American culture that was later accelerated by his favorite professor, Eugene Shiels, S.J., chair of Xavier’s history department and an expert in Latin American studies. Manley asked him if he could alter the reading list of his Latin American studies course so he could study the economics of Latin American countries. He never looked back.

Amazon Man | Manley completed a master’s in economics at the University of Cincinnati, a law degree at Harvard University, postgraduate study at the London School of Economics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and military service. Then he started his law career. But in 1976, already specializing in law and economics, he followed his childhood interest and headed south to survey the Amazon Valley.

Explorer | “I went from the headwaters near Cusco in Peru to the mouth at Belem in Brazil. The river there is 250 miles wide and there is an island in the river that is as large as Switzerland. We traveled by plane and then by boat or by foot or by car. My focus was on towns and I studied towns in Columbia, Peru and Brazil. What I was looking for was the socioeconomic effectiveness of these towns. Do they make a place for people to live and work in a successful way, and the answer is mixed.”

Lifelong Learner | Manley used the knowledge he gained from his annual month-long trips to Amazon territory to augment his teaching as an adjunct professor of city planning at the University of Cincinnati and in his law profession.

Lifelong Teacher | “It’s important for students to see similarities between what we do in the U.S. and what happens in developing countries. It improves my credentials for my work as a lawyer solving problems in cities, and it improves my ability to teach students in city planning. I look at everything as an economist first and as a lawyer second.”

Renowned | He also presented papers nationwide and recently in Brazil and Columbia about his research of the evolution of cities and towns in the developing regions of South America. “The Amazon research is related to what I do in North America,” he said. “The planning problems in both places have a lot of common properties. The institutional methods of dealing with them are different, but the principles are the same.”

Founding Father | Manley, a staunch Republican, founded his law firm in downtown Cincinnati in the early 1970s. Manley Burke LPA includes his longtime colleague and partner, Tim Burke, also profiled in this issue of Xavier magazine. Manley got started on his law career about 10 years earlier when he stumbled into his area of expertise–government regulation of property–while lecturing a Xavier M.B.A. class.

Direction | “I made a passing reference to the stupidity of the city’s use of eminent domain and someone repeated it to George Joseph who owned Columbia Oldsmobile. The city was taking his business at 5th and Sycamore streets for the Chiquita building. I was working in a law firm, and after a year and a half we were effective in stopping the city from taking his real estate. Then he leased his land to Prudential which built the Chiquita tower, and P&G was built across the street, and the family is still getting a check from it. That made me the local guy to go to when there’s a problem with government regulation with the use of land. I put my whole career in that direction.”

Living the Life | Manley believed so strongly in the value of strong cities that he moved into a building in downtown Cincinnati next to his office building and lived there for the last 20 years. He was excited about the apparent revival of interest among residents to live downtown and was a living ambassador for the city. “I walk around day and night and say hi to everybody,” he said.

End of an Era | In March, Manley suffered a heart attack and died, surprising Burke, who said Manley appeared to be in great shape and was vigilant about his health since experiencing a first heart attack about 30 years ago. “He took a leave for six months, walking himself back a to health, and never had a problem with his heart again until the day he died.”

Farewell | The funeral service was held at St. Peter In Chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati where former presidents of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick served as honorary pallbearers and the congregation sang an Irish blessing. Burke says at lunchtime, he still catches himself looking for Manley walking back to the office from his downtown condo. “He was Mr. Manley to most in the office, but he was Bob to me. He was an intellectual giant.”

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