PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” at the Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center in Ross Township where the life of Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Jim Ecker was celebrated, rather than mourned.
“Never in our lifetime will we ever see a person like Jim Ecker,” defense attorney John Elash told those assembled. “Never in our lifetime will I ever be in a speeding car, stopped by a state trooper and have the state trooper come up to the car and say, ‘Oh Mr. Ecker, you think you can give me an autograph?’”
He gained that kind of notoriety after 50 years of being seen in the media with clients facing all kinds of trouble. Even so, one of his closest friends is former Allegheny County Police Superintendent Tom Sturgeon.
“I used to say to Jim there’s something wrong in this world,” Sturgeon said. “I get paid $25 an hour to put them in jail and you get paid $250 to get them out.”
But Sturgeon says Ecker tried not to degrade police officers when he tried cases. His work beyond the courtroom fostered goodwill, no matter what you thought about his profession or his clients.
Attorney Phil DiLucente, who partnered with Ecker in recent years, offered an example of that goodwill.
“He used to go to the Hill District and just give out money during the holidays. No reason at all he wouldn’t even tell the persons who we were although they probably knew this white haired guy in a black Cadillac was handing out bills who he was but that was the kind of random acts of kindness,” DiLucente said.
After the service, former Allegheny County Commissioner Larry Dunn told Harold Hayes that Ecker worked for many charitable organizations.
“His charitable work through Variety Club, the Amen Corner. He did so much,” said Dunn. “At the same time he recognized the police officers.”
Also among those who attended his funeral, attorney Elbert Gray.
“He was always available to the younger attorneys to answer any questions we might have,” said Gray. “I mean, he was just always there.”
Many who attended the service were there not so much because of what Jim Ecker did in the courtroom, but what he did outside the courtroom.