Frank S. Bruno, a retired New Orleans lawyer and real estate developer, died Sunday at his home. He was 90.
Bruno, born to immigrant parents of Italian descent, graduated from Fortier High School. He spent his youth working alongside his father, a cabinetmaker, who had a shop on Magazine Street near Austerlitz Street. Bruno’s father was “well-known as an expert cabinetmaker,” with a clientele that included some of New Orleans’ most prominent families, said Joseph M. Bruno, one of Frank Bruno’s six sons. When Frank Bruno’s father died, the son kept the business alive, even though he was a practicing attorney.
“My father just couldn’t let it go,” Joseph Bruno said. “So he practiced law and hired my grandfather’s chief cabinetmaker to make furniture. He tried to keep that business alive.” When they were kids, Frank Bruno’s sons would work in the cabinetry business “every Saturday and five days a week during the summer,” Joseph Bruno said.
Bruno entered Tulane University in 1942 and joined the Navy that same year. He trained Navy pilots until his discharge in 1946, when he resumed his studies at Tulane.
He was president of Tulane’s International Relations Club and a member of the Oratorical Debating Council and the Glendy Burke Literary and Debating Society. His team won the Grand National Men’s Championship Debating Prize at the 1947-48 Grand Forensic Tournament. In 1947, Bruno and his debating partner, Roland Sternfels, took on a team from Oxford University.
He received his law degree from Tulane Law School in 1950 and began practicing law with Sternfels, focusing on representing working people and the poor.
African-Americans made up a large part of his clientele, Joseph Bruno said.
“He worked in that community forever, handling workman’s compensation claims and the like,” he said. “He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that people were treated differently because of their color.”
Eventually, five of Bruno’s sons would join the law firm, now known as Bruno & Bruno.
Bruno twice ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the state House of Representatives. He retired from practicing law in 1989 but continued to work in the cabinet shop and developed several properties in the French Quarter, including the Holzer Sheet Metal Works building.
Bruno was a former president of the Greater New Orleans Trial Lawyers Association and the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association; a founder and past president of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Italian American Bar Association; a past regional vice president of the National Italian American Bar Association; and a grand knight of the Edward Douglass White Council of the Knights of Columbus. He was a parishioner of St. Pius X Catholic Church in New Orleans.
Survivors include his wife, Marion Therese Bruno; six sons, Joseph, Frank, Stephen, Robert, Thomas and Christopher Bruno; and 22 grandchildren.
A Mass will be said at noon Saturday at St. Pius X Church, 6666 Spanish Fort Blvd., New Orleans. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Burial will follow at Metairie Cemetery.
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