Elgin family has 3 generations spanning 100 years as lawyers
People in Elgin still tell stories about George Carbary — noted trial lawyer and state's attorney from 1928 until 1936, overseeing enforcement of Prohibition. He passed the bar on April 3, 1912 with no law school diploma, just work experience with a Kane County judge.
This year, 100 years since Carbary became an attorney, his grandson reflects on the depth of his family history.
Jonathan L. Carbary, who practices personal injury, family law, workers' compensation cases and some criminal law, is a third generation Elgin attorney who grew up never doubting he would follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps.
"When I was growing up my grandfather said 'You will be a lawyer,'" Carbary remembers. "My dad said 'It would be nice if you were an attorney but you can be anything you want to be.'"
Carbary said there was a sense of family obligation in his decision. But there was also a sense of pride in taking part in a profession his father and grandfather gave their lives to.
Warren Carbary, the second generation lawyer and Jonathan's father, died last July and practiced half a century of mostly real estate and probate law. He did not like going to court, unlike his father.
George Carbary was a bear of a man, towering over his peers at 6'2 and sometimes seeming fearless. As legend has it, Al Capone arranged a meeting with him when he was the state's attorney. Carbary made clear he knew who Capone was and that he would not come into Kane County.
Jonathan Carbary said his grandfather apparently got his way, but the pavilion for the dog track where the two men met "mysteriously" burned down a few months later.
These are some of the stories Carbary grew up hearing about the legal profession.
"At the dinner table I never heard the bad stories," Carbary said. "I only heard the good stories. It sounded somewhat glamorous."
In truth, Carbary said it's not glamorous. He has found himself becoming callous about the situations his clients find themselves in as he hears similar stories year after year.
But he understands the gravity of the cases for their participants.
"You have to be meticulous," Carbary said. "You are dealing with major decisions in other people's lives."
Carbary's son, Jonathan R., recently decided on a future in law. He originally planned to follow his microbiology undergraduate degree with a Ph.D. in pharmacology but applied to law school instead. The youngest Carbary's new plan is to take a federal bar for copyrights, trademarks and patents and work for a pharmaceutical company.
The Carbarys are up to six generations raised in Elgin with roots stretching to Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine. The family won't know if the line of Elgin attorneys stops with the current Carbary until his son gets a job after law school.
Either way, the clock will keep ticking until Carbary's retirement as he brings his family's profession into its second century.
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