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Gregory W. Carman, federal judge, congressman, Oyster Bay councilman, dies

Gregory W. Carman in an undated photo.

Gregory W. Carman in an undated photo. Credit: Carman Family Photo

Gregory W. Carman, a federal judge, congressman and Oyster Bay councilman, died Sunday in Melville. He was 83. 

His death was confirmed by son Gregory W. Carman Jr., the Oyster Bay deputy supervisor, who said his father had been ill for some time. 

Carman, a Republican from Farmingdale, was appointed to the Oyster Bay Town Board in 1972 and served two terms before winning election to Long Island’s 3rd Congressional District, which encompassed part of the North Shore. 

In his one term in Congress, he sponsored a dozen bills on topics ranging from Long Island Sound dredging to Social Security payments for inmates.

He chose not to run again in 1982 after redistricting took his seat. The loss of that seat may have stung — his son said Carman had a childhood dream of running for president — but it led to a 32-year career as a federal judge after President Ronald Reagan appointed Carman to the Court of International Trade in 1983. 

That court reviews the administrative actions of the United States government dealing with imports, a highly technical area of law almost as old as the country itself whose importance has only grown in a global age. 

In his years on the bench, including two terms as chief judge overseeing the court’s administrative operations, Carman ruled on tariffs for products as varied as frozen tempura-battered vegetable mixtures from Thailand and a certain model of Ugg boots. These abstruse matters sometimes involved great sums of money and even geopolitics: A case concerning “coated free sheet paper” drew newspaper headlines in 2007 because it opened the way for the U.S. government to set trade barriers against Chinese imports. 

“Judge Carman was known for his unfailing diligence and professionalism, his courtesy to counsel, his excellent judicial temperament, and his generosity of spirit,” said Timothy Stanceu, the court’s current chief judge, who said Carman had been a mentor.

Gregory Wright Carman was born Jan. 31, 1937, to Willis Burkard Carman and Marjorie Wright Sosa, scion of a family that traced its Long Island roots 12 generations back to the 17th century. An ancestor negotiated what the family said was Long Island’s first real estate deal between settlers and American Indians, and a river and several area roads now bear the family name. 

Carman attended Farmingdale public schools and St. Lawrence University, where he was graduated in 1958 with a bachelor's in government. He was one of that school’s first exchange students at the University of Paris. 

After graduation he joined the Army. In 1961, while serving as a lieutenant, he received a law degree from St. John’s University Law School, where he was a member of the Law Review and the U.S. Attorney’s Honors Program. 

Carman was awarded the Army Commendation for Military Service, the Army’s second-highest peacetime award, for his work in the office of the staff judge advocate in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was honorably discharged as a captain in 1964.

He later practiced law with his father and brother in Farmingdale and became a partner in the family firm, now known as Carman, Callahan and Ingham LLP.

Carman was predeceased by his wife, Judith Scheff Dennehy. An earlier marriage, to Nancy Elizabeth Endruschat, ended in divorce. 

In addition to Gregory Jr. of Farmingdale, he is survived by sons John Carman of Huntington and James Carman of Manhattan, and daughters MiRa Carman of Maui, Hawaii; Elizabeth Lancaster of Los Angeles; Kathleen Hussey of Los Angeles, and Deirdre Basile of Ridgefield, Connecticut. 

He was cremated Tuesday. The family plans to hold a memorial service but has not scheduled a date. 

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