In the 1970’s the My Lai Massacre was a huge scandal that the military alone could not investigate without accusations of a cover up being labeled against the government. They needed someone who had great personal integrity and a brilliant legal mind. They chose MacCrate, who wrote a balanced but hard hitting report about the killings. He objected to the dropping of charges against those responsible for the massacre.
Governor Nelson Rockefeller made many of the most important laws in New York City history. MacCrate served as his private council and helped the Governor word the bills that became enduring laws.
He was the son of a United States Congressman and State Supreme Court Judge John MacCrate who rose from working class laborer to the highest state court, but never forgot his Greenpoint roots. Growing up with such a brilliant father he followed his dad into the law, but surpassed him in some ways. For decades he was a partner in the famous firm Sullivan and Cromwell. Perhaps because of growing up in working class Greenpoint, he was an amazingly down-to-earth person who excelled at finding consensus and reaching agreement in really difficult cases.
As if he did not have enough accomplishments, MacCrate saw action in the United States Navy on board the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. He is survived by a son and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
You can read more about his life and legacy in the NY Times.