How Did A Top Lawyer (And Classmate to the Chief Justice) Wind Up Living On The Street?

How Did A Top Lawyer (And Classmate to the Chief Justice) Wind Up Living On The Street?

How did a smart lawyer holding three degrees and who once counted Chief Justice John G Roberts as one of his class mates wind up haunting a Washington DC intersection and carrying his belongings in a plastic bag wind up as a homeless man?

It’s a sad tale of a highly educated, talented man who fell to earth through being a schizophrenic, becoming DC’s most academically distinguished homeless person.

Alfred Postell’s life fell apart after working for the Big Law firm Shaw Pittman following a “psychotic break” according to his mother and a report in the Washington Post.

As The Post report: Listening to him talk about his life is like dive-bombing into a dream. Everything at first sounds normal. But things quickly fall into disorder. The chronology hiccups. Incongruous thoughts collide.

Postell is a 1979 Harvard law graduate who once worked at accounting firm Lucas and Tucker as well as the firm known as Shaw Pittman Potts & Trowbridge. He has degrees in economics and accounting. His Harvard law classmates included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

“You get into a firm, it’s prestigious,” Postell tells the Post. “And when you lose that position, it’s like suicide. It’s all over. It’s atrophy. Or as accountants say, it’s to be obsolete. You know what that means? Obsolescence. Beyond your useful life. I was beyond my useful life.”

He also received testimonials to his abilities and intellect.

“It seems like every couple of years I would become aware of a new achievement or plateau that you have reached,” wrote E. Burns McLindon, a prominent Bethesda accountant who instructed Postell at Strayer, in a letter Postell framed. Strayer had just given Postell its Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award. “Your example,” wrote McLindon, who died in 2012, “serves as a true example to our young people today to gather up within themselves the determination and ambition to succeed.”

But regrettably his illness, for which he receives support from mental health services in Washington, continued.

As The Post reported, “He worked extremely hard and was extremely disciplined,” says classmate Piper Kent-Marshall, a longtime senior counsel with Wells Fargo.

And he was immaculately dressed and groomed. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me he manicured his nails,” another classmate says.

That’s why the Harvard grads were so surprised to learn what had become of Postell. How could this man — so articulate, so elegant — end up eking out an all-but invisible existence on the fringes of the nation’s capital?

“It is an in­cred­ibly tragic and sad story,” Kent-Marshall says, “because in law school, he was one of the top students and a very, very, very bright and charming man.”

The illness that descended upon him and put him on his new path on the street was something unforeseen.

Even his mother, now 85, can’t explain what happened. A darkness one day fell over her son, Priest says. He kept talking about getting arrested. He thought the police were after him. Then he had a bad breakup with a woman he loved. Shortly afterward, Postell had his psychotic break.

Read more at The Washington Post

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