Joseph S. Buhler was a lawyer for many leading theatrical personalities and was a senior partner in the firm of Buhler, King and Buhler. He was elected to The Lambs in 1910 and is an Immortal Lamb for his work with servicemen during World War II.
Born in 1881, Buhler graduated from Columbia with the class of 1901, where he was Phi Delta Theta. He earned a law degree from Columbia in 1904. While there he took part in the famous school theatricals.
During World War I, he served as a captain in U.S. Army military intelligence. He founded the Men From the Front Section of the Committee on Public Information. Before World War II began he organized the Wake Up America Committee to alert the public to the dangers of Axis military plans.
Buhler received citations from Presidents Woodrow Wilson (a Lamb) and Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as the armed forces, for these efforts. He was decorated by Britain in 1947 with the King’s Medal for distinguished service in the cause of freedom.
In 1952, he helped organize the Citizens for Eisenhower Committee in New York that eventually grew into a nationwide movement that was instrumental in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nomination for the Presidency (Eisenhower a Lamb).
As a lawyer, his best known and most challenging client was Garbo. Not only was she a minor at the beginning of their association but she was an extremely strong-willed personality. Buhler found himself her legal adviser, manager, and guardian all at the same time. In 1933 she unceremoniously fired him from Hollywood. Her letter to him read, in part,
“I have a great many papers which you have sent me, which I do not understand. Although I am sure that the various arrangements you have made for me are intended for my benefit, they are too complicated for me to comprehend.”
The Wake up America Committee became widely known before the United States entered World War II. The committee used the artwork of James Montgomery Flagg, a fellow Lambs member. It depicted Uncle Sam on horseback, silhouetted by the glow of a Swastika burning in the ruins of Europe.
At The Lambs, he founded the Servicemen’s Morale Corps. It presented 210 consecutive weekly entertainment nights for troops, and served more than 50,000 dinners.
In the Dec. 25, 1943, issue of Billboard, another Immortal Lamb, producer John Golden, outlined The Lambs Servicemen’s Morale Corps. He was the first chairman. Joseph S. Buhler was the executive director. Golden, who served as Shepherd, said:
“The work of the Lambs in aiding the war effort has been and is a contribution to morale-building in and around New York. Nor is this work confined solely to our own fighting men, for soldiers and sailors of our allies have also been guest of the club during the weekly dinner and entertainment parties which The Lambs have given for servicemen.”
“Each night has a sponsor, a prominent person, who contributes $300 to the cost of the evening. To date, $40,000 has been raised for this purpose. The first sponsor was William S. Hart. Another was Bernard M. Baruch, and another Mrs. William Courtleigh, who mothered an evening in memory of her late husband. Since then the list of sponsors has grown so that applications are being taken today six months in advance for the privilege of sponsoring one of these evenings.”
“Once every four weeks the Monday night parties are reserved for wounded soldiers and sailors, and these nights are given over solely to laughs and entertainment under the chairmanship of Gene Buck. On other nights outstanding figures in the theater, motion pictures, radio, press, and government are invited to attend and talk to the men before the entertainment in The Lambs Theatre which rounds out the evening.”
“Chairman of these evenings is Joseph Buhler, and the financing is in the hands of the energetic and successful Phil Green. But, most of all, great credit must go to Sam Forrest, veteran showman, who each week has gathered talent for shows which The Lambs have begun to call “Little Gambols.” But his continuous and never-ending efforts the shows are produced week after week.”
In 1945 The Lambs served dinner to the officers and men of the U.S.S. Missouri. The club was awarded a citation from the U.S. Army, an official commendation for its “morale building work among servicemen of the United Nations.” Buhler accepted the award for The Lambs. (Note: In 1961 The Service Morale Corps changed its name to The Lambs Foundation.)
Before his death he established the non-profit Joseph S. Buhler Foundation, Inc. and the Joseph S. Buhler Scholarship Fund at Columbia University.
He died on May 18, 1961, at his home in Greenwich. He was 80.