Bertram Mortimer (Bert) Goldwater lived most of his life in Reno as a criminal and civil lawyer. He was a passionate defender of civil liberties and served as first chairman of Nevada's Equal Rights Commission. For many years he was a United States bankruptcy judge–a position held until his death at the age of 91.
Born in San Francisco in 1915, Goldwater was weakened by asthma, and his parents sent him to be raised by his maternal grandparents in Reno from 1920 to 1930. He attended Stanford University for three years, but ill health forced him back to the dryer climate of Reno, where he graduated from the University of Nevada. He later earned a law degree from the University of Colorado in 1939, and married Esther Albert in 1941. Goldwater, once a staunch conservative, credited his wife with his conversion to being interested in liberal causes. He had been one of a small group that left Orthodox Temple Emanu-El to form the short-lived Reform Congregation Beth Or in 1940.
Goldwater punctuated his civil rights advocacy by resigning from the Elks Club, Hidden Valley Country Club and the prestigious Prospectors Club in protest against their barring African-Americans from membership. He took pride in the fact that his defense of first degree murder cases never resulted in the death penalty. Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer selected Goldwater to chair the state's Equal Rights Commission, which was established in 1961. Accordingly, Goldwater stepped down from his position on the Nevada Gaming Commission, because he was admittedly too dogmatic and focused on human rights to be a popular choice among some casino owners.
Goldwater became President of the Washoe County Bar Association and chairman of both the State Board of Bar Examiners and the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit appointed Goldwater for a term as a U.S. bankruptcy judge in 1979 and reappointed him in 1994 on a year-to-year basis until his death in 2006. He was active in Reno Jewish affairs, serving as president of both Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai.