Maury Kravitz was a lawyer, a gold trader and a student of history, but he was best known for his fascination with 13th century Mongolian leader Genghis Khan, a fascination that led to four expeditions in search of the emperor's grave site in Mongolia.
"I got a call in early 1995 … about some cockamamie scheme to look for a burial site in Mongolia of Genghis Khan," said John Woods, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, adding that the call led to a lunch with Mr. Kravitz.
"Although the scheme seemed strange, he was so magnetic that I couldn't turn away," said Woods, who soon got involved in an effort to raise funds for an expedition. Though that early effort didn't raise any money, Mr. Kravitz by 2000 had convinced a small group of investors to put $1.2 million into funding expeditions over four summers.
The expedition located a grave site in Mongolia with artifacts from Genghis Khan's time, Woods said. But the professor also said he didn't know if it is "the right place." Woods said that if time, money and the political climate had allowed, there were other likely sites to explore.
Mr. Kravitz, 80, died of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Tuesday, July 31, in Highland Park Hospital, according to his wife, Mona. He had lived in Highland Park for more than 40 years.
Mr. Kravitz was born in Philadelphia. He moved to Chicago when he was 7 or 8 after his father, a writer, took a job with a Jewish newspaper. He grew up on the West Side and attended Marshall High School before attending the University of Illinois at its old Navy Pier campus.
He went on to The John Marshall Law School in Chicago but was drafted after his first year. He served three years with the Army in Germany before returning to finish law school in 1959, the same year he married the former Mona Wallace.
Mr. Kravitz later left law for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he became a successful gold and currency trader and later an options and futures trader.
As an amateur student of history, Mr. Kravitz had other interests besides Genghis Khan. He had in his basement an accurate diorama of the Battle of Omdurman, the 1898 conflict that made Sudan part of the British Empire. The display included thousands of miniature fighters, mounts and equipment.
But his main focus over many years was Genghis Khan, a title meaning "emperor or ruler of an oceanic or far-reaching area."
Genghis Khan's given name was Temujin — the name Mr. Kravitz gave his sailboat and used for his vanity license plate. Genghis Khan — pronounced "Jengis" — lived from about the middle 1100s to1227. He united the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia, assembled one of the largest empires in history and is considered the founding father of modern-day Mongolia.
Mr. Kravitz, who assembled a library of more than 400 volumes on Genghis Khan and the Mongolian Empire, said in a 1994 Chicago Tribune story that his admiration for Genghis Khan grew out of his ability to overcome obstacles to become the most important ruler of his era.