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Civil liberties champion Dan Pollitt dies

Civil Rights lawyer, UNC law professor and activist Dan Pollitt died this morning. He was 88.

Last year Pollitt was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
From the Citizen story at the time:

He served as defense council in a number of historic civil-liberty trials, including those of Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the ‘50s, and has been active with numerous organizations associated with the left, including the ACLU, the National Sharecroppers Fund and Southerners for Economic Justice.

In 1955, Pollitt took a position at the University of Arkansas, which he held until being told that in order to keep his job he’d have to sign a disclaimer stating that he was not, and never had been, a member of any subversive organization, including the NAACP, with which he’d been active. He refused, and accepted a position at UNC.

Frank Porter Graham was president of the university at the time and was a champion of liberal causes.

“I came to Carolina for its record of academic freedom,” Pollitt said. “I thought this would be a good place to be.” The university administration seemed “receptive to my positions.”

In the half century since, in addition to serving as a professor of law and chair of the UNC faculty, he’s continued to stand against what he’s perceived to be injustices within the university and the broader community. He vocally opposed the 1963 speaker ban and helped lead a successful protest to integrate a downtown Chapel Hill theater.

Last April, Pollitt married Sen. Ellie Kinnaird. This morning, Kinnaird said her husband spent a lifetime fighting for civil rights and civil liberties.

“He was involved in every important struggle of our lifetime,” she said. “He started fighting for a better system of health care during the Truman Administration.”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.

5 Responses

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  1. Ruby Sinreich

    Dan Pollitt will be missed. He gave so much to this community.

    My personal condolences to his wife, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird.

  2. Lex

    What a shame. My condolences to Sen. Kinnaird and other family and friends.

  3. Andrew Turnier

    I was proud to have meet the man. I felt privileged to have meet such a kind and smart man

  4. Bill Turnier

    Dan was a wonderful friend. As a Marine he fought for his country with valor during WWII. He then returned home and fought with equal resolve for the downtrodden and disadvantaged. He was a generous man who was fun to know. There is a hole in my heart. It was a privilege to know him and count him and to be able to count him as a friend and colleague.

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