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"William Taylor, 1931-2010"

July/August 2010 issue of Poverty & Race

What a truly major civil rights force we have all lost with Bill Taylorís death. As a new Yale Law graduate in the fall of 1954, Bill began his legal career working directly with Thurgood Marshall, Robert Carter and Jack Greenberg at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund in the days immediately following the Brown decision. Bill played an important role in many early LDF cases, especially the Little Rock litigation in 1957, where he had key drafting responsibilities in the briefs that led to the Supreme Courtís decision in Cooper v. Aaron. After working with Americans for Democratic Action and some of Joseph Rauhís efforts, Bill joined the Kennedy Administration in the early 1960s and collaborated closely with key members of the Kennedy White House staff on civil rights issues. He eventually became general counsel and staff director of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and directed research that undergirded much of the Kerner Commission Reportís findings on the devastating effects of racially isolated schools. Bill also litigated many key school desegregation cases, including the Wilmington (DE), Cincinnati and Ft. Wayne cases, and notably, the long-running St. Louis case that sent tens of thousands of central-city students into St. Louisís suburbs and white students into St. Louis schools. He was, for many decades, a key and trusted counselor to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, where he helped lead the legislative struggle to enlarge the Voting Rights Act in its 1982 reauthorization.†He also helped form the Citizensí Commission on Civil Rights and became a principal influence on the Congressional shaping and reshaping of Title I and No Child Left Behind. More recently, Bill was an active member of the National Coalition on School Diversity. Billís reports and writings graced the nationís preeminent law journals but also found their way into advocacy journals, and he taught law for years at Catholic University and Georgetown University Law School. His 2004 book The Passion of My Times, told much of his lifeís story with candor but essential modesty.

And of course, Bill was one of PRRACís founding parentsóa constant, faithful, fair but critical guide for all the rest of us, and a wonderful friend. Bill was a great spirit who never relinquished his quest for equal rights, present, as always, at our most recent, Spring 2010 board meeting, where he listened with interest to othersí accounts of their initiatives, readily shared his own Washington insiderís take on the unfolding Obama Administration, and asked for copies of new articles and reports on civil rights issues. He was a lover of jazz and tennis, and of his wife Harriett, his lifeís companion, who died in 1997. We will miss him greatly.

John C. Boger, PRRAC Board Chair
Philip Tegeler, Executive Director
Chester Hartman, Director of Research

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