The passing of a giant

North Carolina lost one of its truly great citizens this morning with the passing of UNC Law School Professor Emeritus, Dan Pollitt. Dan was a constitutional law expert, a crusader for civil liberties and a champion of human rights and equality. A brilliant attorney who used his intellect and commitment to fight for the underdog and the causes of freedom and progress in every imaginable forum – the courts, academia, the halls of Congress and the General Assembly, local government and the court of public opinion – Pollitt also schooled vast numbers of the state’s attorneys in the Constitution. Throughout the last half decade, there was scarcely an important civil rights or social justice cause in our state that Dan didn’t impact for the better. He will be missed tremendously.

Progressive advocates who are not familiar with the work of the man upon whose shoulders they now stand should make a point of learning about Pollitt’s amazing accomplishments as they are remembered and celebrated in the days and weeks to come.

9 Comments

  1. Rob Schofield

    March 5, 2010 at 11:29 am

    This from today’s
    Carrboro Citizen
    :

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

    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.

  2. [...] or social justice cause in our state that Dan didn’t impact for the better,” Schofield wrote at the N.C. Policy Watch blog. “He will be missed [...]

  3. Cathy Burnham

    March 5, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I knew Dan from the UNC Wellness Center. He came to my Senior Fitness class religiously every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – 6:30 in the morning! He was so down to earth, funny and fun. Always ready to share a good story. It was only recently I learned about his professional accomplishments. Oh, Dan, I’ll miss you very much.

  4. melany

    March 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Early in my days at UNC School of Law, I had decided to leave law school – you see, I wanted to change the world, and I had lost sight of how I was going to do it with a law degree. The Dean asked me to meet with Dan Pollitt. Dan took me under his wing and he made me realize what a difference I really could make. I have been an attorney with Legal Aid for the past 17 years and I am so proud of the impact I have had in providing access to justice and the righteous work I have been given. I feel I owe so much to him, and thousands who never had the joy of meeting him continue to benefit from his inspriration.

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  6. Terry Kenney

    March 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    My Uncle Dan was a man of great accomplishments and a hero and inspiration to many. He was tremendous optimist about making social and political progress, even when things seemed to be going in the opposite direction, as they so often do in this country. His optimism and his own life example were what were so inspiring about him. He “walked what he talked”. My mother (his sister) remembers Dan and his then about 5 and 6 year children (Danny and Phoebe Pollitt) picketing their local amusement park in Maryland in 1957 because it was segregated. This was before “civil rights” was even “on the radar screen” for most of white America, but not for Dan or his family. A lot of progress had been made in the last 53 years, and Dan did a lot of work to help bring that about. He was also just a really nice guy with a great sense of humor. He also was not just about “the cause”. He cared about and helped countless individual get through some hard times in their lives. I’ll miss him very much.

  7. Cat Warren

    March 8, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Rest in peace. I was a great admirer of Dan and his work. He was on Committee A of the American Association of University Professors, and a stalwart defending academic freedom. We will miss him.

  8. Dana Irlbacher

    March 27, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Dan Pollitt is one of my all-time favorite persons in the world (and, now, in the after-world), having met him years ago through family connections. His idealism, mixed with his unique politically-attuned and delightfully sly sense of humor, endeared him to me immediately. I’ll always remember having dinner with his family shortly after Al Gore lost the race for President and hearing Dan’s fascinating take on the Supreme Court manuveurings. What I also love about him is how he inspired his own offspring to carry on the banner for social justice.

    Rest in peace, Big Dan….

  9. Dexter Richardson

    July 12, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    He had the heart of a true liberal. May Dan rest in peace.