American Civil Liberties Union Mourns Passing Of Former Executive Director Jack Pemberton
NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union mourns the passing of John de J. "Jack"
Pemberton. Pemberton served as the national Executive Director of the
ACLU from 1962-70, a period marked by the peak of the civil rights
struggle and the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Under Pemberton's leadership, the ACLU helped achieve victories in landmark cases such as Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage; Gideon v. Wainwright, which ensured felony defendants have the right to an attorney at trial; and Griswold v. Connecticut,
which found that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy.
Based on these successes and others, the ACLU doubled its membership
under his stewardship.
Pemberton was keenly aware of the
role of the ACLU during the turbulent years in which he led the
organization. In 1963, he wrote in the official newsletter:
"When parts of our nation are
responding to a revolution in race relations with an almost
totalitarian repression of ideas, when new reactions to the
complexities of an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society
are manifesting themselves in more sophisticated forms of intolerance
to dissent and unorthodoxy, and when fear-bred responses to constant
international tension are threatening liberty everywhere – the need for
putting sinew and muscle on the structure of a firm and steadfast
guardian of the American ideal is unprecedented."
Pemberton followed his tenure at the
ACLU as a distinguished leader in labor and employment law, serving as
Acting General Counsel for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) and the EEOC Regional Attorney in San Francisco.
Pemberton taught law at the University of San Francisco (USF) School of
Law from 1973-88, specializing in torts and employment law. He had
previously taught at Duke University and New York University. Since
2005, USF has hosted an annual Pemberton Lecture on Workplace Justice
in his honor.
A passionate advocate of nonviolence
and equality for all, Pemberton was instrumental in establishing the
ACLU as a truly national organization through some of the most critical
years in American civil rights history. We honor his legacy by
continuing to be "a firm and steadfast guardian of the American ideal"
– a call that rings just as true today as it did nearly half a century
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.