In Memoriam: Donald Jelinek

Donald Jelinek


Donald Jelinek was a lawyer who defended civil rights workers from SNCC in the Deep South in the 1960’s.  Born in the Bronx, NY in 1934, he graduated from the New York University Law School and went south in 1965.  With the ACLU’s Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee he defended members of SNCC.  He was director of the Southern Rural Research Project and in 1968 filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture representing poor African American residents of Alabama demanding distribution of food stamps and surplus food in counties that were denying those services to the poor.

After leaving the south, Don relocated to California and was a member of the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. He represented Native Americans who seized Alcatraz Island in 1969, conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War, and coordinated the defense of the inmates charged after the Attica prison uprising in N.Y.  He served 3 terms on the Berkeley City Council.  Don was the author of “White Lawyer, Black Power: Civil Rights Lawyering during the Black Power Era in Mississippi and Alabama”.  Don died June 2016 at his home in Berkeley, CA.

Don Jelinek