Rhode Island mourns the death of Milton Stanzler, a lawyer who founded the local affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1959. He was 92 years old. Current RI ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown said of Stanzler’s passing:
“With courage, wisdom and foresight, Milton Stanzler founded the Rhode Island ACLU in 1959. It was a period when censorship of plays, books and movies in the state was rampant, and an epic battle was being fought over legislative efforts to ban housing discrimination on the basis of race.
Thanks to his leadership, the Affiliate became an important force in the community on these and hundreds of other issues during his decades of involvement with the organization. His work as a volunteer attorney in dozens of important cases and his authorship of a history of the Rhode Island ACLU also leave a lasting legacy. We mourn his loss, but he will be fondly remembered for both his generosity of spirit and his lifelong commitment to the indivisibility of freedom.”
Stanzler is said to have appeared before the state Supreme Court some 50 times and “the United States Supreme Court decided several of his cases,” according to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. “He wrote most of the legislation that crowned the state’s first fair housing law.”
“Milton Stanzler stepped forward to confront the thorny issues of his day,” wrote the hall of fame of him when he was inducted. “We applaud his unstinting courage, integrity, and resolution to keep the land of Roger Williams free. He is part of an unbroken heritage of independent thinking and action that began with the colony’s establishment in 1636.”
He also helped to found the Trinity Repertory Company in 1962. According to Broadway World:
“In the spring of 1962, Milton Stanzler first proposed his vision of establishing a professional theater in Providence to friends Norman Tilles, Robert Kaplan and actress Barbara Orson. While the challenges facing the group were many, over the next year they pursued their common goal of making Milton’s dream a reality. They soon assembled of a core company of actors, hired then New York-based theater director Adrian Hall as their first artistic director, and in 1964, they opened the doors to the Trinity Square Playhouse’s first production, Brendan Behan’s The Hostage.”
A funeral will be held for him at will be held at Temple Beth-El on Friday, March 9, 2012, at 11:00am.