Don Jelinek
(1934 — 2016)


As remembered by Bruce Hartford
June 24, 2016

Sad to say that after a long illness, Don Jelinek passed this morning.

Don was both a civil rights lawyer in Mississippi and Alabama with the ACLU and LCDC, and a SNCC activist in both states. He later led the Southern Rural Research Project that powerfully raised issues of sharecropper hunger, malnutrition, and racist practices on the part of the Dept. of Agriculture. He also represented the Attica Prisoners, Indian occupation of Alcatraz, and many other social-justice causes.

I once read public opinion survey that asked people, What was their greatest fear?

Death came in second.

For most people, their greatest fear was not death, but public speaking. Don Jelinek was not one of those people. Don relished speaking truth to power and he did so at every opportunity.

Most people know of Don as a lawyer defending his clients and challenging injustice. But the Don I knew still saw himself more as a SNCC field organizer than an attorney. That's why he once told me that all he wanted on his tombstone was something like "He was SNCC."


As remembered by Marion Kwan
June 26, 2016

It's too sad to say much. Don will forever be remembered as a true Warrior and I have been so fortunate to have met one. With warm blessings.


As remembered by Miriam Cohen Glickman
July 16, 2016

Don Jelinek was in SNCC in Alabama and Mississippi in the 1960's. Don has been for many years part of a group of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area who were part of that struggle. We call ourselves the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

Don was interested in the details of other people's lives and he made people feel cared for. His caring and his kindness had an impact on our group and he will be greatly missed.

Don was also a wonderful storyteller. He could get us smiling with his stories about events he was involved in the South. That was true even when the situation he was describing was dangerous - which it often was.

Don had the vision and the tenacity to help in the 1960's to bring the hunger and starvation that was going on in our country, especially in the South, into the headlines and national prominence. And in his book, White Lawyer Black Power, he talks about his success in getting the national government to provide food for the hungry as one of the proudest moments of his life.

I'm so grateful that I got to know and care for Don and I mourn his passing.

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