In Memory: Tributes to past civil liberties leaders

Benson A. Wolman 1936 – 2007

Benson A. Wolman, 1936-2007

1936-2007

Benson A. Wolman died November 30, 2007 in Columbus. A nationally recognized constitutional and civil rights lawyer, Benson served as the ACLU’s executive director in Ohio from 1969-1986.

His distinguished career in litigation and advocacy included presenting a winning argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Capital Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette. Benson, acting as an ACLU volunteer attorney, successfully challenged the State’s refusal to permit the Ku Klux Klan to erect a cross next to a menorah on the grounds of the Statehouse, thus infringing upon the Klan’s right to freedom of expression.

He was perhaps most proud of his work on the Kent State University shootings litigation. Under his leadership, the case, entitled Krause v. Rhodes, reached a settlement on behalf of the students who were killed or injured on May 4, 1970 at Kent State.

During his seventeen years as ACLU executive director, Wolman became well known as an articulate advocate of individual rights. Under his tutelage, the ACLU received the Gold Medal Award of the Freedoms Foundation for developing the Ohio Mock Trial Program of law related education in the state’s high schools. He served on the National Advisory Council of the ACLU and as a member of the ACLU’s national, state and local boards of directors.

After leaving the ACLU, Benson served as counsel to the law firm Moots, Cope & Stanton, and later formed his own firm, Wolman, Genshaft & Gellman.

Benson had been serving as executive director of the Equal Justice Foundation in Columbus at the time of his death.

Benson was known for his wit, eloquence, and passion for civil liberties. He will be missed by the many ACLU members whom he recruited, mentored, supported and collaborated with over the years.

• Read the Columbus Dispatch obituary here.

• In 1998, Benson was honored by the ACLU of Ohio for contributions to defending and preserving civil liberties. Read the 1998 tribute here, written by former ACLU of Ohio Board President Harvey Gittler.

• Read Benson’s own rather humorous biography when he was with
Wolman, Genshaft & Gellman.

• Read the decision in Capital Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette.

• View the statement by the families of those injured and killed at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, which was issued after the case Krause v. Rhodes was settled on January 4, 1979.

• Read an article Benson Wolman wrote for the national ACLU newsletter Civil Liberties, published in April 1975, about the ACLU’s involvement in civil liberties violations surrounding the May 4, 1970 Kent State University shootings.

To join us in memorializing Benson Wolman by making a gift to the ACLU of Ohio Foundation, please click here.