Harvey Gittler of Oberlin, Ohio passed away on September 15, 2011 at the age of 88. Harvey had been an active member of the ACLU during some of its most contentious and most productive years, from 1968 through several "retirements." He was a sought-after speaker and writer about civil liberties issues and never failed to get a rise out of audiences, which delighted him. Harvey was a favorite among reporters looking for a good quote, and a favorite among legislators looking for a laugh, qualities he shared with his good friend and Ohio ACLU executive director, the late Benson Wolman.

He served in every leadership position of the Ohio ACLU, including secretary, treasurer, vice president, and he served as president for four years. He also stepped in to serve as executive director for a brief period in 1989-1990. In the late 1980’s Harvey worked with other leaders and then national Executive Director Ira Glasser to create a single ACLU organization in Ohio. Harvey was honored by the Ohio affiliate for his lifetime of work in 1990. At the awards ceremony, it was noted, “Through strength of uncommon personality and common sense he forged a reunion and revitalization of the forces of liberty throughout the State.”

Perhaps most importantly, Harvey brought civil liberties home to his community. People contacted him when they felt their rights had been violated and he took a personal interest in their problems, civil liberties-related or not. Harvey and his wife Naomi Barnett taught writing in prisons, and Harvey made himself available to Jews in prison when they were short for a minyan. Just recently, Harvey wrote a column against prison privatization in Ohio. He kept his passion for freedom alive all his life.

His charm and sense of humor were loved by those of us who worked with him; he made the sometimes-difficult task of defending liberties just a little easier.

Read the announcement from the Chronicle-Telegram.
Read the obituary from the Chronicle-Telegram.
Read the obituary from the Plain Dealer.