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Remembering Dan Pollitt

Dan Pollitt, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina Law School and contributor to two volumes of political essays published by NewSouth Books, Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent and American Crisis, Southern Solutions, died earlier this month; he was 88.

Pollitt was a graduate of Wesleyan University and Cornell Law, and he served in World War II as a Marine Infantry Officer. He served on the Southern Regional Council, on the board of the American Association of University Professors, and on the national boards of the ACLU and Southerners for Economic Justice. He has litigated and published widely in the areas of labor law, civil liberties, and civil rights. He fought for integration in the 1950s, supported gay rights in newspaper editorials, and supported the abolition of the death penalty.

In one of his last editorials, published in the News & Observer, Pollitt sympathized with soldiers fighting in Afghanistan after his own experiences in World War II. Some suggestions he made included stopping the drone bombings when innocent civilians might be killed; re-purposing rather than destroying poppy plants so as not to deprive the farmers of their livelihood; and bringing in more doctors and construction works to help heal and rebuild the country. Friends suggested that Pollitt’s progressive opinions here were suggestive of his character.

Author and professor Dan Carter remembered long-time friend Pollitt. “The last time I saw him,” Carter said, “he and Gene Nichol and I agreed to do a book presentation at the Regulator in Durham. It was a small crowd, but Dan gave his spiel with the kind of passion that most people reserve for an audience of thousands. And his indignation over the way in which our government had betrayed our best values as a nation seemed more conservative — in the best sense of the word — than radical. We often talk glibly about ‘inspirational mentors’ but Dan was the best kind and a needed reminder that we can’t give up, no matter how difficult things may seem.”

Read the News & Observer obituary of Dan Pollitt.

NewSouth Books expresses our condolences to Pollitt’s friends and family for their loss.