Speech of Frank Michelman at Funeral


Gary did not have a transplanted heart.  If there was ever a man whose heart was his own special heart, all of the time, it was Gary.  It was the heart of a pioneer and fighter for justice and real freedom.

At the Defendersí office in Washington, Gary pioneered famously in the defense of murder prosecutions -- while compiling the worldís record number of unpaid parking tickets.  And that was just the beginning.

Marvelous ideas about social justice and how to achieve it came from Gary.  And of course not just ideas but actions, and then constant, critical reflection on ideas, actions, and consequences.  The idea that not only might a vision of equal justice be realized, in a procedural sense, by making general civil-side legal services available to poor people, but that you could effectively challenge major, structural, social injustice by basing those legal services in communities, and informing those services with knowledge of how law really works in the lives of the poor as a group, and as many groups -- so much remarkable thought that has since been taken up in the best of what we came to know as Legal Services -- those ideas took shape, in our lifetimes, in the imaginations of Gary and a few friends in Washington in the early sixties.

Then Gary pioneered in putting those ideas to work at CRLA.  And then Gary pioneered at finding out how to convey to others, through teaching and mentoring, what he had had to learn and figure out for himself because there had been no one to teach it to him, and even how to teach others to figure out what they needed to know that there was no one to teach them, and how to learn and figure it out for themselves.

The spirit and the mind that were not only capable of doing all this, but desirous of doing all this, were truly pioneering.
I didnít truly understand all this about Gary until a long time after we first met, in our extraordinary freshman English class at Yale in September, 1953.  What I did know, almost from that first moment, was that I had run into a person I would never forget.  Of course, I couldnít and didnít foresee how many times in the near and further future our lives would bring us together as close associates.  I only knew this was a special guy, a special person, who was getting in my system in a way I was not ever going to flush.

It was a treat, in those early months at Yale, to stand with Gary in the lunch line after English class, and have him, brilliantly, keep us chewing over the The Fairie Queene or Paradise Lost.  It was a treat, but one might have forgotten it.  What one was not going to forget was the experience of having Gary get into you.  As Gary got to know you, he somehow went for what was the best in you, or what could be the best in you, grabbed hold, cherished you for it, and did not let go. 

Beyond anyone else I have ever known, Gary was the friend whose friendship often showed in letting you see how you might do better whatever worthy thing he understood you were or ought to be meaning to do.  He was a gifted, devoted, loving critic -- of his friends, his institutions, his society.  Gary was a fair man if ever there was a fair man.  But he did not let fairness blot out candor, he did not let it blot out commitment, he did not let it blot out compassion or the hatred and refusal of injustice.  He once wrote to me, in a letter, when we were still very young: "There is a point where fairness ends and judgment begins."  Over and over, as the years went by, he would try to remind me.

At Yale, Gary, gregarious as he was, was a natural leader.  He led his fraternity.  He led his graduating class, our class, which elected him its chief officer, its Class Secretary.  We knew he would be a leader all his life.  I donít know how many of us understood then in what fields, to what ends, he would lead.  I have to confess that I did  not.

I ought to have looked in the Yale yearbook, the Class Book, for 1957, the year of our graduation, where Gary, as our Class Secretary, left us his written greeting on the first printed page.  The Class Book, he said, would remind us of the events of our bright college years.  And then he wrote:

         "Perhaps, in perspective, the past may provide us with a coherent direction or awareness of the complex obligations which are a function of the world in which we live."
In the stilted, academic prose that he like the rest of us had over-learned in college, Gary was predicting his own future.

It was to be a future of heroic devotion and accomplishment.  The accomplishment is here, in the world, and it will last.  Garyís friendship, his love, will last, too, in our memories and in our characters, while we last.

But the friendship is not the friend, and our friend is gone.  Our friend -- our husband, father, brother -- our friend is gone.  The Rabbi has said that in this season we celebrate, we do not grieve.  We celebrate a friend who fought for real freedom for all.  And so, in these hours before Passover, I say, to Gary and to all -- Next Year -- This Year -- In Jerusalem!
 

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