Law School Mourns the Passing of E. Richard Larson (’69)

August 8, 2017

E. Richard Larson (’69), a pioneering civil rights lawyer with the ACLU and the NAACP, among others, died July 22 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 73.

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Larson was a gifted student and athlete. After graduating from Dartmouth College, he followed his father—Earl Larson (’35), a federal judge and founder of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union—into the legal profession. With his Law School J.D. in hand, Larson clerked for Judge Gerald W. Heaney (’41) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, who furthered his interest in civil rights. Indeed, Larson spent the rest of his life advocating on behalf of racial minorities and the poor, particularly in the area of employment discrimination protections.

Larson began his career in New York City with the newly created National Employment Law Center. In 1974, he became a national staff counsel with the ACLU, where he brought cases to integrate police departments around the country. In 1986, he joined the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund as its vice president for litigation. His work there included leading the litigation of Garza v. County of Los Angeles, a voting rights case that resulted in the creation of a predominantly Latino supervisorial district in the county. In 1997, Larson joined the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, where he led a team implementing the consent decree in Labor/Community Strategy Center v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Over two decades, that case resulted in billions of dollars of additional buses and service improvements for LA bus riders, who were mostly minorities.

Over the course of his career, Larson argued four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and authored four books, including The Rights of Racial Minorities (1980) and Sue Your Boss (1981). He was an aficionado of the New York City Ballet, enjoyed attending classical music concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and delighted in overseeing renovations to his home under the Hollywood sign.


E. Richard Larson (’69)
E. Richard Larson (’69)

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