Riley Honored at the 2013 NLGSF Testimonial Dinner, Along With Unsung Hero Carey Lamprecht and Partner in Liberation Haiti Emergency Relief Fund
This year's Testimonial Dinner on April 27, 2013, honored lifelong activist Walter Riley as the NLGSF Champion of Justice. A long-time colleague and friend of the National Lawyers Guild, Walter joined our Chapter’s Executive Board in 2011, to work with a new generation of NLG leadership and help sharpen the political debate that guides us.
Walter grew up in segregated Durham, North Carolina, the ninth of 11 children. While in high school, he joined the NAACP statewide campaigns for jobs, voting rights and desegregation, including lunch counters. Later, he became a Field Secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) for the Southeast Region and worked with Rev. Cox of Cox vs. Louisiana fame.
In 1965, Walter came to California and attended SF State, where he was a student activist and participated in the San Francisco State Student movement with the Black Student Union and SDS. As an anti-Vietnam War activist, Walter worked with the Black Anti-Draft Union, helping people resist the draft. When he was employed at UCSF, Walter became a founding member of the University of California Black Caucus. In the late ’60’s, Walter drove a Muni bus, was a founding member of the Muni Black Caucus, was co-chair of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity in San Francisco, a member of Black House, and Campaign Chair for Kathleen Cleaver’s primary campaign for California State Assembly. He also was an active participant in the founding convention of the Peace and Freedom Party in San Francisco and co-chaired the PFP’s Black Caucus.
Walter and his family moved to Chicago in 1970, where he worked at the International Harvester auto plant and later organized around welfare and housing issues. In the middle ‘70’s, he was part of rank- and-file trade union organizing in Detroit’s auto industry.
Finally, Walter returned to the Bay Area to realize his long-held dream of becoming a lawyer. During his student years at Golden Gate University, he joined the NLG and was vice-president of the Student Bar Association. While in law school, he received welfare as a single parent to two boys. After graduation, he worked as a San Joaquin County Public Defender, and later for the California Department of Industrial Relations. While serving as a part-time state employee, Walter established a practice in downtown Oakland, handling criminal defense, employment discrimination and police misconduct cases.
In recent years Walter’s political work has ranged from anti-apartheid actions, to local educational and health issues, to organizing anti-war demonstrations, to participation in labor struggles, to electoral politics, to street demonstrations against police brutality, to Occupy Oakland, and beyond. He was a leader in the struggles against ballot Propositions 209 (ending affirmative action) and 187 (anti-immigrant measures). He is a founding member of the John George Democratic Club. He was one of four co-chair organizers of the April 23rd Coalition against the War in Iraq. He helped found, and still serves on the board of, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, and the NLGSF. Walter helped found, and is currently the Chair, of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF), recipient of this year’s Partners in Liberation award, on whose behalf he has traveled to Haiti several times.
Partners in Liberation Award
The San Francisco Bay Area NLG Chapter was pleased to honor this year’s recipient of the Partners in Liberation Award: the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF). Since its inception in 2004, HERF has given concrete aid to Haiti’s grassroots movement as it resisted the brutal coup that overthrew the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. HERF supports individuals and groups who campaign against repression; who fight for democratic rights and human rights in Haiti. HERF has collected funds for the mass distribution of tarps, food, and water to communities displaced by the earthquake and supports many local organizations struggling for better health care, improved education, the rights of women, and for human rights.