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July 28: Fighting the Good Fight in California

July 27, 2015

CoblentzWilliam2Attorney William K. Coblentz, who defended the California Board of Regents from Governor Ronald Reagan’s red-baiting, represented Patty Hearst after her kidnapping-recruitment by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and served as legal representative for the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane, was born in Santa Maria, California on this date in 1922. Coblentz was a longtime assistant to Governor Pat Brown and a key advisor to Dianne Feinstein when she was mayor of San Francisco. In the Hearst case, Coblentz was responsible for the distribution of $2 million in free food to poor people in San Francisco, as demanded by the SLA. He also helped pursue the Bakke case about affirmative action all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Coblentz was active with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and had a fellowship for civil rights endowed in his name by his law firm at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. He died in 2010 at 88.

“Mr. Coblentz’s influence stretched far beyond the legal world. As a regent of the University of California from 1964 to 1980, he pushed the university to fight against apartheid in South Africa and upheld the right of Communist philosopher Angela Davis to teach at UCLA. ‘He had an aptitude for giving back to the community that was boundless,’ said Joseph Cotchett, a Burlingame attorney who was a friend of Mr. Coblentz’s for decades.” —SFGate