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Joel Carlson, 75; Lawyer Who Fought Apartheid in 1950s

December 06, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Joel Carlson, 75, Nelson Mandela's former lawyer in South Africa and a former assistant district attorney in New York, died of leukemia Nov. 25 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

Carlson, a white South African, met Mandela while the two were law school students at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa in the early 1950s.

In 1954, Carlson quit his job as a court clerk and took up the defense of several leading black activists. He handled Mandela's affairs for several years while the activist was imprisoned on Robben Island.

But the price for representing such high-profile activists was high. Carlson's car and house were shot up, and the den at his home was firebombed.

In 1971, he moved to New York to escape threats, later working there as an assistant district attorney in Queens.

Carlson returned to South Africa in 1994 to serve as a U.N. observer in that country's first free elections.

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