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Will Maslow, 99; lawyer fought for minority rights

February 27, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — Will Maslow, a former leader of the American Jewish Congress and a civil rights lawyer noted for his efforts on behalf of minorities, has died, a director of the organization said Monday. He was 99.

Maslow died at his Manhattan home Friday, said Belle Faber, director of development for the congress. The cause of death was not announced.

Maslow devoted decades to challenging barriers to the rights of blacks, Jews and other minorities in employment, education and other fields. During World War II, he headed a federal committee on employment practices, investigating discrimination in defense contracts.

At the American Jewish Congress, he founded the Commission on Law and Social Action, modeled on the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

He filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Topeka, Kan., school discrimination case (Brown vs. Board of Education) in the 1950s and helped organize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights march on Washington.

He was named executive director of the American Jewish Congress in 1960, serving 12 years in that role and continuing as general counsel into the 1980s.

"He was a towering figure who led a fantastic life," Faber said.

Maslow was born in Kiev, then part of Russia, on Sept. 23, 1907, moved to the United States in 1911 and grew up in Chicago. He attended Cornell University.

While attending Columbia University's law school, he worked at the New York Times and as a model. After a brief period in private law, he became a counsel for the National Labor Relations Board.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters. No funeral was planned, but a memorial will be held, Faber said.

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