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Pemberton Leaves Mark on USF

October 28, 2009

Professor Emeritus John de J. "Jack" Pemberton, a civil rights activist and distinguished leader in labor and employment law, died Oct. 21. He was 90 years old.

Dean Jeffrey Brand said that it was Pemberton's "spirit that made the world a little better place."

Following tenures at the law schools of Duke University and New York University, Pemberton taught at the USF School of Law from 1973 to 1986. At USF, he taught Employment Law, among other courses, and pioneered the law school's labor law program. He also served as the acting general counsel for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from 1970 to 1971 and the EEOC regional attorney in San Francisco from 1986 to 1994.

In 2005, USF created the annual Jack Pemberton Lecture on Workplace Justice, which explores emerging workplace issues and features nationally recognized labor and employment law scholars. In a tribute to Pemberton at the 2009 Pemberton Lecture in February, Professor Emeritus C. Delos Putz said Pemberton's concern for justice in the workplace and society left its mark on USF.

"Jack has an immensely sensitive conscience. Respect for the rights of others—especially of people who are unpopular or disadvantaged or politically out of favor—is hard-wired into Jack's being," Putz said. "But it is balanced by an awareness of the impact of decisions on other interested parties, on the institutions involved, and the limitations of a democracy."

In addition to his leadership in the labor and employment field, Pemberton was a staunch defender of civil rights. He served as the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from 1962 to 1970. During his tenure, the ACLU had many victories, including the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of state laws against interracial marriage and the court's decision requiring states to redraw legislative district lines to ensure voting equality.

"Jack's life as the head of the ACLU, the EEOC and his 15 years here as professor is the stuff of legend," Brand said. "Jack was a warrior for civil liberties and worker justice."