Legendary National Lawyers Guild Attorney Doris Brin Walker Dies

Communications Coordinator

Long-time member, and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Doris "Dobby" Brin Walker, died on August 13 at the age of 90. She was widely regarded as a brilliant lawyer and defender of human rights. Perhaps best known for her defense of Angela Davis in the 1970s, Walker had a long history of legal victories for labor, and political activists. She was the first woman president of the National Lawyers Guild and remained very active with the organization. Walker graduated from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law in 1942, the only woman in her class. She immediately began practicing labor law, but soon quit the practice of law to work in canneries and eventually at the Cutter Laboratories of Berkeley where she quickly became a union leader. Fired from Cutter because of her organizing activities and membership in the Communist Party, Walker and her union fought for reinstatement all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Returning to the practice of law, Walker represented Smith Act defendants in California during the height of McCarthyism. Eventually her work and that of others led to a Supreme Court case, Yates v. U.S., which overturned the convictions of the Smith Act defendants in 1957. Walker continued to defend political clients targeted by the government, including Korean war opponents John and Sylvia Powell who were charged with sedition, and whose case ended in a mistrial; and Angela Davis, whose criminal case in the 1970s ended in an acquittal. Walker was honored by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter in 1981 at a testimonial dinner, and regularly attended the California State Bar Conference of Delegates on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, successfully advocating for and passing a number of progressive resolutions. She was also active in the NLG Labor & Employment Committee, and was Vice-President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Tags