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Pollitt remembered for his activism

Law school  professor emeritus Dan Pollitt was remembered for dedication to social justice.
Law school professor emeritus Dan Pollitt was remembered for dedication to social justice.

A distinguished man who didn’t care for distinction, Dan Pollitt always stood up for what he believed in, and he always did it with a smile.

Kind laughter and appreciation highlighted the memorial service held for him Sunday at the William and Ida Friday Center. Colleagues, family and friends gathered to remember and share stories about a man who inspired everyone he met with his kindness and dedication to civil rights.

Pollitt was the Graham Kenan Professor of Law emeritus at the School of Law. He died March 5 at the age of 88.

He is survived by his wife, N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, three children and several grandchildren.

Before coming to UNC, he served in the Marines, receiving two Purple Hearts after his work in the Pacific.

Friends remembered his dedication to social justice, his intellectual fervor, his love for the Constitution and his generous spirit. But it was his character that stood out above all.

“All took second seat to his heart,” said Gene Nichol, law professor at UNC and friend of Pollitt.

Pollitt served as a loud voice for civil rights and was part of the movement that caused the Varsity Theatre on Franklin Street to allow blacks as paying customers.

He also helped Charlie Scott, UNC’s first black male basketball player on scholarship, come to Chapel Hill.

Uplifting music, including an accordion tune written for Pollitt, and a group rendition of “Solidarity Forever,” marked the spirit of peace, hope and humor that Pollitt brought to his life and work.

“Dan had a peaceful, non-confrontational way of challenging a practice,” said Julius Chambers, lawyer and friend of Pollitt.

Many recalled his ability to make friends even with those who didn’t share his beliefs, which allowed him to advocate for his ideas even if they weren’t well liked.

“If he thought it was right, it didn’t matter if it was popular,” Nichol said.

“Dan Pollitt’s craft was never frail. It lifted us all.”

Others remembered his strong belief in advancing civil rights for all and encouraged the audience to remember him and continue his work in their lives.

“Dan was one of those people who was committed to civil rights,” said Floyd McKissick Jr., who recalled sitting in his home listening to Pollitt and his father discuss legal strategy.

“He was a part of our social consciousness. His legacy can be us going out to continue those missions.”



Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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