Clyde Murphy, an attorney who was a powerful advocate for the cause of social justice, died August 17 in Chicago. In his 35-year career in the law, he worked, first, at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in New York, before becoming Executive Director of the Chicago office of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Here, Ted Shaw, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel from 2004 to 2008, remembers Clyde Murphy.
When I joined LDF in 1982, Clyde Murphy was part of the backbone of the legal staff. He was a member of a group of lawyers (along with Steve Ralston, Ron Ellis, Gail Wright, Judith Reed, and Patrick Patterson, and Bill Lee), who did employment discrimination work.
In the years following the enactment of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, LDF and its cooperating attorneys brought lawsuits against private and public employers across the nation aimed at breaking down patterns of discrimination and exclusion. Clyde carried a heavy part of that caseload.
He brought an energy and commitment to his work that was rooted in his unabashed commitment to improving the lives of African-American people. He was generous with his time as a mentor to younger lawyers and others, and he was fearless.
In his later years at LDF, Clyde served as Deputy Director-Counsel, where he continued to superbly show his commitment not only to the clients he represented and the cases he litigated, but also to the continued vitality of LDF as an institution.
When Clyde left LDF and joined the Lawyers Committee, serving as the Executive Director of the Chicago office, his work there included voting rights, criminal justice, housing, and employment. His most recent case was last year’s victory in the Supreme Court decision of Lewis v. City of Chicago, the Chicago Firefighters’ case. Although his death was unexpected, he went out a winner. But then, Clyde Murphy was always a winner.
One cannot think about Clyde without thinking of his family, whom he loved so dearly and of whom he was so proud. He was an exemplary husband to Monica and father to Jamal, Akua, and Naima. His passing is a great loss; but his life was a great gift.