The Legal Defense Fund is saddened by the passing of Christopher Edley Jr., a brilliant legal mind and staunch defender of civil rights and racial justice. Edley Jr. died at 71 years old on May 10, 2024, in Stanford, California.

LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson issued the following statement:

“Mr. Edley, Jr.’s passing is a deep loss. We extend our deepest condolences to his loved ones, and express our gratitude for his unquestionable commitment to civil rights and racial justice. Like his father, former LDF Board member and Director Emeritus Christopher Edley, his professional life was dedicated to advancing racial equality and creating opportunities for Black people in America.

“Mr. Edley’s policy expertise and dogged determination in pursuit of a more just country led him to serve U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and to also serve as an advisor to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and transition team. And during this service to our country, he was key in preserving affirmative action in college admissions in the 1990’s when it came under attack.

“His service as Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, as well as his time teaching at his alma mater, Harvard Law School, benefited countless law students and the legal academic community.

“Mr. Edley understood the urgency of the fight for equality in the face of relentless attempts to dismantle hard fought wins. The work of creating multi-racial democracy underpinned Mr. Edley’s life work, and his passing is a loss for our country.  He is an example we should follow as we continue the unfinished work of racial justice and equality under the law.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.