Staughton C. Lynd, a longtime lawyer, professor, author and historian who also dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights, fair labor laws and peace, died Thursday morning at Trumbull Regional Medical Center in Warren. He was 92 years old.
A native of Philadelphia, Lynd practiced law in Youngstown, including several years with Northeast Ohio Legal Services during the turbulent years of the local steel industry’s demise in the late 1970s and in the early 1980s. He worked closely with various forces that tried to keep the steel mills open and running.
In this sense, Lynd, who was also a Quaker, served as the lead advocate for one such force: the Mahoning Valley Ecumenical Coalition, which sought to reopen closed factories through working-class community ownership. Although the effort failed, Lynd and his wife, Alice, continued to organize workers in the Mahoning Valley.
In 1983 Staughton Lynd wrote the book “The Fight Against Closures: The Youngstown Steel Mill Closures”, with the help of his wife, who is also a longtime lawyer and activist.
Lynd was well known and revered in the Valley for his activism on behalf of workers and others. Among those who praised her work was Penny Wells, a longtime activist and director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past.
“He was a passionate pacifist and very outspoken about the abolition of the death penalty,” he added. she says. “He was a sweet spirit.”
Wells also fondly remembered being often among those visiting his home in Niles, where Lynd held talks in his basement on a rotating Saturday on topics ranging from capital punishment to nonviolence.
Additionally, Wells gave Lynd several photographs she found, one of which was from the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., which shows him in 1964 during Project Freedom Summer.
Staton-Borowski Funeral Home in Warren is making arrangements, which are pending.
Before coming to the Valley, he had earned a doctorate in history from Columbia University and then accepted a teaching position at Spelman College, a private, historically black liberal arts school in Atlanta, where he worked closely collaboration with Howard Zinn, a civil rights advocate. activist, playwright and philosopher who chaired the college’s social science and history departments.
Among his students at Spelman was Alice Walker, author of the famous book-turned-movie “The color violet.”
In 1964, Lynd oversaw the establishment of Freedom Schools throughout Mississippi, which were the backbone of Freedom Summer, run by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Congress of Racial Equality, two major advocacy organizations civics who recruited hundreds of mostly white and young Northerners. to the state to help black people register to vote and get a better education. He also worked with the late Bob Moses, an educator and activist who was the main organizer of Freedom Summer.
Soon after, Lynd moved his family to New England after taking a job at Yale University, where he became a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War by leading protests and organizing speaking engagements. He and a few others also embarked on a controversial fact-finding trip to Hanoi during the war.
In 1967, as another way to protest the increasingly unpopular war, Lynd signed a letter stating his refusal to pay income taxes and encouraged others to follow suit.
About a year later, Lynd and his family moved to Chicago, where he initially struggled to make a living from organizing efforts, so he and his wife embarked on an oral history project. called “Classify and Arrange,” which focused on the plight of the working class.
This effort was a prelude for Staughton Lynd to study the law to help workers whose companies had benefited or were not protected by unions. As a result, he graduated in 1976 from the University of Chicago Law School.
Additionally, Lynd was adamantly against the death penalty and opposed the “prison industrial complex”.
Staughton and Alice Lynd studied numerous death row cases, including the 10-day riot at Lucasville State Prison in 1993 that led to the death sentences of five people who authorities said were responsible of 10 dead during the uprising.
From Chicago, the couple and their children moved to Youngstown.