School & District Management Obituary

Civil Rights Advocate’s Passing Is Mourned

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 30, 2010 3 min read

Washington dignitaries and civil rights activists gathered today in the nation’s capital for the funeral of William L. “Bill” Taylor, a lawyer who devoted decades of his life to desegregating U.S. schools. Mr. Taylor died on June 28 at the age of 78 of complications from a fall.

“Bill was one of the very most accomplished desegregation lawyers in the country and successfully litigated many school desegregation suits, which is not a one-time process,” said David J. Goldberg, the senior counsel and senior policy analyst for the Washington-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Even successful suits require years of enforcement. Bill didn’t just win suits and go away. He stayed engaged.”

William L. Taylor

Mr. Taylor was the founder and chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, a government-watchdog organzation based in Washington, and a vice chairman of the Leadership Conference, a coalition of more than 200 national civil and human rights groups. During the 1960s, he was the general counsel and staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

“Whether he was in the courtroom, the halls of government, or in a congressional hearing room, Bill Taylor was a consistent voice for equality and justice—a voice that will be deeply missed,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said yesterday in a statement.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, released a statement saying that “Bill’s steadfast commitment to helping all children shaped the way we educate children in this country.”

Education Reformer

As a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Mr. Taylor was mentored by Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Mr. Taylor litigated a number of school desegregation cases.

He successfully litigated school desegregation cases in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Dianne Piche, the special counsel for the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education, was a colleague of Mr. Taylor for 25 years. Initially, she worked for him as a law intern in the law school of the Catholic University of America, where he ran a civil rights policy clinic. Later, Ms. Piche became the executive director of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, which Mr. Taylor founded in 1982.

Other than being recognized for his role in landmark desegregation cases, Mr. Taylor is well known for having been one of the first civil rights activists to embrace standards-based school reform as a remedy for closing the achievement gap between low-income or minority students and other students, she said in a phone interview today.

“When we say, ‘All children can learn,’ all means all,” she said. “Bill was really in the forefront of articulating that concept.”

She said he was instrumental in getting Title I, the section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act authorizing funds for disadvantaged students, revamped in a reauthorization of the federal education law during former President Bill Clinton’s administration. Before that reauthorization, she said “the Title I program contributed to the kind of dual system of education that the courts sought to eliminate in Brown v. Board of Education, requiring very small achievement gains, relying largely on pullout programs, using untrained teachers and paraprofessionals.”

Mr. Taylor was “huge-hearted and fearless” in fighting for the civil rights of low-income and minority children, said Amy Wilkins, the vice president for government affairs and communications for the Washington-based Education Trust. “Bill was relentless on behalf of kids that most people didn’t care about,” she added. While she sometimes disagreed with him on which policy was the right one, she said, she did not question his moral compass, which was “true.”

Mr. Taylor was a resident of Washington. His wife, Harriett Rosen Taylor, a senior judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court, died in 1997.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Is the Assistant Principal the Most Overlooked, Undervalued Person at School?
A new research review on assistant principals finds that the role is undefined and that support for these school leaders is inconsistent.
7 min read
 teachers and leaders looking around for direction
Mykyta Dolmatov/iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion Pandemic Recovery Will Be Complex. We’ll Need the Best School Leaders
To face the education challenges of today and tomorrow, we must invest in the principal pipeline, writes Michael J. Petrilli.
Michael J. Petrilli
4 min read
Leader pointing hand forward, directing boat forward through corona virus crisis
iStock / Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion The Year of Scourges: How I Survived Illness and Racism to Find My 'Tribe'
A Black school leader reflects on the hardest year of her professional life.
Reba Y. Hodge
4 min read
new growth on a bare tree
Vanessa Solis/Education Week & Getty Images
School & District Management From Our Research Center How the Pandemic Is Shaping K-12 Education (in Charts)
Surveys by the EdWeek Research Center show how schools have changed during the pandemic and what adjustments are likely to stick.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School on Oct. 6, 2020, in Rye, N.Y.
Eric DiVito gives breathing instructions as he teaches a remote music class at the Osborn School in Rye, N.Y., last fall.
Mary Altaffer/AP