Student Achievement Obituary

Civil Rights Champion Taylor Dies

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 13, 2010 1 min read

William L. Taylor, a lawyer who devoted decades of his life to desegregating U.S. schools, died June 28 of complications from a fall. He was 78 and a resident of Washington.

Mr. Taylor successfully litigated school desegregation lawsuits in St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Fort Wayne, Ind. He was the founder and chairman of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, a watchdog organization based in Washington, and a vice chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national groups.

During the 1960s, he served as the general counsel and staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Mr. Taylor is also well known for having been one of the first civil rights activists to embrace standards-based school reform as a remedy for closing achievement gaps between low-income or minority students and their white and better-off peers, said Dianne Piché, the special counsel for the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education, who was a colleague of Mr. Taylor’s for 25 years.

She said he was instrumental in getting the Title I program for disadvantaged students revamped in a reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act during the Clinton administration.

“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 in a statement after learning of Mr. Taylor’s death.

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

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week as Civil Rights Champion Taylor Dies

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