Alumnus Remembered for His Defense of Civil Rights

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Civil rights attorney Alexander Hoffmann, a 1950 UC Berkeley graduate in economics, died after a long illness on Nov. 5. He was 81.

Hoffmann, who died at Piedmont Gardens retirement community in Oakland, worked to defend activists such as Eldridge Cleaver and David Hilliard-members of the Black Panthers­. He also helped others like Cesar Chavez, the Oakland Seven and comedian Lenny Bruce.

After graduating with a B.A. in economics from UC Berkeley, Hoffmann began a master's program but left to pursue a law degree at Yale Law School.

Berkeley resident Frances Kandl, a friend of Hoffmann's for more than 50 years, said the decision to switch professions may have been due to his history with political strife.

Hoffmann was born in Vienna, Austria to Jewish parents. His family was forced to flee the country in 1938 for fear of persecution by the Nazis.

"The intensely politicized experiences of his childhood left him with a strong sense of justice and a passion for progressive politics that lasted his lifetime," said Deborah Wald, Hoffmann's niece, in her blog.

Hoffmann's friends say he was famous for that passion as well as his legal strategies and an impeccable memory.

Nicknamed "Encyclopedia," Hoffmann would often call Kandl with news of current events.

"When he was 'on' he ran 24 hours a day," Kandl said. "He had incredible energy and drive. I don't know how he did it. He just didn't stop."

Kandl met Hoffmann after he barged into her future-husband's bedroom one night, demanding that the couple get up to attend a protest.

Hoffmann formed close relationships with his clients. In her blog, Wald recalled meeting Cesar Chavez with her mother.

"(His) response was to throw his arms around my mother, and to ... express his appreciation and affection for my uncle-something that made a lasting impression on me," she said in her blog.

Hoffmann is survived by his sister Ruth Wald, his niece Deborah Wald and nephew Elijah Wald. A memorial service is planned for December or January.

"He wanted to make a difference," said Ruth Wald, Hoffmann's older sister. "He wanted to make a difference in the sense of making the world a better place to live in."

Tags: ALEXANDER HOFFMANN


Contact Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato at [email protected]



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