WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released the following statement regarding the passing of Jacqueline A. Berrien, who died on November 8, 2015:
The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) offers condolences on the passing of Jacqueline A. Berrien. Between 1987 and 1994, Berrien worked as an attorney with the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee in Washington, D.C. More recently, she served as chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after President Obama nominated her in 2009 to lead the agency charged with ending unlawful discrimination in the nation’s workplaces. Prior to her tenure with the EEOC, she worked with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), where she served as associate director-counsel. In addition, between 2001 and 2004, Berrien was a program officer in the Governance and Civil Society Unit of the Ford Foundation’s Peace and Social Justice Program, where she administered grants to promote greater political participation by underrepresented groups and remove barriers to civic engagement.
“Jackie Berrien was a giant in the field of contemporary civil rights enforcement and was deeply committed to making our democracy a better place for everyone,” said incoming Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke. “Guided by her integrity and the power of her convictions, she served as a powerful voice for the voiceless and a passionate advocate on behalf of marginalized people across our country. She was a beacon of light who dedicated her life to promoting justice and equality. Simply put, Jackie helped make our world a better place.”
Jackie began her extensive career in public service in 1986, working as a law clerk to the Honorable U.W. Clemon, the first African-American U.S. District Court Judge in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from Harvard Law School, where she served as a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and graduated with distinction from Oberlin College. While at Oberlin, Berrien served an internship with the NAACP.
Jackie published numerous articles exploring the interconnections between race and gender, including “A Civil Liberties Imperative: Promoting Quality Education for All African-American Children” in the Columbia Teachers College Record (Summer 1993). Her article, “Pregnancy and Drug Use: The Dangerous and Unequal Use of Punitive Measures,” in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism (Spring 1990), was among the first literature examining the criminal prosecution of expectant mothers for substance abuse.
The Lawyers’ Committee extends its heartfelt condolences to Jacqueline Berrien’s husband, Peter Williams; her family; fellow church members; former colleagues and loved ones.