Civil Rights Lawyer

Attorney Bernard Segal “spent 39 years at Golden Gate University teaching future lawyers the litigation skills he learned defending civil rights and antiwar protesters and an Army officer in a sensational murder case,” Bob Egelko wrote in his news obituary for Segal that was published in the Aug. 18 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Segal taught his students “to believe in the system and to use that system for justice,” his daughter, Amy, told Egelko.

As a volunteer attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi, he represented some of the Freedom Riders who rode buses into the South to challenge segregation.

He defended Vietnam War protesters, who were charged with desecrating the American flag because they wore a flag on their shirt, pants or bandanna.

“His most prominent client was Jeffrey MacDonald, an Army doctor and former Green Beret charged with murdering his pregnant wife and their two young daughters on a North Carolina military base in 1970,” Egelko wrote.

“The case reached the Supreme Court and became the subject of the book and movie Fatal Vision. MacDonald is still trying to win his freedom and recently was granted a new hearing in federal court. Mr. Segal kept in touch with him and ‘to the end of his life believed that Jeff was innocent,’ Amy Segal said.”


This post was contributed by freelance obituary writer Alana Baranick. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.