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George Duke


1935 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
George Duke Obituary
George Franklyn Duke

August 21, 1935-August 21, 2018

George Franklyn Duke, public interest lawyer.
George Franklyn Duke was an only child of lower-middle-class Brooklyn parents. George knew from an early age that he wanted to be a lawyer. He knew as well that he wanted to use the law for public service, to mitigate injustice and help vulnerable people. In addition to his work, he was a deeply committed family man, and took great joy in parenting his two children.

George's elementary education was in New York City public schools. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School, a public magnet school for gifted students.
He received his B.A. degree Magda Cum Laude from Tufts College in 1959, majoring in Government (now called Political Science) and minoring in Economics, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. In 1959, after graduating from Harvard, he volunteered for six months active duty and 5½ years in the army reserve.

George's law work began in 1960, when he moved to California, and continued until he retired in 2012. He worked for a Judicial Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco from 1960-61 and did freelance appellate work from 1961-62. He had a private law practice in San Francisco from 1961 to 1966, after which he dedicated himself full-time to public service. In the summer of 1966, he traveled to Jackson, Mississippi as a volunteer attorney for the Lawyer's Constitutional Defense Committee, working to end segregation.

From 1966-67 he was the directing attorney at the Santa Rosa office of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA). Initially, CRLA provided support to rural Native Americans, but in time it became clear that Native American problems could be better addressed by a separate dedicated program.
In 1967 George began the work he was most proud of when, with the support of a young Hoopa activist named David Risling, he founded California Indian Legal Services, distinct from CRLA, becoming the first director from 1968-71. The organization's purpose was to assist rural California Indians to achieve self-governance, protect their lands against improper infringement, secure federal services, and enforce State and Federal law to protect their rights. The organization continues its mission to this day, now with a Native American director.


George later lectured on Indian law at Boalt Law School (now called Berkeley Law) from 1975-78) and UC Davis Law School in 1980.

From 1971 to 1972, with funds from the Ford Foundation and an award from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, George and his family moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he did independent human rights work at the International Commission of Jurists and was a Human Rights Consultant.

Throughout his whole legal career, George did a great deal of volunteer and pro bono work. He argued twice in cases at the US Supreme Court for impoverished defendants.

George's last 15 years of practice were devoted to elder abuse cases, representing minors in guardianships and elders in conservatorships by court appointment in Marin County and San Francisco.


George loved history, art, nature, travel, skiing, hiking, and music.
He had a great zest for life. He was also a great wit, often leaving people in stiches.

George is survived by his wife of five years, Juliet Popper Shaffer, his two children, Jonas Duke of Berkeley and Nina Huitt of Martinez, and four grandchildren, Mikaila and Brian Huitt, and Jacob and Celia Duke.

Amazingly, George survived five bouts of cancer, in four different organs. The cancers were all in remission when he died, of heart and kidney complications.)
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Nov. 10 to Nov. 12, 2018
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