Cleveland Activist Lawyer Terry Gilbert Tells His Story in New Book

Thu 3/25 @ 5:30PM

If you need proof that the youth of the ’60s who protested the Vietnam War and took part in the Civil Rights Movement didn’t all mature to be Reagan conservatives, look no further than noted Cleveland lawyer Terry Gilbert.

Gilbert’s had an interesting career, to say the least. If his name sounds familiar, there’s a good chance you heard it on the news or saw it in the Plain Dealer when an activist or protestor was arrested.

In the 50 years he’s been practicing, if someone’s rights are violated, there’s a good chance you’ll find his name in the mix, standing by their side. He was defending victims of police violence and brutality long before the heightened awareness we have of that today. Years before there was a hint that abandoning the Cleveland baseball team’s traditional name and logo was a real possibility, Gilbert was filing a lawsuit to try to get them to do so.

Now Gilbert has published a book called Trying Times, which reflects on the whole scope of his career and how he stood up for the disenfranchised and marginalized in times when public sentiment was with them and times when it wasn’t. He explores how justice works differently for the wealthy and powerful than for minorities and the poor but notes that even losing cases can cause shifts in public opinion.

The book looks back at how his upbringing in a suburban Cleveland Jewish family established his mindset for liberal advocacy and how he was influenced by the ferment of the anti-war and civil rights movements, along with other fights for the rights of women, indigenous people and others. It covers his work with noted radical lawyer William Kunstler, who defended controversial clients such as the Black Panthers, the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Weather Underground; Gilbert worked with him when he defended members of the American Indian Movement charged in the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973.

Next Thursday, March 25, at 5:30pm, Gilbert will be doing a virtual launch party/ author talk through the CSU- Cleveland Marshall College of Law, where he is an alumnus.

“My deep roots with the law school as a student in the early 70’s profoundly impacted my commitment to social justice,” says Gilbert. “In the midst of dramatic political and cultural change, I and my fellow students pushed for a more progressive approach to legal education and programs as a vehicle to address societal inequities. Trying Times discusses the critical role Cleveland-Marshall played in shaping my career as an activist lawyer.”

Register to attend the event here.

Trying Times is both a look back and a look forward, as Gilbert is still active in fighting for the rights of the downtrodden. The 324-page book (he’s had an eventful career!), written with Carlo Wolff, is available in local bookstores now.


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