Founders and Early Activists of Sonoma County ACLU Chapter
2000 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award Honorees
The Sonoma County ACLU began to take shape in the mid 1950’s. After the Santa Rosa School Board invited Herbert R. Philbrick, a rabid anti – communist, to address students at Santa Rosa High School, a group of parents, teachers, and ACLU members requested that the Board also present a speaker who supported civil liberties. When the Board refused, claiming a lack of funds, the group raised money to bring TV commentator, William Winter, to speak at the high school. The speech was very successful, and the group continued to meet, write letters and raise awareness of civil liberties issues in the County. These early activists included JACK and MATTIE RUDINOW, IDA HUNTER, MARGARET CLARK, HAROLD GORDON, WILL BOOTH, KEN STOCKING and MARVIN and HELEN SHERAK. Regular meetings were held, usually at the home of MARGARET CLARK on Alderbrook Drive in Santa Rosa.
In March,1966, in response to incidents of police misconduct, and other civil liberties concerns, a group ACLU members decided to begin a membership drive to get enough members to establish a formal ACLU chapter in the County. The organizing committee for the Chapter included Dr. FRED WARREN, Dr. FRANCIS CRAWFORD, MARGRITA KLASSEN, MARSHALL WHEELER, WILL BOOTH, ANITA BEEBE, Dr. DONALD DUNCAN and NANCY GAUNTT. The Chair of the Organizing Committee was Rev. GEOFFREY SELTH, minister of the Unitarian Fellowship in Santa Rosa. Sixty-six persons turned out for the initial meeting of the Chapter on October 4, 1966.
The initial Board of Directors of the Chapter included attorney (later Judge) REX SATER, Dr. FRED WARREN and Dr. WARREN OLSON, both professors at Sonoma State College, Dr. GEORGE BUTLER, associate superintendent of Sonoma State College, WILL BOOTH, a professor at Santa Rosa Junior College, Dr. KENNETH MESCHES, a Santa Rosa physician, Dr. AMBROSE NICHOLS, President of Sonoma State College, SHIRLEY RAPOPORT of Cotati, MICHAEL BLUME, a Guerneville attorney, ETHEL SHIPNUCK of Sonoma, IRVING NEWMAN, leader of the Jewish Community Center in Petaluma, JOHN DURR, Principal of Bellevue Union School, JACK WARNICK, a Sebastopol rancher, and THEA VAN LOGHEM, a member of the Community Action Network. The first President of the chapter was the Rev. GEOFFREY SELTH. Meetings were held at the home of FRED WARREN. An annual picnic and art auction was held at the WARNICK family farm in Sebastopol.
Other early activists who helped to build the chapter included LEE TORLIATT, a teacher at Santa Rosa High and later Piner High, BILL ENGLISH, former owner of Riley Street Art Supplies, DORIS SLOAN and GLEN PRICE.
The Chapter started with 140 ACLU members. As a result of the good efforts and hard work of these early activists, the Chapter grew quickly, and has increased its membership almost ten-fold. The Chapter’s current membership includes over 1300 households in the County.