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Civil Rights Lawyer Percy Julian Jr., 67

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By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Percy Julian Jr., a noted civil rights lawyer who taught housing discrimination law at the National Fair Housing Training Academy in Washington, died of a stroke Feb. 24 at Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wis. He was 67.

Mr. Julian, a resident of Madison, became a training consultant to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1989. He began teaching at the fair housing academy in 2004.

The son of groundbreaking scientist Percy Julian, Mr. Julian was a nationally recognized mediator and civil rights lawyer. Most recently, he was involved in voting rights lawsuits in Phoenix and Oklahoma.

He was on the mediation panel for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies and had overseen discrimination cases for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

"Percy Julian's work in the areas of fair housing, voting rights, school desegregation and First Amendment issues resulted in significant gains in preserving the rights of people of color in our state and our nation," Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Mr. Julian was born in Chicago, and when he was 10, his family moved to Oak Park, Ill. The Julians were the only African Americans to move into the all-white suburb, and they endured racial threats, arson and a dynamite bomb thrown at their home, Mr. Julian recalled in "Forgotten Genius," a public television documentary about his father, who was considered one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. His father was a chemist who developed an anti-glaucoma drug, among other inventions.

After watching his parents "struggle to maintain their freedom to live wherever they choose," said Mr. Julian's sister, Faith Julian of Oak Park, "it seemed only natural that Julian would grow up with a burning passion to help others to fight for their civil liberties."

Mr. Julian graduated from Oberlin College and from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1966.

His first case was at the university in 1967, where he defended students from the school's Madison campus who demonstrated against the Vietnam War.

In the 1970s, he was the lead counsel for the NAACP legal defense fund's Springfield, Ill., school desegregation litigation and for its employment class action against Pillsbury. He served on the defense fund's board until his death.

He served as president of the First Amendment Lawyers Association.

Mr. Julian, an adept photographer, taught the skill at DePauw University. He also taught cooking and wrote several cookbooks.

His first marriage, to Karen Julian, ended in divorce.

In addition to his sister, survivors include his wife, Jan Blackmon of Madison; a daughter from his first marriage, Katherine Julian of San Francisco; two stepsons, Scott Blackmon of Madison and Kevin Blackmon of Minneapolis; a brother, Leon Ellis of Delray Beach, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

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