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Best Practice

Vol. 7, Nos. 3 & 4

On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons

September 1996

Elder Rights Advocates Mourn the Loss of Arthur Flemming

On September 7, 1996, this nation lost one of its most distinguished citizens and most dedicated civil servants -- Dr. Arthur S. Flemming. Throughout his 91 years, Dr. Flemming remained vitally interested and involved in the problems and issues of the less fortunate of the country. His spirit and courageous commitment to equal justice for all Americans were hallmarks of his life -- a life that was a true profile in courage.

While most of us know him in his various roles with the federal government, he also taught and served as President of three universities. Within the government, he accepted his first position in 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as a Republican member on the Civil Service Commission. The scope of his operational theater as a government employee is vast, including serving as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Eisenhower, and Commissioner on Aging and Chair of the US Commission on Civil Rights under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He was consulted personally by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and others. Recently, President Clinton relied heavily on Dr. Flemming as an emissary for health care reform and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in this country.

Among the many words of praise and admiration by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the memorial service for Dr. Flemming on September 14, 1996, were the following:

Everyone who worked with Arthur Flemming was touched by his passion to try to help other people. . . . He was as relentless in trying to help his national community respond to those less fortunate than him as anyone who has ever graced this nation's capital.

These words capture both the essence of Arthur Flemming, and the traits that make his loss so devastating at this time in history. Now, more than ever, as fundamental values and programs are being questioned, we feel the need for his rare combination of wisdom, compassion, energy and his courage to champion the rights of all. Perhaps the greatest tribute we can pay him is to rise to the challenges he left us and build on his legacy.

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The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
A National Support Center in Law and Aging
2307 Shelby Avenue  Ann Arbor, MI  48103
Tel: (734) 665-1126  Fax: (734) 665-2071