March 25, 1920 - April 5, 2015
In the fall of 1953, a group of interested people, among them respected lawyers, doctors and universityfaculty, met at the Lincoln Hotel in Indianapolis to discuss organizing an Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Irving Fink, along with several others, was among those who led this effort, and who founded the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.
On April 5, 2015, the 95 year-old civil rights lawyer passed away. To those who knew him and to the many, many people who have benefited from his extraordinary generosity, he will be greatly missed.
Fink once said, "The cases that meant the most to me were the cases where I didn't earn a dime."
Funeral services will be held at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, 6501 North Meridian Street, on Tuesday, April 7 at 11 a.m. The family requests that contributions in his memory be made to the ACLU of Indiana. Click here to make a contribution in his memory.
Read more about his exceptional life and accomplishments here:
I first met Irv in the 1980s when I was working at the Legal Services Organization of Indiana (now Indiana Legal Services) and we both served on the screening committee for the then-ICLU. In a very real sense it demeans the richness of any person to attempt to describe them in one or two words. But, I doubt that Irv or his family and many fans would be upset if I describe him as "twinkly." He always had an enormous joy about him, whether in telling his many stories or in aggressively attacking what he felt was wrong. He twinkled. We do not see that very often in a person. It is a quality to be admired and remembered.
My most vivid memory of Irv is as a truly modest and decent person. We served on the ICLU board together for over 10 years. Not once was his judgment as to the civil liberties issue clouded by any personal or philosophical opinion. Irv was a consistent if quiet force for the protection of the civil liberties of all. The Union will be a lesser force without his guidance.
I met Irv Fink in the early 1970s when I was a brash part-time assistant in the then-ICLU offices. He was a civil liberties icon. I got older; he remained an icon and a wise old head always ready with a calm word to keep me on course.
But one of my most vivid memories of him today is from a reception marking the 60th anniversary of the first ICLU meeting in the Indiana War Memorial, filled with celebratory bonhomie. Irv was asked to address the assembly. Instead of the pleasant platitudes we probably all expected from our aging warrior, he gave a fiery speech about the need to continue to protect and defend the liberties of the people of Indiana.
And, of course, the focus of the work had enlarged to encompass folks who were not particularly on our radar all those years before, but still included privacy in the face of governmental desire for "security," the rights of the incarcerated and the simple desire to live and express our own thoughtful, quotidian lives as we please.
Irv's speech took us from the rosy sense of past victories to the current compelling needs. Look at the way our political life is contaminated and overwhelmed by huge financial interests. Look at the way we accept increasing limitations on our privacies, often in the name of security. Look at the way voter access to the polls is increasingly encumbered. Look at the overwhelming presence of gun violence in our society. Don't neglect the constant needs; don't forget to be responsive to the present call.
The passion was still very much there.