Milton Stanzler founded the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and served as its first president in 1959. He built the organization into a formidable operation that supported the separation of church and state and freedom of speech locally. The United States Supreme Court decided several of his cases. Milton often took the lead in some of these controversial issues arguing, for instance,
against censorship in the famous drama, Tobacco Road. He wrote most of the legislation that crowned the state’s first fair housing law.
His fingerprints mark rulings at Brown University and the University of Rhode Island that equalized salary and benefits for female professors. He personally argued some fifty cases before the state Supreme Court, another ten before the First Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as a personal appearance before the US Supreme Court?-handling most of these cases pro bono.
In another sphere he helped organize Trinity Square Repertory Company, serving as its first chairperson from 1964 to 1971. In semi?retirement he wrote a history of the theater, entitled Providence Is No Longer Just a Train Stop.
Milton attended URI and earned his law degree at Boston University. During World War II, he served in military intelligence. He was involved in veterans’ affairs and has been an activist in state and national Democratic politics.
Milton Stanzler stepped forward to confront the thorny issues of his day. No one here?-and maybe not even Milton himself–would agree with all his opinions spanning a half?century. We applaud his unstinting courage, integrity, and resolution to keep the land of Roger Williams free. He is part of an unbroken heritage of independent thinking and action that began with the colony’s establishment in 1636.
For his contributions to freedom of expression and culture; and the fame and distinction he has brought to his community, state, and nation, Milton Stanzler was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.