D'Army Bailey, courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum
D’Army Bailey, courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum
D’Army Bailey, courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum

D’Army Bailey, a former Berkeley city council member and a longtime activist, died July 12 at the age of 73. Bailey, a judge, was instrumental in preserving the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He assembled a group of donors to buy the hotel. It became the National Civil Rights Museum in 1991.

By Ted Edlin

On July 12, 2015 D’Army Bailey died in Memphis, Tennessee. He had a successful career as an attorney and was elected a judge on two occasions. He was instrumental in land marking the motel where Martin Luther King was killed.

In 1971, D’Army was elected to the Berkeley City Council along with his sidekick Ira Simmons who supported all of D’Army’s radical and disruptive ideas which drove Council member Loni Hancock and Mayor Warren Widener to distraction and made the Council dysfunctional. D’Army was recalled two years later.

During his time in Berkeley and while he was on the city council, Bailey was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Neighborhood Legal Services (BNLS), which was funded by the federal government.

Donald Rumsfeld was appointed Director of Legal Services by Nixon. Rumsfeld oversaw the defunding and dismantling of legal services for the poor.

Starting in the late 1960’s I was on the board of BNLS. Carol Ruth Silver was the executive director of BNLS. After BNLS lost its funding, Ms. Silver moved to San Francisco and got elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The BNLS board of directors was a good cross section of the community –both racially and socio-economically. There were black and white lawyers, politicians, longshoremen, and business people.

Carl Mettoyer, an Oakland attorney and a gentlemen with infinite patience and good judgment, was chair. During a meeting a new, caucasian director, a recent graduate of Boalt Law School, made a remark that was construed by one black director to be offensive. The black director proceeded to upend the conference table and a physical fight broke out instantly. Fortunately, the longshoreman on the board was able to physically contain the fight and the meeting proceeded with a new agenda. “ Who and how to censor the Director who made the remark and the Director who upended the table. “

After heated discussion, it was decided to call a special meeting to deal with the new agenda item.

Several special meetings were held over a period of the next few weeks or maybe months with D’Army raising points of order under Roberts Rules of Order which would get debated endlessly. Meetings would go till the wee hours of the morning until there were only a few directors remaining. After three or four of these meetings a resolution of only censure was passed. No Director was removed. D’Army explained to me that this was how politics worked.

I will leave it to former Council member Hancock to relate how D’Army disrupted City Council meetings.

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