Dick Lerner campaigning to save Old City Hall. Photo: courtesy family
Dick Lerner. Photo: courtesy family

Richard Neil Lerner: 1939- Dec. 16, 2015

Dick was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1939 and graduated from Stuyvesant High School. He came from a family of activists. His father was an organizer, writer and photo-journalist for the United Electrical Workers of America. (Dick published his father’s memoir, Course of Action, in 2012.)

Dick was known for his several decades as active citizen and community organizer in Berkeley, California. He helped run many successful local election campaigns for the progressive Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) and was a founding member of the LeConte Neighborhood Association. He loved all things cooperative, and served for many years on the Telegraph Avenue Cooperative Center Council and on the Board of Directors of the Federal Cooperative Credit Union in Berkeley.

Dick graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees (1962) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, then went on to teach for three years at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He pursued a PhD program in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and completed his PhD research on agricultural cooperatives in India. His India photographs and cultural artifacts are preserved at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology. They were the subject of a major exhibit at the museum in 2006.

After the passage of the National Historical Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in the early 1970s, Dick and other San Francisco District civilian employees of the Army Corps of Engineers had the unique opportunity to do innovative work to implement the new environmental and cultural protections passed by Congress. Dick was the first anthropologist hired by the Corps. Among his specialties were historical archaeology, ethnobotany, and documentary films. Dick was often acknowledged for his pioneering work in tribal relations and for the standards he set for cultural resource programs related to Corps projects.

Dick’s granddaughters put together a 5-minute photo history of Dick’s life, Dick Lerner’s Celebration of Life, that can be seen on YouTube, and below:

Dick is survived by his longtime partner, Anna Marie Taylor, and by his daughters, Thea Lerner Daniels and Liza Jill Whitehill of Berkeley and five grandchildren.

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