Donald Shaffer, founder of the NYCLU’s Nassau County Chapter and an emeritus member of the NYCLU’s statewide Board of Directors, died on Feb. 17. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman offers the following remembrance:
Don and his beloved late wife, Doris Shaffer, were passionate lifelong supporters of civil liberties, serving with consistency and devotion as board members and as activists and organizers in Nassau County and statewide.
Don was the ultimate ACLU volunteer. He founded the NYCLU’s Nassau Chapter, served on the chapter and New York State boards, and led and served on the chapter’s volunteer attorney committee. He offered sage financial advice and was an enthusiastic fundraiser. In retirement, he graduated from NYU Law School, with the single-minded purpose to be a civil liberties lawyer.
Don’s particular civil liberties passion was education, and he devoted himself to the cause of education equity as a lawyer and as an activist. For Don, young people were among our most precious civil liberties resources and among our most valued clients. As a volunteer lawyer, he devoted himself to the cause of education equity and was a driving force behind the NYCLU efforts to achieve equal educational opportunity in New York State. His commitment to racial justice also resulted in a landmark lawsuit against Nassau County directed at the unfairness of the county’s property tax assessment practices.
As an organizer, he created, and inspired the creation of ACLU chapters in our colleges and law schools. Don consistently befriended our young staff and volunteers, taking an interest in their work, and encouraging their interest in the broader civil liberties world. Don was relentless in insisting that we reach out to encourage students and young people to become “card carrying members.”
Don’s service to us exemplified zealotry in the cause of liberty. He relished a good argument and thought it essential to raise and engage on difficult questions, even (or especially) when some (or many) might disagree.
Don never stopped pushing the NYCLU to be its best. The best in its commitment to educational equity. The best in its adherence to civil liberties principles and progressive values. The best in financial stewardship. The best in encouraging volunteers and members. We were all a little better because Don pushed us. And we hope his lessons remain with us, and push us, for generations to come.