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W. Stringfellow; Theologian and Activist Lawyer

From Times Wire Services

William Stringfellow, an author, lawyer and activist who was arrested in 1970 for harboring the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, has died at a hospital here at the age of 56.

The Episcopalian lay theologian and resident of Block Island, R.I., died March 2, after suffering for many years from a metabolic disorder.

“He was a friend of the poor,” Berrigan said. “He took up causes that no one else wanted to touch, whether it was housing or racism or the plight of women in the church.”

In 1970, Stringfellow was charged with harboring Berrigan from justice. Berrigan had been sought by the FBI for two years after being convicted of burning draft cards in Catonsville, Md. The charges were later dismissed.

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Stringfellow said he was “just a Christian doing his duty.”

Attended Harvard Law School

Stringfellow was educated at Bates College in Lewiston, Me., the London School of Economics and Harvard Law School, where he studied law and theology. After graduating from Harvard Law, he worked as an attorney in East Harlem.

“In Harlem, working as a lawyer for nothing for a lot of people who needed his advice . . . was one of the great things that he did,” said John Higgins, retired Episcopal bishop of Rhode Island.

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He represented drug addicts, prostitutes and “homosexuals in trouble with police or in some kind of trouble” related to their sexual preference, Stringfellow explained at the time.

“The outcasts of society--those who live somehow on its fringe--are not usually or effectively or even honestly represented before the law . . . most are simply not even represented at all,” Stringfellow said.

He also represented in two separate cases eight women who had been ordained without the permission of their bishops into the Episcopal priesthood. Stringfellow was a frequent dissenter within the Episcopalian laity.


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