T.A. Francois; Rights Lawyer, Ex-S.F. Supervisor
Terry A. Francois, a civil rights lawyer who became the first black to sit on the city’s Board of Supervisors, died Friday of cancer. He was 67. Francois, who died at his San Francisco home after a five-year battle against cancer, served on the board for 14 years before resigning to return to private law practice in 1978.
In addition to serving as a supervisor, Francois was known in the city for his early activism, including his arrest on Sept. 15, 1963, along with 10 others outside a real estate company during a sit-in protesting housing discrimination against blacks.
As a lawyer for the local chapter of the NAACP, Francois also filed suits against discrimination in housing, jobs and education and fought for the appointment of blacks to political office. After only two years in practice, Francois in 1952 sued the San Francisco Housing Authority, charging it admitted only white and Asian families to a new city housing project.
In a later suit, he charged he was refused service in a local tavern because he was black, and in 1955 he began filing complaints of police brutality. In 1956, he toured the state on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Francois’ efforts in 1957, as a lawyer for the NAACP, led to creation of a fair employment practices ordinance in San Francisco. “In San Francisco a Negro can eat almost anywhere, but will have trouble finding a job to enable him to pay for his meal,” he said.
In 1961, he sued two realtors who prevented him from buying a house in St. Francis Wood and then joined picketers in Forest Hill, another expensive neighborhood. The man who demanded to be shown a home in that tract was an unknown young black attorney, Willie Brown Jr., now state Assembly Speaker.
Francois was named to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1964 by Mayor John Shelley, and in 1967 won election to a four-year term.
Born in New Orleans, Francois was a graduate of Xavier University there in 1940 and earned a master’s degree in business at Atlanta University in Georgia. After serving as a Marine platoon sergeant in World War II, Francois came to San Francisco, where in 1949 he earned a law degree at the University of California’s Hastings Law School.
He was married in Oakland in 1947 to Marion Le Blanc, who survives him. Also surviving are a daughter, four sons, two sisters and six grandchildren.