W.D. Fletcher; Coro Foundation Co-Creator


W. Donald Fletcher, a co-founder of the Coro Foundation, which trains citizens to participate in democracy, has died. He was 88.

Fletcher, who also founded the Liaison Citizen Program, which tutors inner-city youth in self-governance regardless of age, ethnicity or experience, died Saturday in Los Angeles of kidney failure.

An attorney, Fletcher joined investment counselor Van Duyn Dodge to establish the Coro Foundation in San Francisco on Oct. 12--Columbus Day--1942. They chose the name “Coro” simply because it had a nice sound and no associations or hidden meanings. For several years, they interviewed various citizen leaders and studied legislative meetings, particularly those of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.


Twelve World War II veterans were selected as the first Coro fellows in 1947. By the organization’s 50th anniversary, 400 applicants annually were competing for 48 fellowships. As a Coro fellow, an individual learns leadership skills by interning in an influential organization, including government offices, political parties and campaigns, and community, corporate and media offices.

More than 800 people, including such political luminaries as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have had Coro fellowships. The organization operates in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis and Kansas City.

Fletcher and Dodge became colleagues as volunteers in the unsuccessful Wendell Willkie presidential campaign in San Francisco. They also worked together in the General Semantics Society, an intellectual salon that promoted academic and practical training for public officials.

Born in Pueblo, Colo., and brought up in Portland, Ore., Fletcher attended Reed College and earned a law degree from Stanford University. During his college years, he took a year off to travel the world and study briefly at the London School of Economics.

Fletcher had a private law practice in San Francisco before concentrating his efforts on training citizens to handle public affairs.

He is survived by his wife, Velma, who had worked with him in the Liaison Citizen Program that he established in 1975. Other survivors include three children, Tomas Fletcher of Scottsdale, Ariz., Nancy Fletcher of Eugene, Ore., and Linda Healy of Sonora, Calif.


Memorial services are scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the First Congregational Church at Commonwealth Avenue and 6th Street. The family asks that contributions be made to the W. Donald Fletcher Memorial Fund in care of the Liaison Citizen Program, 1345 S. Burlington Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90006.