Aubrey Grossman, a San Francisco-based civil rights attorney whose clients included labor leaders, war protesters and Native Americans, died Wednesday in San Francisco after a long illness. He was 88.
A native of San Bernardino and a graduate of UCLA, where he played football, Grossman over the years was jailed for contempt, beaten and threatened with disbarment but never lost his composure or his license.
He was threatened with expulsion from college for participating in free speech causes. In 1936, Grossman defeated an attempt by the American Legion to deny him a law license for "pernicious radical activity" and for being unable to take his state loyalty oath without "having his tongue in his cheek."
Among his first clients was Harry Bridges, the Congress of Industrial Organizations leader in San Francisco, who fought government attempts to deport him as a communist. Grossman successfully defended the Australian-born Bridges in two deportation hearings.
In the 1960s and '70s, Grossman organized a panel of lawyers to defend Vietnam War draft evaders. He also defended Native Americans who occupied Alcatraz Island in the early 1970s.
While defending an African American in a rape case in Jackson, Miss., in the 1950s, Grossman was beaten by a mob after demanding a stay of execution for his client.