Bob Holstein, 61, a former Jesuit priest, personal injury lawyer and activist who spent two months in federal prison for trespassing at Ft. Benning, Ga., died Sunday at Riverside Community Hospital, where he had been hospitalized since Dec. 31 for fatigue and an irregular heartbeat.
The son of two Los Angeles lawyers, Holstein was educated at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. He spent seven years as a priest, teaching at a Jesuit high school in Sacramento, but left the clergy in 1967 because he thought the Catholic Church was not progressive. Holstein earned a law degree at Hastings School of Law in San Francisco and became a personal injury lawyer in Riverside.
The activist earned national attention in 1995 when he joined nine other protesters at Ft. Benning at what was then called the School of Americas training center (now Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).
Dubbing the facility the “School of Assassins,” Holstein helped his colleagues reenact the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador. He claimed American tax dollars had been spent at Ft. Benning to train foreign soldiers who committed atrocities. He served two months at the federal prison in Lompoc.
Involved in the Democratic Party and liberal causes throughout his life, Holstein counted among his friends former governor and now Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and former Assembly speaker and now San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.