It is with sadness that we write this news: Robert Gnaizda passed on July 11, 2020. Our hearts go out to Claudia Viek, CAMEO’s former CEO, and Robert’s family. Bob, as friends knew him, was an exceptional man: a fighter for justice, an advocate for the underdog, a family man, and an insatiable lover of chocolate. Visit Robert Gnaizda – GatheringUs Online Memorial to leave a memory or photo of Bob for his family.
To learn more about Bob’s work as a crusader for social justice, read Greenlining’s tribute to him as well as NAAC’s below.
Excerpt from NAAC’s tribute, outlining Bob’s accomplishments:
Robert Gnaizda, a Columbia University and Yale Law graduate and a veteran of the civil rights movement, dedicated his life work to promote equal opportunity, build bridges between communities, fight discrimination and to serve the less fortunate in society. During his glorious career of more than 50 years, Bob founded many organizations dedicated to fighting institutional discrimination around the U.S. and helped African American minorities gain control of their vote. He fiercely advocated for minority economic empowerment through his representation as Chief counsel in over 100 administrative lawsuits.
One of the most notable works of him is being the founder of America’s First Legal Service Program- the California Rural Legal Assistance, where he worked extensively for farmworkers rights and was acknowledged through many state and local awards. His brilliance and leadership led him to co-find the Greenlining Institute in 1993 and later the Public Advocates law firm in the Western U.S. in 1971. Thereafter, in 2014, he went on to join NAAC and NDC as General Counsel. His breathtaking career witnessed many important developments and reforms for the underserved, low-income and minority communities, farmworkers and women through innovative partnerships between private enterprises, banks, utilities, insurance and telecommunications companies, and community organizations that has resulted in tens of thousands of home mortgages and business loans for low-income people, thousands of contracts for minority-run businesses, significant increases in philanthropy to the underserved, and overall economic development and opportunity for California’s poorest communities.
Bob’s passion for social justice led him to stand for democratic principles before the government. He was an excellent leader and advisor to many governmental agencies and served as California’s Health Director and Chief Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Prisons and was the State Bar representative for the Federal Judicial Selection Committee. Amongst many awards he was honored throughout his lifetime, he was also awarded the Lauren Miller Award from the California Bar Association naming him the Most Effective Public Interest Lawyer in California, an award that honors an attorney who has demonstrated long-term commitment to legal services and who has personally done significant work in extending legal services to the poor.