Published on: Saturday, January 8, 2022

Lani Guinier, the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School and a Clinton administration nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights, died Friday. She was 71 (article available here).

The cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Associated Press.

An attorney and scholar who envisioned creative ways to make elective politics and admission to top universities more welcoming and inclusive, Ms. Guinier was the first tenured woman of color at Harvard Law School, she lived in Cambridge, where as a Radcliffe College undergraduate decades ago she was among those who pushed Harvard University to create an African American studies department.

In 1971, she received a bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe, and three years later she graduated from Yale Law School, where Clinton was a classmate. After clerking for judges, she served as special assistant to Assistant Attorney General Drew S. Days in the Civil Rights Division. She then worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she rose to lead the Voting Rights project. In 1988, Ms. Guinier joined the University of Pennsylvania Law School faculty and stayed until moving in 1998 as a tenured professor to Harvard Law School.

Ms. Guinier wrote several books, including a memoir that detailed the ordeal of her Justice Department nomination being whisked away. She also wrote “The Tyranny of the Majority” and “The Tyranny of Meritocracy,” which challenged conventional assumptions about encouraging diversity in government and academia.

May her memory be a blessing.