ACLU of Arizona Mourns Passing of Former Executive Director Louis Rhodes

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
October 16, 2007 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today expressed its deep sorrow over the death of former ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Louis Rhodes, who passed away Sunday, just three years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Rhodes was the ACLU of Arizona’s longest serving executive director, a position he held from 1979 to 1996. He was 59.

“We are deeply saddened by Louis Rhodes’ death,” said Robert Meitz, President of the ACLU of Arizona Board of Directors. “Louis made an incalculable contribution to educating the public about civil liberties. It was his staunch commitment to the protection of individual freedoms – for everyone regardless of their political inclinations – that helped us expand the work of the ACLU in Arizona and really reach out to people from across the political spectrum.”

Throughout the years, Rhodes was the face of the ACLU in Arizona, objecting to the use of prisoner chain gangs and vehemently opposing the reinstitution of the death penalty in Arizona. A self-described conservative, Rhodes worked tirelessly to promote the defense of civil liberties across the state, giving talks to students, civic groups and faith leaders about the need for the ACLU in fighting for people’s rights. He understood the role of the organization in fighting repressive government measures and frequently stood up for unpopular issues and causes, believing wholeheartedly in the ACLU principle that if the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.

Under his leadership, the ACLU intervened on behalf of prisoners detained by the Arizona Department of Corrections, arguing they were subjected to “cruel and unusual” punishment during a state-run “behavioral modification” program. He defended the distribution of underground newspapers on university campuses in an ACLU lawsuit that resulted in a temporary restraining order prohibiting University of Arizona officials from banning the sale of Druid Free Press on campus. He also led the charge to get rid of the cross that stands atop Arizona State University’s Danforth Chapel, saying the display of a religious symbol on state property is unconstitutional.

Rhodes was born and raised in South Phoenix. During his tenure as ACLU of Arizona Executive Director, he wore many different hats, serving as the organization’s lobbyist, spokesperson and intake coordinator. His gentle, calm demeanor gave him the ability to work with legislators from all parties, and he was well respected by government officials whom he frequently criticized.

“Even people who disagreed with his views completely liked and respected him,” said Barbara Rhodes, his wife of 28 years.

Sam Lewis, former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, said that even in disagreement Rhodes “sticks to the issues and doesn’t go after the individual … and I’ve never seen him show a temper.”

“Rhodes legacy will never be forgotten at the ACLU,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. “He was truly one-of-a-kind, and we will continue to do the important work that would make him proud.”

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and three brothers, including Frank Rhodes, who lives in Scottsdale, and two twin brothers who live in Oklahoma.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, October 20 at the Whitney Murphy Funeral Home, 4800 East Indian School.

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.