American Civil Liberties Union Mourns Passing of Carl Wedekind, Kentucky Civil Liberties Leader and Noted Death Penalty Abolitionist

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
July 12, 2011 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Kentucky
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KENTUCKY – The ACLU mourns the loss of a dedicated civil libertarian with the passing of Carl Wedekind on Saturday, July 2, 2011. Carl served on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Kentucky first in 1958-59 and again in 1991, serving until his death.

Wedekind began his career as a corporate lawyer, but became involved in the case of Harold McQueen, who in 1997 became the first person executed in Kentucky since 1962. Wedekind and the ACLU argued that the use of the electric chair, which was still in place in Kentucky at that time, constituted cruel and unusual punishment and therefore, was illegal under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In his memoir on his work against the death penalty, “Politics, Religion and Death: Memoir of a Lobbyist,” Wedekind wrote about the case, “I spent my professional life as a lawyer and as a businessman. It was about making money. How different this was. The McQueen case was a mission. … None of us would make a dime on this case, and none of us had ever been more dedicated to winning.”

He went on to become a noted advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, writing a second book, The Second Grave: A Case for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, recounting his efforts to end capital punishment in the United States.

In his many years of service to the ACLU of Kentucky, he held many leadership positions on the affiliate board, including Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer, Chair of the Finance Committee and Representative to the ACLU National Board of Directors.

In 2010, the ACLU of Kentucky awarded its highest honor to Wedekind; the Thomas L. Hogan Award, which is given to an individual or an organization that has made considerable contributions to the advancement or preservation of civil rights.

Wedekind was also instrumental in instituting the Marshall-Brennan partnership between the ACLU of Kentucky, the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, and Central High School, where third year law students teach constitutional law to the next generation of civil libertarians. To further honor Carl’s legacy, a scholarship to the Marshall-Brennan program will be created in his name.

Donations to benefit the Carl Wedekind Scholarship Fund may be sent to the ACLU of Kentucky, 315 Guthrie Street, Suite 300, Louisville, KY 40202. Copies of Carl’s book Politics, Religion, and Death can be obtained by contacting

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