Ed O’Brien, Street Law Founder, Passes at 69

Edward O’Brien, the co-founder of a pioneer organization in law-related education for youth, passed away this month at the age of 69.

O’Brien, a Georgetown Law School student at the time, co-founded Street Law in 1972 with law professor Jason Newman and community activist and philanthropist Nancy Harrison.

Newman established the Harrison Institute, which still exists today at Georgetown. He remains an adjunct professor with the institute; Harrison passed away in 1977.

Street Law started as a small program within the Harrison Institute before O’Brien established it as an independent nonprofit. The organization, which is based in Silver Spring, Md., operates “classroom and community programs that teach people about law, democracy, and human rights worldwide.”

The organization got a boost from federal earmark support in the early 2000s, drawing $1.6 million in federal grants between fiscal 2003 and 2005. Street Law now provides law education programs in 50 states and 40 countries.

O’Brien retired from the organization in 2008, and was succeeded by his longtime director of U.S. programs, Lee Arbetman.

“Seeds that Ed planted have grown into thriving programs in more than 40 countries,” said Arbetman, in a statement on the Street Law’s website. “We are all better for having worked with him.”

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.