Bob Avakian's Father, Judge Spurgeon Avakian Dead at 88, 3 Feb. 02
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Sunday, February 03, 2002 - 3:39:15 AM MST
Retired Alameda County judge Spurgeon Avakian dies at 88 By FROM WIRE REPORTS
Spurgeon Avakian, a retired Alameda County Superior Court judge, died Wednesday of a heart attack, at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo. He was 88.
Mr. Spurgeon, called "Sparky" since childhood, was a longtime Berkeley resident. Family members said he believed people's purpose in this world is "fulfilling the needs of others," and "whatever our talents or inclinations, we should use them to make this world a better place."
He is known among colleagues for being great, fair and kind, and for "creating precedents in law that placed spirit above letter ... compassion above mere justice."
A son of Armenian immigrants, he was born May 8, 1913 in Fresno. His early experiences with discrimination against Armenians would make him sensitive to discrimination elsewhere. After earning an A.B. with honors from Fresno State in 1934, Mr. Avakian moved to Berkeley, graduating from Boalt Hall Law School in 1937. He was on the legal staff of federal agencies from 1938 to 1946, had a private practice from 1946 to 1964 and served on the Berkeley Board of Education from 1959 to 1964, helping to end de-facto segregation in the Berkeley Schools.
Appointed a Superior Court Judge of Alameda County in 1964, he made a landmark ruling abolishing the Alameda County jury selection test that effectively barred African Americans from serving on juries. After retirement from the bench in 1980, he took various Judicial Council assignments.
Throughout his career, Mr. Avakian received numerous awards and commendations, including Judge of the Year award from Alameda County Trial Lawyers Association (first recipient); California Judges Association Special Award for Outstanding Contributions, 1983; San Francisco Bay Area Distinguished Service Award of Boalt Hall Alumni Association, 1989 (first recipient); California Judges Association President's Award, 1991; and No. 1 in Judicial Evaluation Polls of the Alameda Bar Association.
He and his wife, Ruth, were married for 62 years and had three children. Longtime Berkeley residents, the couple moved to Santa Cruz after retirement, and recently to Vallejo.
Preceded in death by his wife in February 2001, and by daughter Marjorie in April 1999, Mr. Avakian is survived by daughter Mary Louise, son Robert Bruce and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Feb. 9 at First Presbyterian Church, 1350 Amador Road, Vallejo.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his name to Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union or First Presbyterian Church of Vallejo. For more information, call (707) 649-2252.