NAACP and Urban League Grieve Loss of Civil Rights Icon Jacqueline A. Berrien

Berrien was Former Chair of the EEOC and Civil Rights Advocate

EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien


The NAACP and the Urban League grieve the death of civil rights attorney and former chair of the EEOC who passed away after a brief illness.



Statement by the NAACP:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is deeply saddened to learn of the death of a friend, colleague and fellow member of the civil rights community.  Jacqueline Berrien, former Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Associate Director-Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) passed away after a brief illness.  She supported our work as a philanthropist, represented our Association as a litigator, and championed our cause as a colleague and friend.  Jacqueline was also the cherished wife of our colleague Peter Williams, Executive Vice President, Programs.

Jacqueline spent her entire legal career as a civil rights advocate.  She began her career as an Assistant Counsel at LDF in 1994, followed by positions at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Ford Foundation.  While at LDF, she took on the issue of voting rights and ultimately went on to lead LDF’s Political Participation Group as its director.  In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Jacqueline as the 14th Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She was sworn in on April 7, 2010, and served in that capacity until 2014.  In announcing her nomination, President Obama said that she “has spent her entire career fighting to give voice to underrepresented communities and protect our most basic rights.”  During her tenure as Chair of the EEOC, Jackie oversaw the agency’s 53 offices in the United States and Puerto Rico, including approximately 2,200 employees, and an annual budget of more than $360 million.

A native of Washington, D.C., Jackie was a proud member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn and a new church home in Washington. She is survived by her husband Peter, her partner for 28 years, a brother, brothers-in-law, and beloved nieces and nephews.

We extend our prayers and heartfelt condolences to Peter, their families and many friends.  Funeral arrangements are forthcoming.


Statement by the Urban League:

The Urban League Movement across the nation is grieving the loss of trailblazing civil rights attorney Jacqueline A. Berrien, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said.

“Jackie embodied a passion for justice that will reverberate for generations,” Morial said. “She devoted her entire career to fighting for equality and opportunity with rare fervor. Her loss is a devastating blow to the civil rights community”

Morial extended deep sympathy to Berrien’s husband, Peter Williams, Executive Vice President of Programs for the NAACP and a former National Urban League staff member.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our brother Peter and the rest of Jackie’s beloved family,” Morial said.

Photo: Jacqueline A. Berrien