Michael Standard


Michael Standard, retired civil rights lawyer, died of pneumonia at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital on July 2. He was 79.

A longtime summer resident of Chilmark, he often returned during hunting season to join his Vineyard friends.

In a note about himself for his 50th high school reunion, Michael wrote, “After three years, I left Columbia College and the NROTC courtesy of a bad and unforgiving back and a 4-F and went to sea, sailing out of the Seafarers International Hiring Hall in Manhattan as an ordinary seaman in the United States tanker fleet. I returned to Columbia, got a BA in 1956, and then returned to work on tankers.

“Late in 1957, I paid off a ship and was accepted at Brooklyn Law School where the Law Review published an article about the constitutionality of an Act of Congress which expatriated naturalized U.S. citizens if they returned to their country of origin for two years. I wanted to practice law, but only if I could find work in a civil liberties firm of which there were then only three in the country.

“One way or another, I found such a firm and for the next 30 years I practiced a kind of exotic law, representing foreign governments, central banks, aviation and shipping ministries, and the like. I traveled to interesting places, including Cuba, Angola, Puerto Rico, Greece, Jamaica, and Mexico.

“These representations allowed me a varied practice, including an early practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and other Federal appellate courts. Our firm represented many people in the vanguard of social change during the ‘60’s –‘80’s, including Joan Baez, Timothy Leary, Chad Mitchell, Paul Robeson, Jr., Daniel Ellsberg, Benjamin Spock.

“In the mid-1990s, I decided to return to a secret love — the study of history. For this, I entered a Yale College ‘Special Student’ non-degree program. I loved the study and was forced to teach myself to type. After a couple of years as a student, I created a course to teach in the Yale College Seminar program. This seminar drew upon my longtime connection with Cuba and was an eclectic study of U.S.-Cuban relations from the administration of John Quincy Adams to the present. The course included the study of the politics of sugar, the nationalization of industries, the restrictions on travel and the U.S. embargo, military incursions, life in exile and other aspects of Cuban-American life.”

Michael Standard is survived by his wife, Elinore Hart Standard, his son, Samuel, his daughter-in-law, Laura, and two grandchildren, Elias and Maya Standard, all

of Burlington, Vermont.

He will be buried at Abel’s Hill cemetery on August 8 and a remembrance will be arranged late in September in Burlington.