Charles A. Bird: A Remembrance

June 29, 2021

By David Loy


We lost a quiet but fierce champion of justice last week. Charles A. Bird died June 21, 2021 after a long illness. Charlie was many things—a brilliant lawyer, an avid outdoorsman devoted to his wife Charlotte, a bar and community leader, a believer in freedom of conscience and a mentor to generations of advocates.

I can’t begin to do justice to Charlie’s legacy. He inhabited the ideals of civil liberties, serving on boards of organizations dedicated to representing people accused of crimes at trial and on appeal. As an ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties’ board member, board president and cooperating counsel, Charlie was a pillar of this affiliate for decades, always giving generously of his time and treasure, building relationships and paving the way for our organization’s healthy and sustainable growth.

I met Charlie in 2006 when he participated in interviewing me for the legal director position. His questions and comments, like everything I ever heard from him, were precise, informed, insightful and challenging in the best possible way.

After I became legal director, Charlie was an invaluable mentor and thought partner as I navigated complex issues at the outer edge of my knowledge and experience. He never failed to distill the essence of a problem with thoughtful rigor and concision that unlocked creative solutions. His constant support was essential to my growth, development and success as an ACLU lawyer.

For me and the team I lead, Charlie was a tireless resource. His knowledge of the law was encyclopedic. He responded instantly to questions with beautifully detailed advice informed by vast experience. He read thoroughly and commented incisively on draft briefs, mooted oral arguments with brilliance and patience and counseled on litigation strategy with inexhaustible wisdom and grace. I remain constantly grateful for his deeply informed insights into the bench and bar.

Charles A. Bird opened his heart to our ACLU affiliate and countless individuals, sharing his decency, kindness and passion for justice. He led the way in creating opportunities for others to step into leadership. He left a powerful legacy of exacting commitment to excellence and bottomless dedication to freedom, equity and justice. I am forever in his debt.