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Subject: Alfred Bernstein, 92, Lawyer Guided by New Deal

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Date Posted: March 02, 2003 10:33:32 EDT

Alfred Bernstein, a New Deal lawyer who led the movement to unionize government workers and later helped desegregate the lunch counters, restaurants, public swimming pools and playgrounds of Jim Crow-era Washington, died on Friday at his home in Washington. He was 92.

Mr. Bernstein attended public schools in Manhattan and graduated from Columbia College and Columbia Law School. Inspired by the social ferment of the New Deal, he moved to the capital in 1937 to work as an investigator for the Senate Commerce Committee's inquiry into the monopolistic railroad industry. "What all of us were interested in was the transformation of the political process drafting regulations, establishing Social Security, making regulatory agencies work," he once told an interviewer. "There was a lot of idealism at the time."

After serving in the Army Air Transport Command in the South Pacific in World War II, Mr. Bernstein returned to Washington where he helped lead the successful effort against Jim Crow laws in the capital.

In the late 1940's, Mr. Bernstein defended scores of government workers brought before what were then called Loyalty Review Boards after they had been accused, often vaguely and usually anonymously, of disloyalty. He was successful in most of the cases.

He also lived in San Francisco for a time, where he worked as a leader of the West Coast labor movement, organizing guards at Alcatraz prison, among other workers.

For more than 25 years, he was vice president for development with the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Mr. Bernstein is survived by his wife, Sylvia; a son, the journalist Carl Bernstein; two daughters, Mary Bernstein of Stamford, Conn., and Laura Bernstein of Bluemont, Va.; and two grandsons.

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