Voices of Liberty: Mitch Crane & John Workman

The interview below was published in the Winter 2014 edition of the ACLU-DE newsletter, connection. If you would like to receive future copies of connection, please click here.

Nearly 2000 ACLU-DE members and supporters stand with us on the front lines in the fight for freedom, lending

John Workman and Mitch Crane

your voice to the cry for a Delaware and a nation that truly live up to the ideals of “liberty and justice for all.” So we are introducing a new feature—stories of why you decided to join the ACLU and become one of Delaware’s many voices of liberty. Mitch Crane recently chatted with us about his nearly 50 year affiliation with the ACLU, and how he and husband John Workman continue to be involved today.

connection: What first made you realize that you were a freedom fighter of sorts?

Crane: I come from a family of activists, actually. When I was 16, my grandmother told me I should put my body where my mouth was and we got arrested together in Brooklyn while picketing the white-only construction of the Downstate Medical Center. When I was brought before the judge at my arraignment, he asked if I realized what I had done and then told me, “You’ll never be able to hold [political] office, become a lawyer, be a teacher.” (We laugh.) I wish he could see me now! Anyway, after that, I just kept going. I came home and organized West Chester’s buses to the 1963 March on Washington. Two of Louis and Ruth Redding’s daughters actually rode the student bus with me. And then I got to college…

connection: Was that when you first got involved with the ACLU?

Crane: It was. In the spring of my senior year, it was 1968, and I was active against the Vietnam War. I participated in a sit in and was expelled and charged with trespassing. The ACLU handled the civil appeal, and I joined during the process.

connection: You have a really unique position, experiencing our work from both the political angle and the point of view of a former client.

Crane: It’s like [I was] the guy who got to witness everything. My grandparents were friends with Paul Robeson, my mother was friends with [Ida Scott Bagley, who was] Coretta Scott King’s sister; I was exposed to all these people, so I was colorblind until I went to college. I was brought up to stand up for principle, so my life hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worthwhile. I wasn’t brave, I just did what I thought was right.
As an attorney, I also worked some cases with the ACLU [in West Chester] and served on the board there. I remember very well in the late 70s when the neo-Nazis marched through Skokie, IL and the ACLU went to court to stand up for their right to march. I realized at that time that the purpose of the ACLU and the Bill of Rights is the same: to stand up for the rights of people even when it’s unpopular.

connection: Tell us about what you and John are up to these days.

Crane: We’re both pretty politically active in the southern end of the state. John retired from the Army and now works for the post office, but he was actually the first openly gay councilman in Milton, too. Served two terms. I’m currently chair of the Sussex County Democratic Committee and John was the former vice chair. John is the Sussex County coordinator for Stonewall Democrats and I’m former President. We keep busy.

connection: Where would you like to see Delaware go in the next five and ten years?

Crane: I’d just love to see all the problems go away. We have a society that thinks the way to solve all our problems is to blame the people below us, but that obviously doesn’t solve anything. The bottom line is we just have to keep fighting for that ideal in the Bill of Rights.

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