of Illinois law professor Vic Stone '42 has
devoted his life to the defense of civil liberties. The
ACLU of Illinois awarded him its highest honor, the
coveted Roger Baldwin Award, last fall, making Stone just
the sixth recipient in the award's 20-year history.
A 55-year champion of First Amendment rights, Stone
has amassed an array of career milestones. He founded the ACLU's
Champagne County chapter, argued a case before the U.S. Supreme
Court, and defended the rights of a student Communist group at the
University of Illinois. In a risky career move as a young UI faculty
member in the 1950s, he protested the firing of a professor who
had expressed controversial views on premarital sex in the student
newspaper. Stone convinced the American Association of University
Professors to censure UI, then drafted new statutes on academic
freedom that were adopted by the school. He remains active with
the AAUP today.
Even at Oberlin, Stone made headlines. As a student
member of the Peace and Public Affairs societies, he fought for
the admission of an African American student into his racially segregated
dormitory. Oberlin's administration denied the request, however,
and the attempt failed. Stone refused to become discouraged. "Oberlin
was a good place for idealists, and, as a young person, I was an
idealist," he says.
His convictions continued into his senior year, when,
as a member of the debating team and editor-in-chief of The Oberlin
Review, Stone wrote a controversial editorial titled "Declare
War Now," which urged America to enter the war in Europe. "It
was a sensational thing for someone to say at Oberlin," he
says. The article departed from his usual antiwar stance and foreshadowed
future situations in which Stone would set aside his personal feelings
to fight for the betterment of society. In 1977 he defended the
rights of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, recognizing
that the rights of free speech extended to even the most extreme
Today, he makes no secret of his feelings for the
Bush administration ("they are whipping up war so they can
justify the suppression of civil liberties") and the president's
record on civil liberties ("disastrous").
Stone has been teaching at the University of Illinois
for a remarkable 48 years, touching the lives of tens of thousands
of students. His title now reads professor emeritus, although he
continues to teach a seminar on the Supreme Court docket. His collegiate
interests have also extended to his alma mater; Stone is a past
member of Oberlin's Board of Trustees, a class agent, and member
of his reunion gift committee.
Depsite his accomplishments, Stone remains
humble. "I have always tried to justify my survival,"
Courtney Mauk '03