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Pioneering Environmental Justice Lawyer Dies in Uganda Car Crash

Posted Jun 9, 2009 6:53 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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San Francisco environmental justice lawyer Luke Cole has died in a car crash while vacationing with his wife in Uganda.

Cole was 46, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. His wife, Nancy Shelby, was injured in the accident and flown to Amsterdam for an eye operation.

Cole pioneered the field of environmental justice, filing suits against corporate polluters on behalf of poor and minority communities, the newspaper says. A Harvard law grad, he founded the nonprofit Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment in 1989 with poverty lawyer Ralph Abascal. Before law school, he worked for consumer activist Ralph Nader.

Cole had been in Africa partly to pursue a hobby of bird watching. The newspaper details other, more unusual pursuits. “He was a connoisseur of root beer; he liked miniature spy cameras and collected photos of people watching eclipses from 1796 to 2005,” the story says.

Carol Edgarian, a San Francisco writer who was a friend of Cole’s, told the Chronicle that Cole “lived large.”

"His death leaves a big hole,” she said. “He gave back more than he took. He lived life as an adventure and he died at the pinnacle."

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