October 22, 1995

Dear Clients and Friends,

It is with sadness that I report the death this morning of Al Tate, the founder and inspiration for this office. He passed away peacefully at home after a valiant struggle against cancer. Of course, I intend to carry on the work of Tate & Renner with Al's spirit of compassion and zeal.

Al Tate, 1942-1995

Alfred Lawrence Tate was born on May 13, 1942, in Buffalo, New York. His working class parents raised a large family of children who achieved professional careers. "Bebe," as he was known to his family, was a star of the New Philadelphia Fighting Quakers football team. He played varsity football at Kent State University. He was also active in student civil rights organizations. Al graduated top in his class from the Ohio State Police Academy. He served Kent, Ohio, for two years, promoting police-community relations. He graduated in 1967 with a degree in political science and history.

At the Colorado University School of Law, he was president of the Black Law Student Association. He organized and chaired the Student Interracial Coordinating Committee. He later taught at the Denver Community College and the Columbus Technical Institute.

Al had a previous law partnership in Denver, Colorado. In Tate, Tate & Flowers, he practiced criminal defense, employment, domestic relations and tax law. He worked as a public defender in Colorado, and as a prosecutor in Canton, Ohio. Al led a penal education program for Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, for four years. He owned and operated the Metropolitan Janitorial Service in Nashville, Tennessee, before returning to his home town in 1987.

I had the privilege of working with Al for five years at Southeastern Ohio Legal Services in New Philadelphia. Al was the "Title III" Program Coordinator, serving senior citizens in nine counties. He coordinated a volunteer guardianship program and spoke widely about consumer and individual rights. As a Staff Attorney, he worked for the rights of battered women, the disabled, parents, and employees. When we met, Al said he was quitting his tobacco habit. He quit again, and then again. I suspect this habit contributed to the onset of his cancer.

More than once, Al faced hardship because of his race. Driving through Dover and New Philadelphia with him was a history lesson on American apartheid. We never went bowling together because he remembered how his race prevented him from bowling as a youth. Al's admission to the Ohio bar was delayed for a year by an objection from a local bar association committee. He was passed over for a promotion to Managing Attorney at Southeastern Ohio Legal Services — a program that still has no African American managers.

But these obstacles never seemed to hold Al back. He left Southeastern Ohio Legal Services in 1992 to lead an office of the Micronesian Legal Services Corporation in Majuro, Marshall Islands. For two years he served the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands, and applied his cross-cultural skills half a world away. Some of the islands he visited had been test sites for atomic weapons. His service there was interrupted by a rare cancer in his adrenal gland. His visits to radioactive islands probably didn't help. After months of pain, the removal of that gland and a kidney seemed to put Al in remission.

I believe that racism is primarily a problem of white America. Therefore, I feel it is incumbent on white America to fix it. Nevertheless, Al shouldered that work too. He served as an educator on sensitivity for numerous corporations, and he volunteered to speak at churches of various ethnicities and faiths. He organized commemorations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day with Rev. Christopher Lowery and myself. He was active in our local Minority Employment Readiness Committee (MERC).

Al loved life. His chuckle remains my most frequent memory of him. He relished every football season with expectation that the Browns would play the Superbowl. He accepted the injuries to his knee as part of the game. He had great love for his family. He remained on good terms with his first wife while supporting his children toward their college educations. He leaves daughters Julie (in Germany) and Lisa (in Columbus), and a son, David, at Ohio University. He leaves a daughter Toneka ("Mickey"), in Athens, Georgia. Al raised his nephew John like a son. John is in Columbus. Al also leaves his second wife, Margie Richmond, who lost her father last year. Al and I could not have started this law office without Margie's contribution.

Last May, Al and I founded Tate & Renner with plans of spending many years together advancing the cause of civil rights. Shortly after we picked our building here, Al's doctors delivered the news that his cancer had returned. This time, the cancer infected his brain. Al was a community leader, an impassioned speaker, and a visionary of a better world through legal advocacy. Our vision of working together is now closed. But our work of advancing civil rights continues.

Visiting hours for Al will be this Wednesday, October 25, 1995, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 140 Regent Street, Dover, Ohio. His funeral will begin at 11:00 a.m. the next morning, Thursday, October 26, at the same place. Instead of sending flowers, I suggest a contribution to the Minority Employment Readiness Committee (MERC), 140 Regent St., Dover, Ohio 44622.

In fond remembrance,

Richard R. Renner
Attorney at Law

Al Tate's daughters visit Tate & Renner in 2003.
Richard Tate and Richard Renner visit at First Baptist Church on the occassion of remembering Major Houston.
Email: rrenner@igc.org