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Founding of the MacArthur Justice Center

The family of J. Roderick MacArthur founded the center in 1985 to advocate for human rights and social justice through litigation.

J. Roderick MacArthur, better known as Rod MacArthur, was the son of Louise Ingals and John D. MacArthur, who established the John D. and Cartherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Born in a position of prosperity, he was a self-made man, launching the Bradford Exchange and growing it to a successful, global enterprise.

Shortly before he passed away in 1984, MacArthur accepted the Roder Balwdin Award from the American Civil Liverties Union. In accepting the award, MacArthur told the crowd,

"I know you know that my time is short. I wish I could be with you, shoulder to shoulder, in all the coming battles. But I have to be content with our footprints briefly mingling on the line of march. There is much to do. I am reassured by the knowledge that any empty ranks I and others leave will be filled by those who believe that civil liberties are not just a means but the essence of ourselves as humans."

In 1984, J. Roderick MacArthur (right) received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU in recognition of his support of human rights causes worldwide. At left is the late Jay A. Miller, longtime Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois.

The late Dr. Solange MacArthur, one of Roderick's three children, provided the center with an endowment that will ensure its capacity to fight injustice is enduring. In doing so, the MacArthur Justice Center was able to spread into a national organization, composed of five offices across the country.

The MacArthur's commitment to the justice center lives on in John R. ("Rick") MacArthur, President and Publisher of Harper’s Magazine,  Roderick's last surviving child, who remains actively engaged in the Center's strategic direction as the lead board member.


"The MacArthur Justice Center was founded by a courageous family dedicated to fight for justice in difficult and often unpopular cases, because our standards of justice are defined by the vulnerability of detainees, prisoners, and the criminally accused."

—David Bradford, Founding Attorney of the MacArthur Justice Center