Leonard Lesser, lawyer for government, unions

August 28, 1994|By New York Times News Service

Leonard Lesser, a lawyer, advocate for the poor and union official who had been AFL-CIO general counsel, died Wednesday at the Washington home of his daughter. He was 79.

The cause was cancer, said his daughter, Susan Leighton.

Mr. Lesser began a nearly 50-year career in Washington in 1939 as a lawyer with the federal Security Agency, a forerunner of what is now the Department of Health and Human Services.

He transferred to the Department of Labor during World War II.

In 1949, he moved to Detroit to serve as a lawyer with the United Auto Workers union. Returning to Washington in 1955, he became general counsel to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

In 1968, Mr. Lesser left the AFL-CIO and helped found the Center for Community Change, a national philanthropic organization that provides support and advocacy for low-income neighborhoods.

He remained an official of the group until his death.

He was a graduate of City College of New York and Harvard Law School.

His wife, Muriel, died in 1974.

In addition to his daughter, his survivors include a son, Thomas Lesser of Conway, Mass.; his companion, Joan Aron of Washington; and three grandchildren.

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