Summarized by Eileen Bell
LDS Mission Influenced Late LDS Civil Rights Pioneer
(Adam 'Mickey' Duncan)
Salt Lake Tribune 3Jul00 P2
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- His experiences as an LDS missionary shaped
the future for a man who became a Utah pioneer for civil rights. 72-year-old
Adam "Mickey" Duncan passed away in May of this year.
His passion for civil rights began while serving his mission in
South Africa during the 1940s. Brother Duncan had the chance
to see the different ways people of different races were treated
in some situations. Compounding the cultural emphasis in South
Africa were the restrictions on LDS missionaries because of the
former limits on which men could hold the Priesthood.
In an interview several years ago, Brother Duncan remembered a
Swahili man he had met while he was on his mission. "A
truly fine person, a wonderful human being. Yet, because
he was black, I couldn't baptize him. I couldn't even preach to him."
Coming home after his mission, Brother Duncan served as a
seminary teacher in Salt Lake City. After graduating from
law school in 1953, he organized Utah's first chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union. The Utah ACLU challenged many
of the existing barriers to racial equality. When the group started,
African Americans and Asians weren't allowed to buy homes
in some neighbourhoods. Some clubs denied membership to
those of the Jewish faith. Some stores tripled their prices
for native Americans, while some restaurants turned away
potential customers who were black.
In 1956, Brother Duncan made the jump to politics, becoming
the youngest member of the Utah House of Representatives.
He went on to sponsor a bill geared at stopping businesses
from discriminating against minorities. It passed in the House,
but was defeated in the Utah Senate.
In 1957, Utah Governor George D. Clyde appointed Brother
Duncan to a committee on civil rights. He chaired the Governor's
Commission on Civil Rights from 1964 to 1975, and also was
part of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Utah political scientist J.D. Williams praised Brother Duncan's
life. "If it hadn't been for Mickey Duncan and the ACLU, progress
would have been dreadfully slow in this state."