ARONSON, ARNOLD (1911–1998), U.S. social activist. Aronson co-founded the pioneering Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (lccr) and was a driving force behind the passage of the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to being president of the lccr Education Fund until his death, he was also program director for the National Jewish Community Relations Council. His work was driven by the desire to further equality within the American social milieu and an aspiration to create bonds between peoples of differing ethnic backgrounds. Aronson fought for civil rights, civil liberties, immigration reform, and church-state separation. He was also committed to Soviet-Jewish immigration and support for Israel. He was a significant force in what became known as the "golden age" of *black-Jewish relations and one of its most creative figures.
Additionally, Aronson was a founding father of a number of other civil rights organizations including the National Urban Coalition, the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, and the National Association of Human Rights Workers. In January 1998, President William J. Clinton awarded Aronson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifelong service.
His son bernard william (1946– ) was also a major public figure, serving as U.S. assistant secretary of state (1989–93). Bernard Aronson graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in 1967 and later served in the U.S. Army Reserves. From 1973 through 1977, Aronson worked for the United Mine Workers, and in 1977 he became a special assistant and speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale. Subsequently, starting in 1982, he directed the Democratic National Strategy Council for two years until deciding to strike out on his own by starting a consulting firm, the Policy Project.
In 1989, Republican President George H.W. Bush appointed Aronson assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs to replace the controversial Elliot *Abrams. Aronson (a Democrat) was chosen for the position in part to soften lingering Democratic Party criticism and skepticism surrounding the office in the wake of the Iran-Contra hearings.
Aronson's post entailed the coordination of U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the 34 nations of the Americas. Moreover, he was President Bush's principal foreign policy advisor on U.S. relations with Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Following President Bush's defeat in 1992, Aronson worked in the private sector with corporations like Goldman Sachs & Co., Liz Claiborne, and the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. He continued, however, to remain active in developing public policy, serving as a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and on the board of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He also coauthored with William D. Rogers a report on "U.S.-Cuban Relations in the 21st Century." The report urged the U.S. to ease trade restrictions with Cuba and replace the outmoded trade embargo, a leftover from the Cold War, with more lenient policies.
American Jewish Yearbook, Obituaries: United States (Arnold Aronson) (1999); L.S. Maisel and I. Forman, Jews in American Politics (2001).
[Yehuda Martin Hausman (2nd ed.)]