Civil rights attorney Gerry Hebert dies at 74

Civil rights attorney Gerry Hebert dies at 74

By Dylan Jaffe | 

Joseph Gerald “Gerry” Hebert, a notable civil rights and voting rights attorney and former ALIVE! president, died on September 7. He was 74. 

Hebert worked for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division where he contributed as acting chief, deputy chief and special litigation counsel in the voting section. During his time at the DOJ, Hebert was the lead attorney in numerous cases involving voting rights, with some reaching the U.S Supreme Court. 

Hebert was known for his generosity and compassion for his community. He served as the executive director of Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for voters’ rights, from 2004 to 2018 and retired from the organization in 2021. Under his leadership, CLC expanded its litigation practice and grew its staff and resources to increase the organization’s ability to advocate on behalf of voters, according to the organization’s website. 

Hebert spent many years volunteering at ALIVE!, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help families in the Alexandria area affected by poverty and hunger. In addition to serving as president for numerous years, he was a member of the board and was heavily involved in the furniture department for almost 40 years. He played a key role in setting up the organization’s Food Hubs and furniture donation centers.

A statement from ALIVE!’s Facebook page praised Hebert and his long service to the organization. 

“Gerry was an exceptional man, dedicating his entire life to uplifting others. … Gerry was a guardian of democracy, a guitar-playing grandfather, and someone whose example of selfless service is a legacy that we will aspire to emulate,” the statement said. “We are so grateful for all the hard work and dedication he demonstrated to ALIVE!’s mission and to the community of Alexandria.” 

Mike Diffley, who volunteered at ALIVE! for 32 years and was chairman of the furniture committee, worked closely with Hebert. 

“He was a glass half full kind of guy. … He was always positive and helped pick people up. He held leadership positions but he was the spirit of the organization,” Diffley said. 

In addition to his  distinguished career, Hebert found joy in tutoring young lawyers as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, University of Virginia, American University and New York Law School. He was awarded the Wasserstein Fellowship at Harvard Law School and mentor-in-residence at Yale Law School. 

Hebert also made time for his family. A post from his Facebook page dated Oct. 4, 2013 reads: “Happiness is starting the day like today: Taking our grandchildren to school! Yesterday, Harper and Amelie. Today, Gunter and Annika. Next week Bailey and Brighid. Puts the entire day in context and a nice reminder of what matters most: Family.”

In a fall 2006 newsletter from ALIVE!, when Hebert served as president, he wrote how the organization has helped build his faith and he is not only inspired by all of the volunteers, but also by those who are served. 

“Volunteers are truly amazing to me. Their commitment, their dedication, their selflessness. But I am most inspired by those who we serve. … The family about to become homeless who knows that ALIVE! is there for them and they will not be out on the street. They have more faith than I do. But my faith is growing, and it does each passing day as ALIVE!’s President,” Hebert wrote. 

Jennifer Ayers, executive director of ALIVE!, has known Hebert both from the organization and through the church they both attended. Ayers prides Hebert on his ability to problem solve and always be there for others. 

“[He became] a very hands on everyday go-to person in the last couple years. … I’m gonna miss being able to pick up the phone and just like, ‘Can I run this by you,’ you know? Because you can’t do that with everybody,” Ayers said. 

Hebert was born in Worcester, Mass. on Feb. 13, 1949. He graduated from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury. Hebert went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Stonehill College and Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School. 

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Victoria; his children, Christy Przystawik, Greta Gordon, Brooke Harris, Josh Hebert and Marlea Hebert; as well as his brother, Tom Hebert, and his 10 grandchildren: Gunter, Annika, Amelie, Harper, Sadie, Bailey, Brighid, Adrian, Tyler and Abe. 

A funeral service was held last Saturday at Fairlington United Methodist Church.