Jack Jersawitz, 1934-2012, !Presente!
(APN) ATLANTA — Jack Jersawitz, a radical leftist activist and commentator with over thirty years of significant contributions to Atlanta and Georgia politics, has passed away, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
Jersawitz was 78. He died of esophageal cancer after spending several weeks in the hospital and then in hospice care.
Jersawitz was born in Brooklyn, New York, and lived on the west coast of the US and in London, England, for a while before settling in Atlanta in the early 1970s.
Jersawitz was best known for being a radical communist as well as an abrasive critic, who frequently expressed his harsh critiques of persons, places, things, and ideas.
Jersawitz had two television programs on Atlanta’s public access station for community programming, which was first run by a cable company and then by People TV.
One of his shows was called Brain Storm, and another, more recent show was called Telling it Like it is, Charlotte Engel, CEO of People TV, told APN. He stopped producing his shows in 2008.
Jersawitz was also well-known for his pro se litigation with numerous government agencies and agency officials for violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act and Georgia Open Records Act.
He won a major case in 1994, Jersawitz v. Fortson, in which he sued over being denied access to a meeting of a special Olympics task force that had been created to carry out the work of the Atlanta Housing Authority Board of Commissioners with respect to the selection of certain proposals.
Jersawitz won a landmark victory in that case, where the Court of Appeals of Georgia ruled that the meetings of the task force should have been open even though the meetings were not attended by a quorum of the Board of Commissioners of AHA.
Jersawitz had worked closely with the News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News–the present writer–in providing advice, encouragement, and also critique, as APN’s Editor has also pursued pro se litigation against the City of Atlanta for open meetings and open records violations.
In fact, it is Jersawitz who encouraged the present writer to challenge the practice of the City Council of Atlanta to hold closed-door Cmte Briefings without quorums, on the basis that such a challenge would an application of Jersawitz v. Fortson. That litigation is currently pending in Fulton County Superior Court.
“He became in my view a very experienced and savvy pro se Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act litigator. He really did a good job and knew what he was doing and I think he earned the respect of the judges before whom he appeared, they took him very seriously,” Bill Brennan, former Executive Director of Atlanta Legal Aid, told APN.
Jersawitz’s brother, Charlie, who lives in Snellville, said that he and Jack’s friends and relatives are currently planning a memorial service, the details of which will be announced shortly.
“Jack did many things in his life, one was stringing telephone line. If there was anything of a mechanical nature, Jack could do it. Jack worked in the printing industry for many years, working on the printing press, repairing the printing press,” Charlie Jersawitz said.
Jersawitz did these things “so he could earn a living so he could do the things that were important to him.”
“Jack is the kid of guy who had strong opinions about right and wrong. His radicalism goes along with his fight of authority that goes way back,” he said.
“From his early days he was a convinced believer that capitalism was wrong and Marxism and communism was the path we need to follow,” he said.
Other important political work that Jersawitz was involved in included being a member of the Grady Coalition, a group that, among other things, fought privatization and cuts to services for indigent people, at Grady Hospital.
“He went into all those meetings with the Board and CEO. He protested outside and inside when they could. At one point they were ordered to leave the Board Meeting and threatened with arrest,” Brennan said.
As recently reported by APN, Jersawitz had litigation against the CEO of the newly privatized Grady for failing to provide Jersawitz with the personal email addresses of Board Members. This litigation was not successful.
However, Jersawitz had a number of successful pro se lawsuits, including one where he sued People TV for failing to allow him to videotape one of their meetings.
According to Brennan, who now lives in North Carolina and who knew Jersawitz for at least thirty years, Jersawitz also won a major victory against the City of Atlanta, forcing it to disclose investigative files under the custody of the Atlanta Police Department related to a number of missing and murdered children cases.
The release of the files raised questions about whether Wayne Williams, the person who had been deemed responsible for, although not in each case convicted of, several murders, was indeed responsible for each of the murders.
“A lot of people in Atlanta all got to know Jack through his public access show. If we went out to dinner, people would stop at the table and talk to him because he was so well-known,” Brennan said.
“Jack was longtime producer for People TV. He was involved with various aspects of the station. He served on a Committee that was looking for a new facility,” Engel said.
On his second show, Telling it Like it Is, Jersawitz held a live studio show in which he read and discussed newspaper articles concerning current events.
Jersawitz never married to anyone’s knowledge, and has no children. He is survived by two brothers, Charlie and Frank; a sister, Olga; and numerous nieces and nephews.