Carol Ruth Silver

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Carol Ruth Silver (2012)

Carol Ruth Silver (born 1938)[1] is an American lawyer and former politician. She was a Freedom Rider, arrested and incarcerated for 40 days in Jackson, Mississippi.[2][3] She was among those on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors allegedly targeted by Dan White in the Moscone-Milk assassinations, but was saved because she was not in her office at the time of the murders.[4][5]

Life and career[edit]

Silver attended the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor's degree in 1960 and a law degree in 1964. She was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Silver's 1977 election was part of a shift toward diversity on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; she was described as "the board's first unwed mother."[6]

In 1985, after Bernhard Goetz shot and wounded four attackers on a New York subway train, Silver wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "The legality of the actions of the 'subway vigilante' cannot be determined until all the facts are in. What is already clear is that the New York officials denouncing him misconceive the law of self-defense.... A subway rider attacked by armed criminals has every right to shoot in self-defense.... Rational gun control is a necessity. But New York City's long history of prohibiting ordinary, responsible adults the only realistic means of self-defense is not rational." [7]

She served three terms, through 1989. Silver ran in the Democratic primary for California's 1st congressional district, in 1996,[8] but lost to Michela Alioto (who then lost to incumbent Frank Riggs).[9] Silver ran in the 2000 District 6 supervisorial race, coming in fourth.

Silver then retired from politics and continued her philanthropic work, which had included founding San Francisco's Chinese-American International School in 1982, the first and most modeled Mandarin Chinese immersion program in the United States. In the summer of 2002 she traveled to Afghanistan to explore ways that American citizens could extend a hand of friendship to the Afghan people, and she has founded or co-founded three organizations dedicated in different ways to supporting and promoting education in Afghanistan, particularly of women and girls.

She is the principal in Law Offices of Carol Ruth Silver, in San Francisco, California, and a real estate broker. In 2007 she was appointed Director of the San Francisco Sheriff's Office of Prisoner Legal Services.


Silver played a small part (as well as being portrayed by actress Wendy King) in the 2008 Academy-Award-winning film Milk, a biopic of the slain Supervisor Harvey Milk, with whom she served on the Board.


Silver's January 2014 book Freedom Rider Diary: Smuggled Notes from Parchman Prison describes her experiences as a Freedom Rider in Mississippi in 1961.


  1. ^ Schultz, Debra L. and Blanche Wiesen Cook (2002). Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement. NYU Press, ISBN 978-0-8147-9775-4
  2. ^ Ethridge, Eric, Breach of Peace (2008), Atlas & Co ISBN 978-0-9777433-9-1
  3. ^ Arsenault, Raymond, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, Oxford University Press (2006) ISBN 978-0-19-513674-6; ISBN 0-19-513674-8
  4. ^ Weiss, Mike. (September 18, 1998). "Killer of Moscone, Milk had Willie Brown on List", San Jose Mercury News, Page A1
  5. ^ Weiss, Mike. (October 1998). "Dan White's Last Confession", San Francisco Magazine
  6. ^ Ledbetter, Les (January 12, 1978). San Francisco Legislators Meet in Diversity; An Unusual Coalition Is Challenging the Establishment. The New York Times
  7. ^ Silver, Carol Ruth; Don B. Kates, Jr. (January 10, 1985) "Gun Control and the Subway Class." The Wall Street Journal. (Retrieved 5-8-2012.)
  8. ^ Sweeney, James W. (December 30, 1995). They're off and running for office. The Press Democrat
  9. ^ Rose, Bleys W. (March 27, 1996). Alioto leads Marvin in bid to face Riggs; GOP's Hughes will face Woolsey. The Press Democrat