Local ACLU's first chief was state law librarian
Margaret Setliff / 1922-2007
Former state law librarian Margaret Setliff, the first president of the American Civil Liberties Union-Hawaii Chapter, died Sunday. She was 84.
"Margaret has always been and continues to be a person with a 'twinkle in her eyes.' Underneath that kindly and concerned demeanor, however, lies the steadfast articulate and serious devotion to bring about the promised on equality and justice for all," the ACLU said about Setliff.
Setliff was born in Providence, R.I., on May 28, 1922. She served as an instructor in the English department at Wayne University in Detroit and as a librarian in the Joint Reference Library at the University of Chicago before she moved to Hawaii in 1953.
She had a lifelong passion for books as well as social justice, government and freedom, said Setliff's husband of 42 years, James Setliff.
Margaret Setliff delved into a campaign to establish Hawaii as the 50th state. She worked closely with territorial legislators Patsy Mink and Daniel Inouye while working as a research librarian at the Legislative Reference Bureau at the University of Hawaii from 1953 to 1958.
In 1965, Setliff met her husband at an organizational meeting for the ACLU-Hawaii Chapter. That same year, the couple got married, and she was selected to be the first president of ACLU-Hawaii.
She was appointed chief law librarian in 1967 and served in that position until she retired in the late 1970s. As chief law librarian, "she nurtured the careers of hundreds of young attorneys and was intimately involved in preparation and documentation of most significant court decisions made during the state's first two decades," Setliff's husband said in a written statement.
Setliff volunteered for and served in numerous organizations, including the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, where she served as a board member.
In 1975, Setliff was presented with the Hawaii Bar Association's Liberty Bell Award. She also was a recipient of the ACLU-Hawaii Allan Saunders Award in 1978.
Since the early 1990s, Setliff and her husband had been living in Atlanta.
"Her commitment to justice was inspirational," said ACLU-Hawaii Executive Director Vanessa Chong, adding that she had a reputation of being thoughtful and indefatigable.
Besides her husband, Setliff is survived by nephew David Birdsell and great-nephew Cory Birdsell. Services are pending.