Yale Rabin, 88, a Philadelphia urban planner who was a plaintiffs' witness in the court cases that successfully sought to provide affordable housing in Mount Laurel, died of heart failure Tuesday, March 22, at his home at Foulkeways, the retirement community in Gwynedd, Montgomery County.
Peter J. O'Connor, a lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that Mr. Rabin testified, in 1976 for the case decided in 1983, "as an expert witness on issues of equal facilities at the time between the black and the white communities."
"He was a nationally recognized witness on civil rights issues dealing with planning," O'Connor said.
Mr. Rabin's daughter Mira said of his Mount Laurel work: "He spoke about it a great deal. That was the most high profile" of his civic engagements.
But there were two others.
In 1964, while he was living in West Mount Airy, a friend asked him to a small evening meeting at a house on Wissahickon Avenue near Upsal Street.
And there, Mr. Rabin met John Lewis, the future U.S. representative from Georgia who, at the time, was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Mr. Rabin agreed to help Lewis by taking a leave of absence from his job as an urban planner at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Tom Michael, a retired Presbyterian minister and Foulkeways friend, said Mr. Rabin told him that his job for SNCC when he arrived in Atlanta was not political but still constructive.
"His job," Michael said, "was to construct this old cotton storage place, 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep," into SNCC offices. His planning did just that.
His second effort for SNCC took place during the Christmas break in 1965.
For sharecroppers evicted from their homes near Greenville, Miss., Michael said, Mr. Rabin took Penn students, with a gift from Penn's Christian Association, "to build a center and workshop" for the displaced in Tribbett, Miss.
Though the minister and the planner knew each other for only the last three years, Michael said, "he was firm in his belief about how people should not be discriminated against, and he could be kind of brusque" against the other side.
Mr. Rabin, Michael said, "was respected for his vision and clarity."
In 1987, Mr. Rabin retired as associate dean for academic affairs in the urban and environmental planning department at the University of Virginia.
Born in Brooklyn, Mr. Rabin graduated from Trenton High School in 1945, was a Coast Guardsman in 1946-47 and earned a bachelor's of fine arts in 1952 at the Tyler School of Fine Arts and a bachelor's in education in 1953 at Temple University.
Mr. Rabin began his career as a ceramics teacher from 1953 to 1955 at what is now Barratt Middle School and continued as a public school art teacher in Princeton until 1957.
While working at community arts centers in Philadelphia, he earned a master's in urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960 and then worked as a city planner in Camden.
Mr. Rabin earned a 1961-63 fellowship to England, to work as a planner for the former county council of London..
When he returned to Philadelphia, Mr. Rabin from 1963 to 1967 worked at the University of Pennsylvania as a planner for the school's future - and for a time, for SNCC.
Until 1975, he was a consultant and witness for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
As with SNCC, his NAACP work took him South.
"Two weeks out of every month, he was out of our house," his daughter said, as an expert witness in cases in Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee, among others.
After retiring from the University of Virginia in 1987, he was at MIT, as a visiting scholar in its department of urban studies and planning, until 1994.
Several of his papers were published by the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
Besides his daughter, Mr. Rabin is survived by wife Barbara; sons Paul and Andrew; daughters Alix Rabin and Sarah Rabin-Lobron; stepchildren Judy, Sharon, and Dan Wurtzel; eight grandchildren; and three step-grandchildren. His former wife, Helene, died in 1991.
A memorial service was set for 1 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at Foulkeways, 1120 Meetinghouse Rd., Gwynedd, Pa. 19436.
Donations may be sent to a social justice organization of one's choice.
Condolences may be offered to the family at Foulkeways at the above address or to www.foulkeways.org.