Arnie Godmintz

More Information

  • Born: Aug. 15, 1930
    Died: Oct. 4, 2012
    Survived by: Sons, Dylan Godmintz of Santa Monica, Richard Godmintz of Boston and David Godmintz of San Francisco; daughter, Joan of Washington state; stepsons, John Lee of Sacramento, and David Lee of Cottonwood; stepdaughter, Cleo Lee of Santa Cruz; and brother, Victor Goldmintz of New York
    Services: 4 p.m. Sunday at Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento

Obituary: Arnie Godmintz dedicated his life to progressive causes

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B

Arnie Godmintz, a die-hard Democratic activist who devoted his life to fighting for progressive causes, died Oct. 4 of complications from diabetes and hypertension, his family said. He was 82.

Mr. Godmintz was an old-school activist who got his start in the rough-and-tumble world of politics and labor unions. Married three times, he was a crusty guy who rarely smiled or spoke about himself. Instead, he wore his feelings on his sleeve as an outspoken advocate for the underdog and unpopular causes.

After earning an economics degree from Harvard University, he worked as an organizer for the United Auto Workers. He later worked for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, recruiting companies to open plants and provide jobs for unemployed American Indians on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.

In the 1960s, he faced danger during the civil rights movement in Mississippi when authorities arrested him while driving supplies to set up "freedom schools" for black children. He was in the area when FBI agents found the bodies of slain activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in 1964, which he called "an important time for me in my development" during a 2009 interview for Access Sacramento radio.

"After having been there awhile, it becomes part of you," he said about the civil rights movement. "It takes on a whole different meaning for you."

Mr. Godmintz owned a commercial fishing boat and health food store in Oregon before settling in Sacramento in the late 1970s. He was an administrator at drug-treatment centers and worked for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, writing grant proposals and running emergency shelters for homeless people.

A former longtime member of the Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee, he was a workhorse for candidates and issues. He helped found the Town & Country Democratic Club and was instrumental in setting up the Northeast Democratic Headquarters in 2008.

He held leadership positions in Democratic clubs, organized meetings and coordinated campaign events. He marched at rallies, worked phone banks and walked door to door for ballot measures.

"Arnie believed very much in the Democratic Party and that activists were the heart and soul of the party, and he lived that," said Bill Camp of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. "He was an activist in the purest and most laudatory sense. He volunteered in every way he could."

Mr. Godmintz was born Arnold Goldmintz in 1930 in New York. He later changed the spelling of his last name and served in the Army.

Twice divorced, he was married in 1980 to Joan Lee, a prominent political activist who was a state and national leader in the Gray Panthers. Besides arguing politics and advocating together for Democratic candidates and aging issues, they haunted flea markets and filled their home with American Indian art and artifacts. Lee died in 2008.

Mr. Godmintz belonged to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento and was legislative representative for the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California, a nonprofit advocacy group. He was active in politics until the day of his death, when he invited friends to his home to watch a recording of the previous night's presidential debate.

"He was a curmudgeon," friend Margie Metzler said. "Nobody has a picture of him smiling. But he cared about everybody and was so smart and so generous. You never went over to his house that you didn't leave with at least a bag of fruit or something."

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