David Blicker, who for more than 40 years championed the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized from across the globe, died Friday of lung cancer.
Mr. Blicker, 73, served as executive director of Opening Doors Inc., a Sacramento nonprofit agency helping survivors of human trafficking, refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and war zones in Africa and Latin America. He pioneered the agency's micro-enterprise programs, providing small loans as seed money to help people launch their own businesses.
Dating back to the civil rights movement in the 1960s, "he was always working to help the underprivileged, the little guy, those who weren't getting a fair shake," said Debra Debondt, who met him in the Peace Corps in Kenya and later joined him at Opening Doors.
After graduating from Columbia University and earning his law degree at Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley School of Law, Mr. Blicker practiced law for 34 years, specializing in nonprofits.
In the summer of 1963, he worked for the Congress of Racial Equality in Montgomery, Ala. From 1967-70 he served as executive director for the Legal Aid Society of Sacramento. He also served as special counsel to Planned Parenthood for 15 years and taught part time at the California State University, Sacramento, Graduate School of Social Work.
In 1967, Mr. Blicker created Child Action Inc., the first nonprofit to link poor families seeking childcare with the state of California.
A skilled mediator, he served as a hearing officer for the Sacramento County Employees Retirement System and as a pro tem Superior Court judge in Yolo County.
Mr. Blicker wanted to join the Peace Corps as soon as President John F. Kennedy created it, but his father insisted he go to law school.
But after decades of legal battles, he decided to make his Peace Corps dreams come true.
"I got tired of litigation," he told The Bee. "There were just too many young lawyers more interested in saying, 'I can kick your ass in court,' rather than solving the problem."
In 1999 he closed his practice, sold his Land Park home, gave away his 70 bonsai plants and went to Machakos, Kenya. He formed a company owned by seven women's groups that sold their bags, baskets and carvings internationally, bypassing the middle man.
Mr. Blicker wasn't done. He raised more than $16,000 to train electrical engineers in Kenya to install solar energy systems.
"David was a very gentle leader. He had vision, a passion for making the world a better place and compassion for people who were in trouble and needed help," recalled his wife, Terrie Lind. "He was generous of spirit, generous with his time and charities."
Rather than thinking of reasons why something couldn't be done, "he would say 'yes, we can do this and we're going to do this and this,' " Lind said. "People fell in line because he was really empowering as a leader. He'd say that many hands were better than one. He developed people and he listened."
He would never ask co-workers to do anything he wouldn't do, Lind said, whether it was moving furniture or working late into the night on grant proposals.
"By seeing the best in us he made us be our best," Debondt added. "He saw the people he worked with as full human beings and formed relationships that went beyond what would be expected of a boss."
Mr. Blicker could defuse the most tense situations by unleashing his deep, roaring belly laugh, Lind said.
"David said a good bottle of wine, food and laughter goes so far," Lind said, "and having people to share it with made him happiest. He had a broad smile exuding warmth and inclusion. He loved people and they loved him."