Luke Cole: A Fierce Advocate

The Equal Justice Society mourns the loss of Luke W. Cole, founder of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. Luke passed away June 6 in Uganda while on sabbatical.

The social justice movement is filled with many wonderful and effective advocates. Many of us have friends who are not part of this world who are just heaven to be with. Their presence brings a smile to your lips and lifts your heart.

Luke Cole was both—a great and fierce advocate and a great man. Many knew him for his yearly root beer parties. Others knew of the ground breaking work he did in the field of environmental justice. He made sure that the concerns of people of color and poor and working people were addressed when environmental issues were raised.

He also clearly loved his wife and his son and his life. I remember his trying to figure out how to get to France a couple of years ago and remember his absolute delight when he was able to pull it off.

Little did any of us know that this would be his last trip. It is both heart breaking and somehow life affirming that he died while on a trip that brought him so much pleasure. He was dedicated to the work that we all do but he also knew that a fully lived life encompasses much more than work. He knew how to live.

All the people I have communicated with are so sad, so sincerely sad. There is such a sense of loss. We have lost a good friend. A man with a wonderful spirit is no longer with us. We send our prayers and thoughts to his wife Nancy Shelby Cole who lost an eye in the horrible accident that took place on a road in Uganda at 7:30 a.m. on June 6. Their son Zane is on his way to Amsterdam to be with his Mom while doctors fight to save the orb of her eye.

At times like these, the petty concerns of the day fade away. One wants to reach out to everyone you know to let them know that you love them.

Luke’s death is somehow unbelievable. We are all so sad.

Eva Paterson
Equal Justice Society

Memorial services for Luke will be announced on the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment website.

Condolences may be sent to Luke’s family at:

Herbert “Skip” Cole
2020 El Camino de la Luz
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Alexandra Cole
519 Fig Avenue
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Memorial Link:

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