July 05, 2019

Barry Kowalski, Prosecutor in Rodney King Case, Is Dead at 74

By Richard Goldstein
The New York Times
July 5, 2019

Barry F. Kowalski '73, a Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted high-profile civil rights cases, most notably winning the convictions of two white Los Angeles police officers in 1993 for the beating of Rodney G. King — an episode that touched off one of the nation’s worst urban riots — died on Sunday at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 74.

His wife, Katie Zimmerman Kowalski, said the cause was complications of two strokes.
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Barry Frank Kowalski was born in Hartford on Aug. 26, 1944, to Frank Kowalski, a career Army officer, and Helen (Bober) Kowalski, a homemaker and amateur artist.

His family settled in the Washington area after his father was elected to Congress in 1958 as an at-large Democratic representative from Connecticut. He served two terms in the House.

Mr. Kowalski graduated from Brown University in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He was commissioned as a Marine lieutenant and commanded an infantry platoon in combat in the Vietnam War.

He received a law degree from Catholic University of Washington in 1973 and taught at the Antioch School of Law there before joining the Justice Department.

Mr. Kowalski served in the Justice Department from 1981 to 2014.

Soon after he joined, he investigated the death of a 19-year-old black man, Michael Donald, who was abducted in Mobile, Ala. Mr. Donald was beaten, his throat was slashed and he was found hanging from a tree.

The investigation led to the arrests of two Klansmen. One, James Knowles, confessed in federal court to violating Mr. Donald’s rights and was sentenced to life in prison. He implicated the other Klansman, Henry Hays, who was found guilty of murder in state court and died in the Alabama electric chair. The killing financially destroyed the United Klans of America in 1987 when a jury found it liable in a wrongful-death case brought by Mr. Donald’s mother and ordered it to pay $7 million, which it did not have.
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