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Friends, colleagues remember former Alameda school board trustee

Submitted by on 1, January 26, 2011 – 9:01 pmNo Comment

Friends and colleagues remembered union leader and onetime Alameda school board trustee Berresford “Berry” Bingham Wednesday as a passionate advocate for workers and public education and said they were shocked to learn of his death.

“I consider him one of the pioneers of social justice in Alameda,” City Councilwoman Lena Tam said.

Bingham, 64, was found dead in his West Oakland home Tuesday, and Oakland police are investigating his death as a homicide. Police said Bingham suffered an apparent traumatic injury but did not provide further details.

Bingham served as political director for SEIU Local 1021. A single father of three who originally hailed from Jamaica, Bingham had a long career with the Navy before he ran for and won a seat on Alameda’s Board of Education, serving as its first-ever black trustee.

Tam said Bingham was instrumental in helping the school district get through the difficult transition posed by the closure of the Alameda Naval Air Station and the district’s loss of millions in federal funds as a result. She said Bingham worked with the city to establish agreements over the Bayport housing project and funding for Ruby Bridges Elementary School.

Doug Biggs, executive director of the Alameda Point Collaborative and a longtime friend, said Bingham was always positive and upbeat and a devoted father who always had a story to share about how well his children were doing.

“He seemed to live his life for others – either his own kids, or the people he served through the school board and unions,” Biggs said.

Kate Quick said she would often run into Bingham at the county administration building in Oakland when Quick worked as administrative officer for the Alameda County Auditor’s office, either at Board of Supervisors meetings or when the union demonstrated out front.

“He was always cordial and ready with a big hug. We didn’t always agree but we remained friendly,” said Quick, who said Bingham was always grateful for her help in getting him elected to the school board.

Barbara Kahn, a friend and former neighbor, said she was impressed by Bingham’s outgoing personality and his interest and schools.

Verilyn Bellamy said she has known Bingham for more than a quarter century and that he was like a family member. She remembers him as a great person, well liked and always happy.

“I only hope that (the Oakland Police Department) finds and prosecutes the perpetrators of this violence,” Bellamy said.

Alameda County flew its flags at half mast Wednesday in Bingham’s honor. Bingham’s union local represents 4,350 Alameda County employees.

“Berry was a fine, responsible person who represented county employees in a very reasonable and professional manner,’’ Alameda County Board of Supervisors president Nate Miley said in a statement. “He developed strong relationships and friendships with many of us. His demise is something I find very troubling and disturbing. I am truly saddened by this news.’’

Bingham’s former wife and his three children were slated to hold a press conference in front of his home at 3 p.m. Wednesday to solicit help in solving his killing.

Condolences and cards for Bingham’s family should be sent to Brian Bingham, P.O. Box 18772, Oakland, Calif. 94619.

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