A September memorial service is being planned for philanthropist and progressive activist Aris Anagnos, who died Monday of natural causes at age 95.
Anagnos was involved for decades in progressive politics in Southern California. He served on the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California for more than 25 years, including a term as president for two years.
He was also a co-founder of the Humanitarian Law Project of the International Education Development Fund, was a past president and longtime board member of Americans for Democratic Action of Southern California, and also founded the Peace Center, where he allowed progressive groups to meet for free.
“He gave us a home. He created the Peace Center,” Clifford Tasner, president of the ADA of Southern California, told City News Service. “He bought a building that he set up his real estate business in and devoted the rest of the building to allowing various progressive groups to have offices for free. And that’s been a huge thing. At various times when things were tight he kept us going. He donated money and kept us going and was always there fighting for the best possible progressive society we could create.”
According to the ADA, Anagnos served in the Greek army with the Allied Forces in the Middle East during World War II, and with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association after the war. He moved to the United States in 1946 as a student and attended the UCLA before establishing a successful career in insurance, real estate investments and development.
Anagnos was a philanthropist and activist, with efforts that included founding the Save Cyprus Council, later renamed the Hellenic American Council, after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. He also donated $1 million dollars to Nicaragua for humanitarian, educational and relief purposes in 1989.
Also in 1989, Anagnos and his wife, Carolyn, established the Peace Center at 8124 W. Third St. in Los Angeles, which housed several peace and human rights organizations rent free, including the ADA. In 2008, Anagnos formally donated the building for such use by establishing it as a nonprofit foundation.
In 2013, the Aris and Carolyn Anagnos Peace Center Foundation sold the building and purchased a 15,000-square-foot building at 3916 Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City, which now houses the American Hellenic Council and the American Hellenic Council Charitable Fund, in addition to other organizations.
Tasner said Anagnos’ family is planning a public memorial in September but details have not been finalized.