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WSSM-09: The Murray Schneps Papers

Identifier: WSSM-09


Murray B. Schneps was born in New York City and grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. A graduate of Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School, he worked as an attorney. When his first child, Lara, was born profoundly mentally retarded and multiply handicapped, he became involved in the struggle for civil rights for the developmentally disabled. Lara lived at the Willowbrook State School for approximately three years and Schneps was a named plaintiff in the lawsuit brought against New York State. He was also a Vice Chairman of the Willowbook Review Panel, which was charged with implementing the Willowbrook Consent Decree. He is the author of, I See Your Face Before Me: A Father’s Promise. NY: Murray B. Schneps, 2014.

Several books that came with the papers have been cataloged and placed in the book collection; in addition to I See Your Face Before Me. (KF373 .S34 A3 2014)

Burton Blatt and Fred Kaplan. Christmas in Purgatory, Photographic Essay on Mental Retardation. Syracuse, NY: Human Policy Press, 1974.(Special Collections 1L-216 - Pamphlet 71)

U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Report of the Secretary’s Special Federal Team, The New York State Mental Retardation Program. 1972. (1L-216 - KFN5620 .A8 U558)

Jean Reiss. They learned to do without. Untold Stories From Willowbrook State School 1958-1970. 1994. (HV3006 .N7 W5r 1994)


  • 1972-2015

Biographical / Historical

26 December 1937 Born in Brownsville (Brooklyn), New York City to Sam Rubin and Hannah Kandel Schneps 1940s Schneps grows up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. His father eventually owns a kosher butcher shop. Education Elementary School, P.S. 225 Abraham Lincoln High School Brooklyn College Brooklyn Law School 3 August 1963 Marries (Pearl) Vicki Adler 23 May1968 Daughter Lara Rebecca Schneps is born blind with microcephaly and profound mental retardation 31 July 1969 Lara is admitted to the Willowbrook State School 1971 Successfully argues for an injunction against the closure of Gouverneur Hospital in lower Manhattan and transfer of residents to Willowbrook (a cost-saving attempt by New York State that would have increased over-crowding at Willowbrook) 21 February 1972 Removes Lara from Willowbrook due to inadequate staffing levels 1972 Becomes a plaintiff on behalf of Lara in the Willowbrook Class Action suit that sought closure of Willowbrook and placement of its residents in small community residences May 5, 1975 Willowbrook Consent Judgment executed 1975 Begins serving as Vice Chairman of the Willowbrook Review Panel 25 May 1975 Receives the Institutes of Applied Human Dynamics Humanitarian Award 1978 Becomes attorney for the plaintiffs seeking community placement for all the mentally retarded residents of the Suffolk County Developmental Center who did not require hospitalization 21 February 1979 Judge Jack B. Weinstein denies defendants’ motion to disqualify and remove Schneps as either the attorney for the plaintiffs in the Suffolk case or as member of the Willowbrook Review Panel 1 April 1979 Lara moves into the first apartment for profoundly retarded multiply handicapped children operated by the State of New York in Bayside, Queens 1980 Willowbrook Review Panel is defunded by New York State 23 May 1981 Lara’s thirteenth birthday is observed with a Bat Mizvah ceremony 21 February 1986 Lara dies 1986 New York State closes the Willowbrook State School


.9 Cubic Feet

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Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository