David Weissbrodt did not like watching violent movies.
"We had this saying — they're too much like work," said Pat Schaffer, his wife of more than 50 years.
As a widely published scholar of human rights law who spent his career working on behalf of victims of murder and torture, Weissbrodt was all-too familiar with real-world violence. His main interest "was doing something about it," she said.
"He would go on missions for Amnesty International and meet with people in countries where it was dangerous," Schaffer said. "He was always aware that this was risky, but important."
Weissbrodt, of Minneapolis, a Regents professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota Law School, died Nov. 11 of Parkinson's disease. He was 77.
A native of Washington, D.C., Weissbrodt attended Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He received a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and jointed the U's Law School faculty in 1975.
In 1988, he founded the U's Human Rights Center, one of the first of its kind, and later launched the world's largest human rights library. He was the first U.S. citizen to chair a United Nations human rights body since Eleanor Roosevelt.
Weissbrodt worked with the Advocates for Human Rights and Amnesty International and helped establish the Center for Victims of Torture, with headquarters in St. Paul. He started the International Human Rights Internship Program to give students the chance to work in human rights organizations all over the world.And he worked with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office to establish guidelines for investigating potential human rights violations, which became known worldwide as the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.
In his 43-year career at the law school, Weissbrodt published several books on human rights, immigration and international law. He co-authored "International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process," a 1,200-page case book, and was a visiting professor at universities in France, Switzerland, England, Japan and Australia.
Weissbrodt wrote a manual for the United Nations to train people to work with victims of human rights violations, Schaffer said, so they could "understand the trauma [victims] had been through and the possible dangers that the rest of their family, if not them, could be facing."
He was widely known as a mentor and inspiration to hundreds of students over the years. They would often drop by his office, sometimes crying from the stress of attending law school, Schaffer said.
"At his core, he was a mensch," she said. "He was warmhearted ... [and] would help them with their personal problems. That core warmth is what I think propelled him forward, and why people personally loved him. He listened, he cared."
Sometimes at social gatherings when Weissbrodt told people about his work, "They'd say, 'Oh, that's really worthwhile, I'd like to help with that!' and I'd say, 'Are you sure?'" Schaffer said. "Because in three days they'd be getting a call from him and he'd have a project for them to do."
Weissbrodt was a realist, Schaffer said, knowing that despite all of his work, the world would never become enlightened enough to end human rights violations altogether "and we'd all have peace and justice."
"But he said if he could move the ball a yard down the line toward the goal post, that would be a life's work that would have satisfied him," she said.
Besides Schaffer, Weissbrodt is survived by his son, James, of Minneapolis; daughter, Bronwen, of Andover; sister, Amy Monahan, of Portland, Ore.; and three grandchildren. Services have been held.