Consumer Safety Activist
Consumer crusader Ralph Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut, to a Lebanese immigrant father who owned a bakery and restaurant. After receiving a scholarship to Princeton University, he graduated at the top of his class and continued on to Harvard Law School.
At Harvard, the intense young man became interested in cases of car injuries, and wrote an article entitled "American Cars: Designed for Death." After graduating from law school, he began to practice law as a specialist in car safety, and worked for Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Abraham Ribicoff.
In 1965, Nader published his book, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile. As a result of the book, Nader became a celebrity and launched his career as a activist in the cause of product safety.
Unsafe at Any Speed contained charges against General Motors, and Nader followed up on his accusations by testifying before Ribicoff's Senate committee. General Motors hired people to investigate Nader, dig up potentially damaging information on him and ruin his career.
Nader sued GM and received $280,000. In 1966, Congress passed a car safety law, largely due to Nader's efforts. He used the royalties from his book and other funds for research, extending his studies to the meat-packing industry, unsafe trucks, polluting paper mills, dishonest banks and cheating supermarkets.
He established "Nader's Raiders," a group of attorneys who worked to defend the consumer. The "Raiders" later took active roles in the Center for Study of Responsive Law, one of many organizations affiliated with Nader. Maintaining a spartan lifestyle, Nader continued to work tirelessly for the defense and protection of consumers from industrial dangers. While there can be no doubt of his accomplishments in the area of consumer safety, Nader foray into politics will be best known for its unintended consequences. In 2000 he insisted on running as an independent. While he only received a small percent of the vote, the votes he received in Florida 97,421, were considerably higher than the 537 majority that GW Bush had that won him the election.