Doris Gwendolyn <I>Willett</I> Tate

Doris Gwendolyn Willett Tate

Houston, Harris County, Texas, USA
Death 10 Jul 1992 (aged 68)
Palos Verdes Estates, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot St. Ann's Section, Lot 152, Grave 6
Memorial ID 6101039 · View Source
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Texas-born Doris Tate became a leader in the Crime Victims Rights Movement after the brutal murder of her eldest daughter, Sharon Tate, in 1969. Born Doris Gwendolyn Willett in Houston, Texas, she reshaped the victims' rights movement in California, tirelessly campaigning to radically change laws to allow the victims of violent crimes a more active role in the trials and sentencing of their perpetrators as well as allowing the families of murder victims a greater voice in the passing of crime-related laws. She was the mother of actress Sharon Tate, a victim of the 1969 "Manson Family" murder spree, which made international headlines for months and is generally regarded as one of the most senseless and heinous crimes of the 20th century. In a 1982 interview, Doris stated she was unable to even talk about her daughter's death "…for about three years…," but it would not be until another decade later when murderer Leslie Van Houten (who was not present at the Tate-Polanski home on August 9th, 1969, but helped to murder Rosemary La Bianca on August 10th) gathered approximately 900 signatures on a petition for parole. Doris countered with a petition drive that eventually garnered over 350,000 signatures. It was the realization that so many people were against parole for any of the so-called "Manson Family" that prompted Doris to come out of her deep depression, to talk more openly about her daughter's savage murder in public, and to find a way of honoring her daughter's memory by giving victims of violent crime and their families a stronger voice in the trials and sentencing of their perpetrators. These would come to be known as "victim impact statements," which was part of the 1982 California Proposition Number 8 "Victims Rights Bill," and Doris would be the first person in California to appear at the parole hearing of one of her daughter's murderers after the bill became law. That law would eventually be implemented nationwide. Doris became more involved in the victims' rights movement. She joined the L.A. chapter of Parents of Murdered Children (P.O.M.C.) and she was active in the groups Victim Offender Reconciliation, Justice for Homicide Victims and Citizens for Truth, among many others. She founded the organization Coalition on Victims' Equal Rights (COVER) and also served on the California State Advisory Committee on Correctional Services and stated that she would like to see all victims' rights groups unite. As determined as she was that her daughter's murderers should have been executed, and that they should never be paroled (the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in 1972 in California v. Anderson. It was reinstituted in November of that year, but the new law could not be applied retroactively to murders committed before 1972), she also worked with offenders she felt could be rehabilitated. She told them the impact violent crime had on her and her family in the hopes she could deter them from committing more violent crimes once they were released. For her tireless work, she was named as one of President George H.W. Bush's "Thousand Points of Light" in 1992 along with receiving many awards from various victims rights organizations in the 1980s. The ceremony marking her as one of the "thousand points of light" would be her last public appearance as she died a few months later of a brain tumor she was diagnosed with in January 1992, according to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times. Former Deputy D.A. Stephen Kay stated in her Times obituary that Doris, "…really was the leader of the victims' rights movement." On May 12th, 1992, the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau was named in her honor. In 1995, the non-profit Doris Tate Crime Victims Foundation was established. It "…educates, supports and advocates for the rights of victims of violent crime," according to their website. Doris's main aim was to redefine her daughter's public legacy as more than a mere murder victim. She stated, "The most that I, or any person touched by violence, can hope for is acceptance of the pain. You never forget it, not even with the passage of time. But, if, in my work, I can help transform Sharon's legacy from murder victim to a symbol for victims' rights, I will have accomplished what I set out to do."

Bio by: Donna Di Giacomo

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  • Created by: Randy Stroder
  • Added: 19 Jan 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6101039
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Doris Gwendolyn Willett Tate (16 Jan 1924–10 Jul 1992), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6101039, citing Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Randy Stroder (contributor 46518936) .