Ira Glasser was born in Brooklyn in 1938 and has lived most of his life in New York City.  He is married and the father of four adult children.  Formally trained in mathematics, he taught that subject during the early sixties at Queens College (CUNY) and Sarah Lawrence College, and helped develop new teaching methods in mathematics for elementary school children at the University of Illinois. He was Associate Editor and, from 1964-67, Editor of Current magazine, a reprint monthly of public affairs published in New York. 

In 1967 he joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as Associate Director, and was appointed NYCLU Executive Director in 1970, a post he held until 1978, when he was selected as national Executive Director of the NYCLU’s parent group, the American Civil Liberties Union.  He served in that capacity for 23 years until his retirement in mid-2001. 

He has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, spoken extensively in a wide range of public forums and his commentary, analysis and advocacy has been published in a wide variety of popular and professional journals.  He is the co-author of Doing Good: The Limits of Benevolence (1978) and the author of Visions of Liberty: The Bill of Rights For All Americans (1991). 

He is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award (New York Association of Black School Supervisors, 1971); the Silver Gavel Award (American Bar Association, 1972); the Allard K. Lowenstein Award (Park River Independent Democrats, 1981); the Malcolm, Martin, Mandela Award (Greater Baptist Trinity Church, 1993); the Justice in Action Award (Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 1999); and a variety of civil liberties awards, most recently the Lifetime Achievement Award (Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union, 2003).  A new Racial Justice Fellows Program has been established by the American Civil Liberties Union in his name. 

He is a current and founding member of the Board of Directors of the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and currently also serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Ira joined the CCLE's Board of Advisors in 2003.