The last great liberal of the 20th Century has, at last, “checked out.” An Americanist of the highest order to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude on this cusp of an historic election. Perhaps the greatest proponent of oral history in our time.
Was he the greatest Chicagoan? I cannot think of another. For me, he represented the joyous, scrappy, liberal, generous, wise-cracking heart of this city. If you met him, he was your friend. That happened to the hundreds and hundreds of people he interviewed for his radio show and 20 best-selling books. He wrote down the oral histories of those of his time who did not have a voice. In conversation he could draw up every single one of their names.
Chicagoan, Louis “Studs” Terkel (Reining Mayor of Bughouse Square) has reached his final stop.
Studs Terkel turned the voice of average Americans into a font of history.
The Pulitzer-Prize winning author, television pioneer, theatrical actor, long-time radio host, unrepentant leftie and friend of the little man, died peacefully at his home on the North Side of Chicago this afternoon.
Studs said in 1980: “If there’s something I want to do, it’s create a sense of continuity — that there is a past and a present and that there may be a future. And that there isn’t any present unless you know the past.”
Studs Terkel. 96. Storyteller, thinker, political agitator, friend to thousands, inspiration to millions. Gone.
You often hear the words “end of an era,” but only occasionally is it true. Studs’ death genuinely is the end of a Chicago era, a last cap on the 20th Century.
You can read the details in his Tribune obituary by Rick Kogan. The short version: Studs spent his life making the case for social justice and racial equality.
In his century, Studs chronicled the lives of almost everyone who mattered–the hundreds include Martin Luther King, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Toni Morrison. Just as important, he chronicled the lives of those who officially didn’t matter, and in doing so made us understand they did. He searched for the decency in everyone.
May the circle
By and by, Lord, by and by
May the circle
In the sky, Lord
In the sky.
My epitaph? My epitaph will be, ‘Curiosity did not kill this cat,’." he said.
He then said that he wanted his and Ida’s ashes to be scattered in Bughouse Square, that patch of green park that so informed his first years in his adopted city.
“Scatter us there,” he said, a gleeful grin on his face. “It’s against the law. Let 'em sue us.”
*“Because we love the world, we pray now, O [God], for grace to quarrel with it, O Thou whose lover’s quarrel with the world is the history of the world . . . Lord, grant us grace to quarrel with the worship of success and power . . . to quarrel with all that profanes and trivializes [people] and separates them . . . number us, we beseech Thee, in the ranks of those who went forth from this place longing only for those things for which Thou dost make us long, [those] for whom the complexity of the issues only served to renew their zeal to deal with them, [those] who alleviated pain by sharing it; and [those] who were always willing to risk something big for something good . . . O God, take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire.”
~ William Sloane Coffin *
“Take it easy, but take it!”
Listen to the ongoing tribute all day Saturday: