So Long, Studs…

Studs Terkel, rabble-rouser, activist, chronicler of the uncommonly common, artist-in-residence, peacenik, gad-fly, listener, died at 96 at his home here  on Halloween. Studs was a singular Chicago character in this wildly diverse world, someone who lived fully through his own American century– remember, he was red-baited before he was celebrated. Studs embodied the democratic spirit: wide-awake, generous, critical and hopeful, skeptical and engaged. Lover of life, gentle champion of the outcast, friend to thousands and ally to all, we were blessed to have him. We need to try to love one another as hard as we can for as long as we can, for it’s all we’ve got. So long, Studs.

7 Responses to So Long, Studs…

  1. Adam Kuranishi says:

    Studs: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down! Look at all I’ve seen through the years: I’ve seen people coming together, standing up, creating something out of nothing- unimaginable changes. A new world is needed, and we’re the ones who can make it happen.” (Teaching Toward Freedom)

    My mother catered many events for him, and I feel honored to have met him.

  2. Their was something about his voice that would always stay with me after I heard him. It wasn’t just the eloquent yet direct way in which he spoke, his words always had the clear ring of truth and empathy.
    He also had a particular way of speaking with that bebop-esque rhythm that he used to highlight the deeper meaning and important ideas. What a remarkable fellow, he will definitely be missed!
    Maybe the best legacy anyone can hope to leave is that many seeds of inspiration and love from them will be found by future generations.

    I have been looking at a few websites with recent stuff about Studs. Here is a direct quote that made my day:
    “The idiots! They label Saul Alinksy – the great neighborhood organizer – as a subversive! He’s been dead for 35 years and he was honored by the Catholic Church! He’s no subversive. Neither is Bill Ayers! That Sarah Palin – you know, she’s Joe McCarthy in drag!”

    Recently I have found myself wondering if I would hear anyone in any medium describe you as something other than a terrorist. I’m glad I finally did and I’m glad it was Studs Terkel.

    Personally I would just like to say I find it hard to believe their is such a lack of critical thinking, skepticism, logic, empathy, and generosity these days. All of the things that you say Studs embodied is exactly what society needs more of.

  3. alan wieder says:

    Thanks Bill for making space for Studs — tributes are appropriate even though he would be talking about the beauty, achievements, and spirit of others as he was being praised. He helped shape me politically and is the most important person in the world in terms of my own writing. There is no doubt that without Studs Terkel there would not be South African teacher oral histories from me — thank you, thank you, thank you Studs.
    I will be wearing red socks tomorrow when I vote for Obama in South Carolina.

  4. barry says:

    oddly, i checked out his book Hard Times a couple of weeks ago for a trip to michigan.

    bye studs, and thanks for the contribution your books have made to my education
    over the years.

    om mani peme hung

  5. Jesse says:

    I love listening to Studs Turkel on the radio. He is an amazing story teller. A true american original and a true legend.

  6. Rob Adcox says:

    What is it about the Chicago political machine that always brings out the worst in people? And has anyone pissed on Saul alinsky’s grave yet?

  7. Bob Rudner says:

    Studs Terkel Memory: No Way to Treat an Old Man

    Studs Terkel had been an old man since I was a teenager. With his craggy tobacco throat tempered by a soft lilt he was an outspoken leftist and typical soapbox speaker at demonstrations. This one was at the Civic Center Plaza one April afternoon in the early 1970s. When Studs and union leader Jack Spiegle were unceremoniously picked up bodily by Chicago police at an anti-war tax demonstration during Vietnam, and carried into the coolers, my own mom shouted, “That’s no way to treat an old man!” There he was with his character outfit on, red socks, checkered red vest and hat with his cigar, and the cops hauled him like a stockyard carcass along with Jack who would continue civil disobedience into his nineties.

    Some of the police officers involved had been students of my mother’s at Lewis Carol Elementary School science class. They even nicknamed her “Anna B.” for Anna B. King Rudner on the door. After Jack and Studs and others were piled into the wagon, a five-gallon drum used as a noisemaker was turned around and turned into a bail pail. Cops swarmed the bail collector as my mom tossed in some bills, and a cop put his hands on her to cuff her. One officer said, “That’s Anna B. You can’t arrest Mrs. Rudner.” I started the usual pull and someone grabbed my arm as another officer attempted to arrest me too. Just for the crime of raising bail these cops were adding to their roster, but the wise officers didn’t want to deal with the news where they would have arrested their old science teacher.

    We were spared. She was outraged. She kept repeating, “That’s no way to treat an old man,” as if that ever mattered, irately discussed with the official treatment. Mom was about fifty-three, I was twenty, and I think Studs was fifty-nine. So, he was always old to me.

    After another bunch of arrests at another CD action, which included Peace Council director Silvia Kushner and Rev. Martin Deppe of Clergy & Laity Concered, I was sent to collect bail money from Ida at their apartment. Ida was a Peace Council board member. Studs was just coming out of the tub, the room was filled with trinkets and knickknacks and he offered to make me a martini, I was flattered but too young and lacked the iron constitution. Studs signed over a check for $25 and sent me on my way to bail out our crowd.

    Studs’ fame from the books was just picking up and he was a fixture in the up and coming liberal setting. His longevity has kept alive a flame of memory despite the “National Alzheimer’s” and “Namnesia” that has beset public consciousness. Forced anonymity came along with deception and denial has made the hard knocks reality we have been used to. Race amid a presidential race has revolutionized America’s consciousness, and it will not end with Obama’s victory. We will return to some of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s best excoriating sermons and Studs’ works on race as we now have time and interest to examine this realm of information more clearly. Old issues that have been discarded as a matter of conditioning are now seeping back into public conscience. Persistence paid off for nuclear disarmament activist Bertrand Russell, who lived into his nineties, and the achievements of international treaties will stand as testament.

    Volumes will make the work of Studs and Ida Terkel live on into the millennium. Hopefully, the problems won’t live much beyond Studs because he helped to raise the consciences of a nation for whom he had a tough love. There will always be old demonstrators at the Civic Center Plaza, and youth too. Studs may not have gotten the traditional Cook County Ghost Vote, but his lilting tones will live on in the city’s heart.

    — Bob Rudner

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