Peace activist and great dissenter Dave Dellinger died on May 25, 2004 in Montpelier, Vermont. Dellinger is perhaps best known as one of the “Chicago Seven” (originally eight, until they bound and gagged Bobby Seal).

Dellinger described himself as a “moral dissenter” and rejected his affluent background leaving Yale during the Great Depression to live among the poor and homeless. He later revealed in his autobiography, From Yale to Jail (Pantheon Press, 1993) that he wanted to follow the path of Francis of Assisi. On that less-trod path in our culturally Christian society, Dellinger found himself living among the poor in Newark, New Jersey; he spent World War II in Lewisburg maximum-security penitentiary as a pacifist war objector; and he was beaten and bloodied throughout the civil rights and peace movements.

Dellinger, like Cesar Chavez and Gandhi, made fasting and hunger strikes part of his political activism. In 1992, Dellinger came to Columbus to fast for 12 days in solidarity with the Native American Indian Movement to demonstrate against “500 years of genocide.” Dellinger and his fellow fasters slept in the old Free Press office at 203 East Broad Street, that also housed the offices of Native American organizations and a Chinese student association. I remember a particularly poignant scene when a Chinese student wrongly assumed that the fasters were homeless people who were illegally squatting in the office. As I reached the door of the office, the landlord, Bruce Gilbert, was pushing his way in to confront the supposed squatters. Dellinger, as usual, led the resistance – this time, with his sleeping body. Gilbert burst in, took one look at the apparently homeless man and exclaimed in admiration, “Dave Dellinger! What are you doing in town?”

The Free Press co-sponsored Dellinger’s speaking tour in Columbus when his autobiography was published in 1993 and learned that Dave had his own ways of dealing with tension. When the hardballs he tossed at the dunking booth at Columbus State Community College Springfest went astray, Dellinger took direct action by running up and hitting the release to send me into the chilly water. He said the dunking would help me better reflect on politics.

Dellinger authored many books, among them More Power Than We Know, Revolutionary Non-violence and Vietnam Revisited. His steadfast commitment to Gandhian principles during the violent street struggles of the 1960s are a lasting monument to his keeping the faith. Rest in peace, Uncle Dave. -- by Bob Fitrakis

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