The ACLU of Illinois adds our voice to all Americans mourning the stilling of a great voice, Chicago legend and national treasure Studs Terkel. Studs described himself as a "guerilla journalist with a tape recorder," but in truth he was a chronicler of America. The land that Studs chronicled was not the America of bankers and Wall Street, but the America of laborers and Main Street. A fixture in Chicago for eight decades, Studs was an inspiration to opinion leaders, to academics, to political leaders, to civil libertarians and to all Chicagoans.
Studs twice was honored by the ACLU of Illinois, first in 1981 with our award for journalism and then again in 1998 with our Freedom of Expression Award. But Studs' work with the ACLU of Illinois did not end with awards.
In 2006, Studs joined our lawsuit against AT&T, serving as the lead plaintiff in litigation challenging the telecoms collaboration with the Bush White House's surveillance of innocent Americans. Studs quickly joined the lawsuit - along with several other prominent Chicago residents - because he believed that the outrages of the Bush White House simply had to be challenged.
In October of 2007, the New York Times published a piece by Studs titled "The Wiretap this Time." In that opinion piece decrying the Bush Administration spying and placing it in historical context, Studs talked about his own experience with a blacklist during the 1950s:
I was among those blacklisted for my political beliefs. My crime? I had signed petitions. Lots of them.
For Studs sake, let us all remember to speak up and speak out wherever and whenever we see injustice and intolerance. And, never be afraid to express our political beliefs. Studs left all of us a large legacy to recall and replicate. Rest well, Studs.