September 6, 2007

Bill Davis, ¡Presente! [Updated]

Memorial Day, Chicago, 2006

Too much death. I just yesterday posted an announcement of Vicki Garvin's memorial service in NYC, Saturday week. Now comes the bad news about Bill Davis, a guy I've known since the '70s. My bud Sully from Chicago had hipped me the day he was suddenly rushed to the hospital last week, with a weird lung infection--he was slapped on a ventilator and they tried to stabilize him for an emergency lung transplant. Yesterday he died.

I saw Bill just two months ago as he escorted a delegation of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, on a tour sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace, to the UFPJ national assembly in Chicago. We barely got to speak.

As in the cases of Vicki and Gideon Rosenbluth, I can't get myself focused to assemble the tribute Bill deserves, but I am certain others who knew him better and and are better writers will, and I will link to them here.

In some ways, Bill's death hits hardest, because unlike Gideon and Vicki he was my age, pushing 60. When Vicki and Gideon died, some of us who had known them since we were in our 20s shared the grim jest that now we are becoming, by attrition, what they had been for us--elders. That's a hard enough prospect to come to grips with, without Bill's reminding us that one of the things that elders do is die.

Still, it is not his death that I will be thinking on in coming days, but his life. A Vietnam vet, he became part of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the spearhead of the anti-war movement that did so much to end the US occupation of the South of Vietnam. He spent his life thereafter building and supporting a whole range of struggles. He was a union activist and eventually local president of Auto Mechanics Union Local 701 in Chicago, and never ceased to play a central role in VVAW and veterans organizing. When the rulers of this country chose to use 9/11 as an excuse for unjustifiable, criminal--and doomed--acts of imperial aggression, he spoke out loud and clear, drawing on his own life experience to mobilize protest.

As with Bill, so with his wife Joan, who I hope will derive some comfort from the outpouring of love and respect for Bill I expect in coming days. Last year, when the new SDS held its inaugural convention in Chicago, and some impoverished student types I know wanted to go but couldn't afford accommodations, I called Bill and Joan with little notice. No problem.

All of those who came forward and fought for another world in the upsurges of the '60s and '70s and still hold the values of those days I count as my sisters and brothers, but there should be a special place in all of our hearts for people, like Bill Davis, who never ceased to build resistance and struggle.

Veterans Day, Chicago, 1977


Vietnam Veterans Against the War has put up a memorial guestbook at the VVAW website. Those who knew Bill, in particular, should go and put down a word or two in his memory.


The Chicago Sun-Times today, Sunday, September 9, carried a very positive and moving obituary for Bill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely said Jimmy. Read your comments on the memorial page to Bill, as well. Good to hear old freinds remembering all BIll has done and given.

L Baker