Carl Oglesby: Political activist and campaigner against the Vietnam war

Carl Oglesby was perhaps the finest orator of the anti-war movement in Sixties America, and one of its best thinkers. He was a settled family man when he became president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and led the protest against the Vietnam War, but his version of radical politics, always inclusive and rarely extreme, eventually put him at odds with others in SDS who grew frustrated with their inability to bring about change through the political process.



Oglesby came from working-class roots. His parents had migrated from the deep South to Akron, Ohio, where his father worked in a rubber mill, and where Carl was born in 1935. He grew up a true believer in the American way, even winning a high-school prize for an essay on the rightness of America's stance against communism.

But while at Kent State University he began to look in other directions, dropping out and moving to New York to pursue acting. He wrote three plays – which were produced off-Broadway – and an unpublished novel, before returning to the Midwest. There he married, had three children, and took a job in Ann Arbor, Michigan writing technical materials for the Bendix corporation, who were, among other things, a major defence contractor.

He studied part-time at the University of Michigan to finish his degree. After writing an essay critical of American policy in Southeast Asia for the college paper, three members of the newly formed SDS came to his house to recruit him; soon he was elected president of the organisation.

His writing and performing skills translated into dynamic leadership, and his maturity made him a valuable organiser, starting with teach-ins on the Michigan campus and culminating in the 27 November 1965 March on Washington for Peace, where he aligned SDS with a number of more mainstream groups opposed to the growing Vietnam war. His speech "Let us shape the future" drew the day's only standing ovation, and in print form became a landmark essay. He argued that American anti-communism moved in the service of corporate interests which were happy to profit from tyrannies with which they could do business. But he was most stirring when he recalled his own shattered idealism.

Confronting those who called him "anti-American", he said "Don't blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart."

Oglesby declined an invitation from the Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver to be his running mate on the Peace and Freedom Party's 1968 presidential campaign; by then SDS had grown to over 100,000 members, but was already crumbling from within. Oglesby was at odds with the Weathermen faction, which advocated violent Marxist revolution, a stance Oglesby described as "road rage and comic-book Marxism".

The man who hoped argument could persuade leaders to change was expelled from SDS for being a hopeless bourgeois liberal. Ironically, as the new left disintegrated, he was editing the excellent New Left Reader (1969) for a mainstream publisher.

His illusions again shattered, Oglesby turned to music, releasing twofolk-rock records which were well-reviewed but didn't sell. In 1972 he helped found the Assassination Information Bureau. His lucid writing was directed toward conspiracies, and he was particularly interested in the murder of John F Kennedy. In 1976 he published Yankee and Cowboy War: conspiracies from Dallas to Watergate, which linked the JFK assassination and Watergate by identifying a conflict in the American power elite between the eastern establishment bankers and the growing western money in oil, aerospace, and military contracting. In the 1990s he published two further books analysing the various theories behind the JFK killing.

He taught at Antioch and Dartmouth Colleges and MIT, and also co-authored – with the eponymous house restorer – Bob Vila's Guide to buying your Dream Home. His memoir of the anti-war movement, Ravens in the Storm, appeared in 2008.

As he said "It isn't the rebels who cause the troubles of the world, it's the troubles that cause the rebels." He died of lung cancer. Married and divorced three times, he is survived by his partner, Barbara Webster, two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.





Carl Preston Oglesby Jr, writer and activist: born Akron, Ohio 30 July 1935: married Beth Rimanoczy (marriage dissolved; two sons, one daughter), second Anne Mueller; third Sally Waters (marriages dissolved); died Montclair, New Jersey 13 September 2011.

Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam