Studs Terkel dead at 96

November 1, 2008 12:00:58 PM PDT
Chicago icon Studs Terkel, an activist and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was 96 years old.Studs Terkel was a man who loved words. And today, his loved ones used so many to describe him.

They called him the world's best oral historian, a Chicago icon and journalistic pioneer. Certainly Terkel was a man who had a way with words, even as the years went by.

"I wake up each morning and gather my wits. I pick up the paper and read the obits. If my name is not in there, I know I'm not dead and I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed," said Terkel.

Studs Terkel was 90 years old then. He lived six more years and touched thousands throughout his lifetime.

"While I call him my friend, we have to remember, 12,000 people in the City of Chicago could say the same thing and they wouldn't be kidding. He was that approachable, that personable," said Alton Miller, Terkel's friend.

Stud's TV show started in the 40s and 50s. It was just one line on his lengthy resume.

"He used three separate platforms, if you will - television, radio, and the written word - to communicate the stories of average people in an above average writing style," said Bruce DuMont, Founder & President of The Museum of Broadcast Communications.

His writing became a voice for the voiceless, an accomplished author who never stopped writing or listening.

"He taught me you don't look through people. Everybody out there has a story to tell. It may not be a front page story, but it a story at least worth listening to. And this man is the greatest listener who has ever lived," said Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune writer and friend.

In fact, his radio show on WFMT lasted more than 45 years.

"He was not a sound bite person. He was someone who wanted to get it all. He wanted to spend an hour and a half with you. He wanted to hear everything you had to say," said Russell Lewis, Exec. V.P. Chicago Historical Society.

He listened and never held back on his own opinions, especially politics. And, in fact, friends say he had been following the presidential race closely.

"He had a political philosophy - it was left of center, it was progressive. He believed it, he stood up for it. He wore it on his sleeve," said DuMont.

"He gave voice to people who didn't have a voice before . I think wherever he is, he's smiling his head off," said Kogan.

Even with all his success and accomplishments, Rick Kogan told ABC7 Terkel never had a driver's license. According to Kogan, Terkel got around town on the bus or train. And that's how he wanted it, so he could listen and talk to everyday folks.


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