Chicago Icon ‘Studs' Terkel Dies

Pulitzer Prize-winning author was 96

CHICAGO -- Studs Terkel died Friday afternoon at his home on the North Side of Chicago.

The 96-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning author, television pioneer, theatrical actor, radio host for nearly half a century, unrepentent leftie and friend of the little man passed away peacefully after a short time in home hospice care.

"He had a very full, eventful and sometimes tempestuous life ," said his son Dan. "It was very satisfactory."

Born in New York City in 1912, the son of a tailor and a seamstress, he was named Louis by his parents, but everyone called him Studs.

The family moved to Chicago when he was eight years old and opened a boarding house on Wells Street.

He received a law degree from the University of Chicago but never used it.

"The fact is, I wasn't cut out to be a lawyer," Terkel said during an interview with Carol Marin a couple of years ago.

He turned to radio in the 30s and appeared in bit parts on soap operas.

"I auditioned and got the job as a gangster. I remember the name. I was 'Butch Malone,'" Terkel said.

In 1949, Studs gravitated to something brand new: television.

And he was a star.

Despite success, his program was pulled off the air in the 50s. It was the peak of Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-communist "Red Scare," and Terkel went on record deploring McCarthyism.

Just last week in an interview with Huffington Post columnist Edward Lifson, Terkel called out the Republican vice-presidential candidate, saying, "That Sarah Palin - you know, she's Joe McCarthy in drag!"

"I got in trouble because I signed all kinds of petitions. I always say, 'I never met a petition I didn't like.' I got in trouble and didn't work for a while," he recalled.

He returned to radio but it was as an author that he made his ultimate mark, becoming the country's pre-eminent oral historian.

In book after book he celebrated the quiet courage and hard work of ordinary Americans, celebrating the uncelebrated men and women of this country.
"What's it like to be a certain person in a certain circumstance at a certain time?" he told Marin.

He contrasted rich and poor along the same Chicago street in the 1966 novel "Division Street: America," explored the Depression in 1970's "Hard Times" and chronicled how people felt about their jobs in the 1974 novel, "Working."

His highly acclaimed book The Good War, chronicled the lives of American GI's.

"What's it like to be a little kid, who's a mama's boy, hitting the shores of Normandy in 1944?" Terkel said of the work.

Nearly 40 years later, in 1985, The Good War was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

On his 90th birthday, the City of Chicago honored him.

"If you hang around long enough on this planet, anything is possible," Terkel said.

He wrote 18 books. His last, titled Touch and Go was his own memoir: a final chapter after a truly astonishing life.

"Here's my epitaph: Curiosity did not kill this cat."

His son, Dan Terkel issued a statement through colleague and close friend Thom Clark.

"My dad led a long full eventful, sometimes tempestuous, but very satisfying life," Terkell said, describing his father's death as "peaceful, no agony. This is what he wanted."

 In a piece on his Web site, movie critic Roger Ebert reflects on his relationship with Terkel. 


According to, Terkel's next book, P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening, is to be released on Monday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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