New York City, New York , United States
|| October 25, 1929
|Died||August 17, 2018
Aug 17, 2018 03:56pm
Caucasian - Single - Imprisoned - ACLU - Atheist - Gay -
|Info||David McReynolds was born in Los Angeles, California, on October 25, 1929, a few days before the Black Thursday stock market crash. He denies that his birth had any link to that crash. Both of his parents were natives of California. |
Growing up in Los Angeles, David McReynolds was the valedictorian for his class both at Bret Harte Jr. High School and at George Washington High School, but had to take a remedial course in summer school to get into UCLA. He was raised in the Sunnyside Baptist Church in Los Angeles, became active in the temperance movement, and in 1948 he went to Garden City, KS, at the age of 17 to help organize for the Prohibition Party.
He attended college at UCLA between 1947 and 1953. He joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1948, and in 1951 made his first trip to Europe, on an old Greek liner, to a pacifist youth conference in Denmark. It was during that sea voyage that he realized he was a socialist, and resigned from the Prohibition Party. On his return he broke his ties with the Protestant Church and joined the Socialist Party.
At UCLA he majored in Political Science, became active in campus politics, heading an unsuccessful drive to get the ROTC courses put on a voluntary basis. At this time he also began writing Op Ed pieces for the campus paper, the Daily Bruin. In 1952 he refused military service on the ground of conscience, and was arrested, but the case was dismissed on a technicality. (The issue involved the unwillingness of the FBI to release the reports, which served as the basis for denying the CO status - the McReynolds dismissal was one of several occurring at the same time across the country).
In 1956 he left for New York City to take a job at Liberation magazine. However by the time he got there, the job had been filled. He got various clerical jobs, with the help of friends in the pacifist movement, including one where he worked under Ella Baker. He was an assistant to the late Bayard Rustin during the various Madison Square Garden Rallies in support of the growing Civil Rights movement.
The post at Liberation magazine opened up in 1957 and David took that job and held it until 1960. It was �a job to kill for� - once a week the Liberation Board, which consisted of A.J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, Dave Dellinger, Sid Lens, and Roy Finch met for several hours to discuss coming issues. The three years at Liberation provided an education not available at any university.
He was hired by War Resisters League in 1960 as a field secretary to reach out to young people.
He remained with the League until his retirement on January 1st, 1999. During that time he traveled across the country, visiting almost every state, speaking for the pacifist position. He was arrested a number of times, in New York City for protesting the Civil Defense Drills (for which he served a brief 28 day jail term), in North Carolina on Civil Rights issues, at the late Gimbel�s Department store on labor issues (along with others he was arrested in the men�s dept. for wearing a T shirt in support of striking textile workers).
During the Vietnam War, David McReynolds served on virtually all the leading committees of the various coalitions to bring that war to and end, and, with A.J. Muste, wrote a definitive analysis in 1964 calling for unconditional U.S. withdrawal. In 1966 he visited Saigon to meet with dissident Buddhist leaders. Also in 1966 he traveled widely in Western Europe organizing opposition to the U.S. policies, meeting with trade unionists, religious leaders, and members of various Parliaments (including the late Olaf Palme, who later became Swedish Prime Minister).
He returned to Vietnam in 1971 to visit Hanoi during the war. (He returned again in 1981, visiting Hanoi, Saigon, and Phnom Penh. Before the issue of the Khmer Rouge slaughters had become a topic of outrage, and at a time when the U.S. was still closely allied with Pol Pot�s regime in exile, he was able to see the torture chambers and see and photograph the death pits.). At that time he also tried to meet with the same dissident Buddhist leader he had seen in 1966 and objected strongly, both there with his Vietnamese hosts, and on his return, to the fact that he was denied that meeting.
David McReynolds served on the Council of the War Resisters International for ten years during the height of the Cold War, and found himself trapped in Prague in 1968 when Soviet tanks rolled in. He later became the Chair of War Resisters International at its meeting in India in 1986, a post he held for three years.
In 1987 he was on a delegation to the Soviet Union at a time of great upheaval. He became convinced that Gorbachev was going to make fundamental changes in Soviet policy - at a time when Western leaders were still distrustful.
In 1989 he was on a delegation organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation to Libya, in an effort to help establish direct contact with that country. And in 1991, shortly after Iraq�s invasion of Kuwait, and after Saddam Hussein had taken some Westerners hostage, he was on another delegation organized by the F.O.R. which spent over a week in Baghdad, and which succeeded in gaining the release of several hostages. While he was also a leader in the anti-Gulf War movement, he had been shocked by the visit to Baghdad and was as hostile to Saddam�s regime as to the U.S. efforts to destroy him. He has remained a consistent and unwavering critic of U.S. policy toward Iraq.
His history with the Socialist movement began when he joined the Westwood Socialist Club and, in 1951, joined the Socialist Party. Before going East in 1956, he had helped organized the CFSP - the Coalition for a Socialist Program - which was effectively the left wing of the SP. Also, in 1956 he organized private dialogues with Dorothy Healey and others in the Communist Party who had begun to question some positions of the Communist Party. He has sought over the years to build bridges between various groups in the Left. He was instrumental in bringing the late Max Shachtman, and the members of his group - the Independent Socialist League - into the Socialist Party in 1958. This was a move he later had cause to regret, as Shachtman moved steadily to the far right politically, eventually supporting the Vietnam War.
In 1958 David McReynolds made his first run for Congress in the 19th CD in Lower Manhattan, but failed to qualify for the ballot and ran as a write-in candidate. In 1968 he tried again, as a candidate on the Peace and Freedom ticket (headed at that time by the late Eldridge Cleaver). He qualified for ballot status and won about 5% of the vote. In 1980 he sought the nomination of the Socialist Party for President, traveling in 25 states, but making it onto the ballot in only 11 and gaining slightly less than 10,000 votes.
He served for many years on the National Committee of the Socialist Party but had retired from any posts in the Party (except for local organizing work) in 1997. He was taken by surprise by a draft movement originating with the party�s Young People�s Socialist League, and in August of 1999 agreed to seek the nomination, which he gained at the October convention of the SP.
David McReynolds has written numerous articles over the years, in publications as diverse as the Progressive, Village Voice, WIN magazine, Nonviolent Activist, etc., and is the author of one book, a collection of essays titled We Have Been Invaded by the 21st Century, published in 1969. That book also included his essay on homosexuality, which was first published in WIN magazine. David McReynolds was perhaps the only public figure, aside from Allen Ginsberg, to have made his homosexuality public in an effort to help ease the pressure on homosexuals.
His life has not been without problems, for the most part self-inflicted. During the 1960's he became an alcoholic, joining AA in 1974, and has been sober since. This experience, taken together with is homosexuality, have helped give him some insight into the darker sides of life in this country.
He is currently a member of the Socialist Party, the Committees of Correspondence, Democratic Socialists of America, Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Civil Liberties Unions, the board of the New York Bromeliad Society, and the board of the Mutual Housing Association, which runs the buildings in the Lower East Side where he has lived for well over 30 years.
He is the oldest of the three children of Elizabeth Grace Tallon, a registered nurse until marriage, and Lt. Col. Charles McReynolds, an Army Air Force Intelligence officer during World War II who was an early visitor to the ruins of Hiroshima. His paternal grandfather was also a Lt. Colonel, who served as secretary to Admiral Dewy during the Spanish American War; A somewhat unusual background for a future leader of the American peace movement! Both parents are deceased. His younger brother, Martin McReynolds, is a journalist, and father of three children, and his sister, Elizabeth Ann, is a teacher and mother of four children. David McReynolds lives with two Siamese cats in the same small apartment he has been in since before 1960.