Charles L. Levendosky, one of the founding columnists of The Progressive Populist and a steadfast supporter of the First Amendment and other civil liberties, died March 14 in the loving arms of his wife at his home in Casper, Wyo., from colon cancer. He was 67. Born in the Bronx, N.Y., to a military family, his schooling was diverse -- from Oklahoma to Germany. As an adult, he also lived in the Virgin Islands and Japan.
He was a poet and a journalist who received an undergraduate degree in both physics and mathematics and a master's in education from New York University. He taught in New York, Georgia, New Jersey and Wyoming and did poetry readings in places as varied as Harvard University to auditoriums filled with coal miners in Gillette, Wyo. He moved from New York City to Wyoming in 1972 and fell in love with the state.
On July 15, 1961, he married Charlotte Jaeger in New York. They were divorced in 1997. On Feb. 8, 1999, he married Dale Eva Eckhardt in Casper.
He wrote 12 books and chapbooks in addition to a remarkable career in journalism. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1974. In 1988, Gov. Mike Sullivan selected him as Wyoming's Poet Laureate. He served in that capacity until the end of Sullivan's term in office.
He was editorial page editor and a columnist for the Casper Star-Tribune since 1982. His weekly column was distributed by the New York Times wire service and appeared in more than 225 newspapers around the country. He also edited the First Amendment Cyber-Tribune (fact.trib.com). He was equipped with a home office in 1999 when illness prevented him from working in the Star-Tribune building and he continued to write editorials and his weekly column despite having metastatic cancer.
Levendosky earned a reputation as an expert on First Amendment issues. He was honored with the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for Print Journalism, American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award, the Baltimore Sun's H.L. Mencken Award and the Society of Professional Journalists' First Amendment Award. He was the recipient of a number of First Amendment awards given by the American Library Association and the Freedom to Read Foundation.
Nationally syndicated columnist Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice told the Star-Tribune he and Levendosky shared leads on stories about infringements on the Bill of Rights, including the PATRIOT Act. "It's one thing to have the passion and the concern with keeping the liberties that the administration keeps telling us they're fighting to preserve against the terrorists, but it's quite another -- and it's much more rare -- to have somebody who writes about that with such meticulous care as to facts and the kind of research he did," Hentoff said. When he taught graduate journalism students at New York University last year, Hentoff said, "I kept reading them some of the things (Levendosky) did as the best examples I could think of (to show) what responsible journalism is. He really had the passion and a keen sense of his responsibilities to his readers."
Levendosky was one of the first writers to sign on with The Progressive Populist when it was founded in 1995. He was generous with his support through the years.
The family requests donations in his memory to Freedom to Read Foundation, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL, 60611; Wyoming Outdoor Council, 262 Lincoln St., Lander, WY, 82520; the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, 125 Broad St., 18th Floor, N.Y., N.Y., 10004; Native American Rights Fund, 1506 Broadway, Boulder, CO, 80302; Central Wyoming Hospice Program, 319 S. Wilson, Casper, WY, 82601; "or any organization that believes in preserving the beauty of our land and the right of freedom for all beings would be appreciated."