Marty Jezer, longtime Progressive Populist contributing writer, died June 11 at his home in Brattleboro, Vt., after a long fight with cancer. He was 64.
A native of the Bronx, N.Y., he was deeply involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements in the 1960s and moved to Vermont to start the Total Loss commune in the late 1960s. He was author of several books, including Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (1992); Rachel Carson: Biologist and Author (1988); The Dark Ages: Life in the United States 1945-1960, his 1982 history of post-World War II America; and Stuttering: A Life Bound Up In Words, his 1997 book on his lifelong struggle with stuttering. He also wrote weekly columns for the Brattleboro Reformer.
In a June 13 obit for the Reformer, Randolph Holhut noted that Jezer was a cofounding editor of WIN (Workshop in Nonviolence) magazine, a publication sponsored by the War Resisters League that survived until 1983. Jezer also wrote for Liberation News Service and Liberation magazine.
Jezer once wrote with pride that his FBI file of about 125 pages included a note that he was "vastly talented in writing."
In 1988, he cofounded the Working Group on Electoral Democracy, an association of grassroots activists and researchers devoted to campaign finance reform. Jezer helped draft legislation for "clean elections" that was eventually adopted by Maine and Arizona. The National Stuttering Association honored him with its Member of the Year award in 1999.
Jezer was first treated for testicular cancer in 2003. When the cancer returned a year later, spreading into the vertebrae of his lower back, he kept writing even though he was in deep pain that made even sitting up in bed excruciating, Holhut wrote. The cancer appeared to be in remission last fall, but it returned with a vengeance just a few weeks before his death.
"Fighting off cancer takes a huge toll on the mind and the body, but Jezer was determined to stay engaged with the political issues of the world. The activist in him demanded nothing less," Holhut wrote.
"I believe in the bumper-sticker slogan 'Question Authority.' One should never accept the statements of people and parties in power," Jezer wrote in January 2005. "But to this I always add my own little saying, 'Question Assumptions.' Never accept without question the ideas and arguments of people on your own side. Always question everything."
"That was his writing style," Holhut wrote. "He always sought common ground. He challenged his readers but never lectured them. And above all, he wrote in the hope that someone might change their minds or, at least, consider the other side of the argument."
"I like to think that I've educated some people and opened up a few minds," wrote Jezer. "That is what motivates me, in sickness and health, to sit down at my computer and turn out this column."
Survivors include Arlene Distler, his partner of 12 years; his daughter, Kathryn Ruth Jezer-Morton; a future son-in-law Gray Miles; Kathryn's mother Mimi Morton; and stepchildren Josh, Aaron, Rachel and Ezra Distler.
Memorial donations may be sent in his name to the National Stuttering Association, Speak Easy, Friends, a local political organization of your choosing, a political campaign or the building fund of the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community.
(See also Joyce Marcel's tribute to Marty in the 7/15/05 TPP.)