This morning when I went out to run some errands I took the iPod with me and set it on shuffle songs.Phil Ochs‘ song “The Ballad of William Worthy” came on about in the middle of the trip. Since Mr Worthy died on the 4th of last month (May), I’ll take the playing of the song as a sign that I should take a few moments to reflect on the life of a very important journalist that we should all know a little more about!!
William Worthy was born in Boston on July 7, 1921. He received a B.A. degree in sociology from Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, in 1942 and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, class of 1957. He went on to become a thorn in side of the US government as journalist, civil rights activist, and dissident who pressed his right to travel regardless of U.S. State Department regulations. Go William Worthy!!! From Wikipedia:
Worthy traveled to China (1956–57) and Cuba (1961) in violation of United States State Department travel regulations. At the time he entered China, Worthy was the first American reporter to visit and broadcast from there since the country’s communist revolution in 1949. While in China Worthy interviewed Samuel David Hawkins, an American soldier who was captured by the Chinese during the Korean War and defected to China in 1953. His passport was seized upon his return to the U.S. from China and American lawyers Leonard Boudin and William Kunstler represented Worthy in an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking the return of his passport. Without a passport, Worthy traveled to Cuba in the early days of Fidel Castro to report on the Cuban revolution, and upon his return to the U.S. he was tried and convicted for “returning to the United States without a valid passport.” Worthy was again represented by Kunstler, who successfully persuaded a federal appeals court to overturn Worthy’s conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found the restrictions unconstitutional. The court held that the government could not make it a crime under the Constitution to return home without a passport. Read More
When I went to Youtube to search for videos of the Phil Ochs song “The Ballad of William Worthy” I spotted this video titled “The Most Important Journalist You’ve Never Heard Of”: Remembering William Worthy (1921-2014) It’s a great piece from Democracy Now! highlighting Worthy’s trip to Iran after the end of the 1979 hostage crisis. The piece provides some highlights of the return trip when according to Wikipedia….
…..the luggage of Worthy and two other journalists working with him, Terri Taylor and Randy Goodman, was seized by the FBI and CIA on their return from Iran; and they subsequently won a suit on Fourth Amendment grounds.
I was familiar with the trips to Cuba and China in the 60s, but wasn’t really aware of this trip, so the Democracy Now! piece was quite interesting, take about ten minutes to watch the segment, it’s well worth it..
One person who obviously was quite aware of Mr. Worthy’s exploits, at least in the 60s, was Phil Ochs. Phil in his song “The Ballad of William Worthy” does a good job of pointing out the hypocrisy of the government at times, when it comes to freedom. Phil often pointed out that trait in his song, he even aimed his taunts at his fellow “liberals” in the song “Love Me, Love Me I’m a Liberal” So here is “The Ballad of William Worthy” And Mister Worthy – Thanks!