Bill Hogan, peace and justice activist

Political, religious and community leaders were among friends who paid tribute at a memorial for Bill Hogan held at Chicago’s St. Bride’s Catholic Church, Jan. 9.

Hogan, 76, was a long-time activist in civil rights, peace and justice issues and a member of the Communist Party. For many years he was a Catholic priest, and even after he left the priesthood he widely known as “Father Bill Hogan.” He died here of a heart attack on New Year’s Eve.

Well over 100 people attended the memorial, including a group of co-workers from the Cook County Adult Probation Department, where he worked for the past 13 years. Each co-worker who spoke said that they had never heard Hogan say a bad word about anyone.

Rev. Willie Barrow, chairperson emeritus of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, read a resolution noting that Father Hogan had attended the first meeting of Operation Breadbasket, the forerunner Rainbow/PUSH, in the 1960s. Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at the Rainbow/PUSH meeting on Jan. 10, also praised Hogan’s work and noted that for years they had marched and demonstrated together in the fight for social justice.

John Bachtell, district organizer of the Communist Party of Illinois, said that Hogan saw the present political system as flawed and that the only possible solution was socialism. “He never saw his belief in socialism or membership in the Party as a contradiction to his religious beliefs,” Bachtell said.

In 1961, Hogan organized a “wade-in” at beaches along the city’s Lake Michigan waterfront where African Americans were traditionally barred from swimming.

Hogan marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. against Chicago’s segregated housing and with Dick Gregory and others in anti-Vietnam war demonstrations. He was arrested with others in 1971 for pouring red dye in the Chicago River to protest U.S. conduct of the Vietnam War.

The causes Hogan supported often were not supported by the Chicago Archdiocese, and his actions riled his superiors. In 1971 he was suspended from diocesan duties for several years and sometimes lived at home with his mother. He had to find employment to support himself, often driving a taxi. He made a point of picking up passengers for any part of the city. Later reinstated to the priesthood, he voluntarily left it in the early 1980s.

Hogan and other South Side peace activists were on the street every week against the Iraq war, speaking to thousands.

At the memorial Rev. William Flaherty, a classmate of Hogan’s, said Hogan garnered a reputation that “his struggles were causes that we should be in.”

“If we saw Bill in a demonstration we knew it was a good thing and we should be involved,” said Flaherty. Father Flaherty mentioned Hogan’s passionate and lifelong love of the Chicago White Sox – a fact known by any friend or acquaintance of Hogan’s.

Hogan was quoted by a 1973 Tribune article as saying, “I thought the peace movement was a proper activity for a priest.”