BALTIMORE, Md.- They came from Connecticut and Illinois - and just down the street: Family, neighbors and activists honored veteran political and labor journalist Tim Wheeler here on September 9 with a special tribute dinner.
Guests dined on Caribbean food and heard original song stylings from progressive D. C. entertainer Luci Murphy. The tribute program book cover had a stunning full-color reproduction of one of Tim's watercolors. Inside were 20 pages of greetings and tributes, photos and doodles, and the lyrics to "This Land is Your Land" so everyone could sing along.
Emcee Lena White, a neighbor of the Wheelers for 40 years, read a proclamation from the Mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, honoring Wheeler for his many accomplishments.
Tim has worked for the People's World - including as its editor -- and its predecessors since 1966, covering stories from the civil rights movement to the Watergate scandal, from to Iran Contra revelations to the historic 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama His most recent contributions came from covering the DNC in Charlotte with many interviews and insightful analysis.
A power point display created by Tim and Joyce's daughter, Susan Wheeler, featured family photographs and stories that Tim has written over the decades.
Highlighting the evening for many were testimonials from Tim and Joyce's three children: Susan, Nick and Morgan, sharing their laughter and tears.
Susan recalled the 3000-mile family trips across the country. Every trip had to include camping equipment, Dad's painting box and the ever-present reporters notebooks, because another great story was always right around the bend. For economic reasons, the family never stayed in motels. Trips often took a long time, Susan noted, because Dad never missed a chance to stop at a picket line or a union hall.
Nick recalled the challenges and difficulties of having a father who was a leading Communist and often gone away on assignment, but he came to understand and admire his father's steadfast devotion.
Morgan recalled his dad confronting the FBI in the family living room, standing on a chair to face up to the taller, burly agents who were trying to intimidate the family. Morgan also paid tribute to his Mom, Joyce, who was the practical and financial bedrock for the family. Joyce is herself an activist, a retired public school teacher and leader of the Baltimore Teachers Union.
Allyson Wynn, a neighbor for many years, recalled how Tim would sit on the front porch and strum his autoharp. The words and melodies of the old folk songs Tim sang may have been unfamiliar to the kids, but they joined in singing anyway.
Among the other speakers were Jarvis Tyner, executive vice-president of the Communist Party USA and Joelle Fishman, chair of the Communist Party's Political Action Commission. Tyner recalled first meeting Tim in Amherst, Massachusetts almost 50 years ago, when both were struggling to make basic ends meet. Jarvis recounted events in Tim's long career, calling him a "model Communist." Fishman talked about Tim's on-point reporting from last week's Labor Day parade and Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC from where he filed seven stories. People's World co-editor Teresa Albano called Tim the "Dean of working class journalism."
Event organizers plan to donate the proceeds to the People's World Fund Drive.