John Pappademos, Marxist scholar and activist, 82

John Pappademos, a Marxist scholar, fighter for peace and justice, and longtime member of the Communist Party, died on May 6. He was 82.

Pappademos was born into a poor working-class family in St. Louis. During the Depression, his parents were unable to care for Pappademos and his brother, and the children were put in orphanages. A member of the Communist Party, Jim Moore, provided the support that made it possible for the family to be reunited.

When Pappademos was 16, Moore arranged for him to attend Harris Teachers College. From there, he went to the University of Iowa, which he attended while serving in the Naval Reserve. In 1951, Pappademos earned his master’s degree from Washington University, where he participated in a campus desegregation campaign. In 1964, he received his doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago.

During the 1950s and later, Pappademos and his wife, Ella, and their interracial family faced racist and anticommunist harassment. Nevertheless, Pappademos secured a job teaching at the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC).

At UIC, Pappademos was involved in attempts to organize the faculty into a union. He was also active in the fight against the Vietnam War, serving as the national chair of Scientists Against the Vietnam War.

Pappademos frequently wrote articles on science for Political Affairs, the Communist Party USA’s theoretical journal, as well as writing for Marxist and non-Marxist scholarly journals. From 1988-2001, he was a referee for the American Journal of Physics.

One of Pappademos’ areas of scholarly interest was the African origins of math and science. His paper, “An Outline of Africa’s Role in the History of Physics,” was published in Ivan Van Sertima’s seminal anthology, “Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern.” He was also a contributor to the Journal of African Civilizations.

After his retirement from UIC, Pappademos and his wife moved to Nevada. He took a retirement job as customer service representative for an airline and participated in a drive to organize his co-workers into a union. He also was a regular distributor of the People’s Weekly World and wrote many articles for it.

Later Pappademos and his wife returned to St. Louis, where he served on the board of the Missouri/Kansas District of the Communist Party in addition to being on the party’s national committee. In May 2005, he was honored at the Missouri/Kansas Friends of the People’s Weekly World annual awards breakfast, where he received a standing ovation. He had just celebrated his 55th year in the Communist Party.

During that year, though, Pappademos had been suffering from problems with his balance. In September of 2005, he underwent major brain surgery, but he recovered and resumed his political activities, including writing for the People’s Weekly World.

A week before his death, he fell and broke several vertebrae.

His funeral was held on May 21 in St. Louis.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, two grandchildren (a third is expected in August) and many friends and comrades.