September Song1965 1
"I told him that I wouldn't work for him because he is a vulgar, corrupt redneck.""Chucky, you didn't!""I did!""He's the President of the United States!""Of America ... there are also United States of Mexico and of Brazil and Indonesia.""Regardless!" I waved my hand in protest, one of my favorite gestures in dealing with my husband, especially when he's showing off how smart he is."I'm sorry ...""I should hope so!""That I didn't tell him that he was a lying son of a bitch."I had been waiting for him in our suite at the Hay-Adams Hotel, across Lafayette Park from the White House. It was a suite because I had made the reservation. If my husband, Charles Cronin O'Malley, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany, had made them we would have been in a double room with a double instead of a king-size bed. He would never get over the Great Depression. I've always had a little money, though I've paid a heavy price for it.He sprawled on a chair, raincoat still on. Despite his pose of nonchalance, he was upset, a little boy whose candy had been stolen from him by a bully--a bully almost a foot taller--in this case from Central Texas. He didn't want the candy anymore, but, as I would say, regardless, it had been taken away from him.My husband will always be something of a little boy, which is one of the reasons I am dizzy in love with him, sawed-off little redheaded runt that he is."Woman," he said wearily, "I want me tea!"Most men recovering from an encounter with Lyndon BainesJohnson would have wanted a drink. But Chuck doesn't drink, save for the occasional glass of wine at meals. I don't drink at all because I'm a drunk. So we brew tea late in the afternoon instead. Rather I brew it because Chuck, perhaps because of his partial South Side Irish heritage, is content with popping a tea bag into a cup of boiling water.("Mommy," asked my daughter April Rosemary, "why don't you drink like the mothers of my friends do?""Does that bother you?""No, I'm glad you don't drink. Some of them act real silly.""I did too before Daddy stopped me."So soon had she forgotten!"Daddy!"Daddy was sweet and funny and adorable. And took real good pictures. But he never did anything really important."Daddy," I said firmly."How did he stop you?""He told me if I drank again, he'd make me take care of all you kids by myself!"That was close enough to the truth. Actually he would have taken care of the four little monsters--that was before the fifth came along--by himself."He did NOT."We both laughed and she hugged me and we loved and trusted one another till the next crisis of growing up came along.)"Let it steep," I instructed him as I placed the teapot--ordered up from room service--on a coaster."Yes, ma'am ... Rosemarie, that West Texas hillbilly is going to send a 165,000 troops to Vietnam before the year is over!""Central Texas," I corrected. "West Texas is west of the Pecos, you know Judge Roy Bean's territory."Chucky's eyes twinkled. Most men would resent such an interruption from a smart-mouth wife. For some odd reason he enjoyed them."He's forgotten about Korea!" I went on."I've been telling people for years that he is too shrewd a politician to make that mistake." Chuck reached for the plate of cookies I had brought out."Not till the tea is ready," I admonished him."Yes, ma'am." He sighed. "And the stupid generals who have no idea how to fight a guerrilla war will mess it up. It could go on for a decade. The Vietnamese have nothing to lose but lives. Good Communists never worry about such things. Bourgeois morality.""Our kids ..." I gasped."In ten years"--he rubbed his hand over his eyes--"the boys will all be of draft age ... If we didn't have the damn draft, we wouldn't fight land wars in Asia. Your friend over at 1600 wouldn't have 165,000 men to send into the Asian jungles."Paying little attention to what I was doing, I poured the tea."Dear God, Chuck ...""God's pretty unpredictable, but I'd trust him more than I'd trust that lying redneck.""Deus absconditus,
a God who has absconded," I said in an automatic reference to St. Augustine.In our marriage, Chuck and I trade citations. I usually win. Also I have to stay at least one book ahead of him. He says he doesn't want to fight it or I won't sleep with him, which isn't true.(Some of my women friends tell me that my husband is oversexed. I don't know whether he is or not, but I tell them that's fine with me because I'm oversexed too.)"Good tea, Rosemarie," he said, "not that it is a surprise.""Tell me more about LBJ.""He starts out by telling me that I have to help him get out of the mess in Vietnam, like I'm the only one in the country that can do it. I say that he should get rid of all the Kennedy holdovers and surround himself with Texas politicians who think the way he does. I didn't say Texas hillbillies because I was still being civil. He says that he thought that they were all my friends. I say that they are, but he still ought to have his own people in place.""You were right of course ... And he said?"I had paid no attention to politics before we went to Germany. I had learned a lot on the subject since then, more than I really wanted to know."Changed the subject. Complained about Adlai up at the UN. Had to get someone else. Good man, but too much of an egghead. Soft as shit, an interesting mix of metaphors. I was supposed to rise to the bait like most of those people over there would. I didn't say athing. He said he needed me back at Bonn for a couple of months, and then we'd see about the UN. I said I was submitting my resignation. Wanted to go home to Chicago and raise my kids. He said that he was the commander in chief and that he had to order young men to go to Vietnam and die for the country and he was ordering me to go back to my post as Ambassador to West Germany."That sort of order would cut no ice with my Chucky."And you told him that you'd already done your military service and you were going home?""How did you guess? ... Then he asked me why and I told him what I thought of him. So he pulled his bathroom trick, door open, flushing toilet, and all ... At least he flushed the toilet ... So I silently rode off into the sunset. Only when I left the Oval Office did I regret that I hadn't called him a liar. He's escalating that war and not telling the public about it.""The public doesn't want to know, Chuck."He pondered that."You're right, Rosemarie my darling, you're right. But when they find out, they'll say that LBJ and his advisers lied to them. I don't want to be one of those advisers.""Then what?""Then I went down to see Mac Bundy and told him what happened and he said they would need people like me around in the difficult times ahead and that he was sure that the UN appointment would come down by spring and I said that I didn't want it if it came down tomorrow."Chuck had put aside his career as a photographer to enter public service during the Kennedy years like so many enthusiastic young Americans. "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you." For one so young he was awarded a big prize, Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. There had been moaning and groaning from the press (including the sainted New York Times
) and the Republicans that despite his dissertation (on the Marshall Plan's economic impact on postwar Germany) and his photography books about Germany after the war he wasn't old enough or experienced enough for the job. The Embassy staff in Bonn were horrified. One of the senior staff resigned and a couple of others requested transfers. Everyone soon learned that with hisquick wit, his quicker smile, and his even quicker tongue and his enormous charm my Chucky Ducky was a natural diplomat. Like he said, "when you're a sawed-off punk with red hair, you gotta be charming."The Old One, Konrad Adenauer, the Chancellor of West Germany, who rarely smiled, had met Chuck in Bamberg when he was in the army of occupation and simply adored him. His face would light up in a happy grin whenever Chuck appeared."Ja, Ja, Herr Roter!""Ja,
"Adenauer, the frosty old democrat of whom even the Nazi were afraid and who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the political and economic revival of West Germany after the war, was terribly proud that he had been the Lord Mayor of Cologne since practically forever. Chuck, never one not to push his luck, suspected that he secretly liked the title, though officially--and Germany is a country where everything is official--he was Herr Reichkanzler. The marvelous old man beamed.So Chuck merely had to pick up the phone and call his private line, as he did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the spring of 1962. "Herr Reichkanzler, the Russians have missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy wants me to bring the pictures over to you. Now."Adenauer knew from the use of the official title that this was serious business. He saw Chuck within a half hour. West Germany was the first country to sign on to the "boycott" of Russian ships, for which Chuck received considerable praise, even in the New York Times
, which never really likes Irishmen, especially mouthy ones.Those were scary days everywhere, especially in Bonn, because almost everyone feared that the Red Army would arrive at the Rhine in twenty-four hours. Chuck dissented. "They're in as bad a shape if not worse than our army is. Their machines will break down before they get through the Harz mountains."Fortunately we never had to find out who was right in the argument.I knew a fair amount of German and Chuck could cover up his mistakes with his usual infectious grin. We sent our four oldest to German schools instead of the local American one which also won us points. It was sink or swim for April Rosemary and her threebrothers. Being O'Malleys, they swam of course. Being clowns like their father, they took great delight in imitating the seriousness of German teachers and students while at the same time entertaining them.I stayed sober and played the grande dame,
shanty-Irish style, got my picture in the papers almost as much as the local media stars, and sang German songs on every possible occasion. We both wore PT 109 pins.We had, in other words, a great time and represented the United States of America with considerable grace, if I do say so myself.It all fell apart for us on November 22, 1963, when Jack Kennedy was shot. As Pat Moynihan said we thought he had more time and so did he. Camelot, as people would later call it, was over. We were asleep when the first phone call came. We wept in each other's arms and then woke the kids and said the rosary with them."It's all over, Rosemarie," Chuck whispered to me. "The magic is finished."We didn't know then how completely over it was.Neither of us had any illusions about Jack Kennedy. We knew that he was a sick man and, like his father, an incorrigible womanizer. We also knew that he was the only one in Washington who, with some help from his brother, kept the missile crisis from turning into a nuclear war. He was witty and graceful and charming and Irish (though not Irish like the Chicago Irish) and we told ourselves that his sexual behavior was none of anyone's business.He liked me and treated me with infinite respect. I guess the passes were reserved for movie actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson. He probably realized that I would clobber him--literally--if he tried to hit on me.At the time of his death the State Department told all its envoys to stay at their posts to reassure our allies and our enemies that America would weather the crisis. We ignored the rule and flew on one of the new Pan Am 747s from Frankfurt to New York for the wake and the funeral. Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State, a nice man but persnickety, was furious at Chuck, and told him so."Fine, Dean," my husband said. "You can have my resignation tomorrow morning if you want it. We Irish Catholics go to our friends' wakes."Rusk backed down.It was a terrible weekend. I have often thought that if I didn't get drunk then, I never would again.Chuck never liked LBJ. On the way back to Frankfurt he told me he would resign immediately and we'd return to Chicago. I talked him out of it. He had to stay until the election next year. Johnson would push Jack's Civil Rights Bill through Congress. He kept all of the Camelot staff. We thought that perhaps some of our dreams might be salvaged. LBJ had words of high praise for Chuck when he visited Bonn. "Bullshit," my husband had whispered. The trial balloons went up that Chuck might go to the UN. We were both elated. The Camelot spirit of government service still drove us. We might yet make the world a better place; American ingenuity and enthusiasm were still alive and well.Then we heard about the plans to escalate in Vietnam after the election. The public didn't vote for Barry Goldwater because they were afraid that he would start another war. Johnson and his advisers, the so-called "best and the brightest" and the military were secretly planing to do just that.My husband decided it was time to sign off."And what did Mac say to that?""He seemed surprised. That whole crowd figures that they can keep Jack's ghost alive by working with LBJ. They're wrong, the dead refusing to bury the dead."Pretty grim and gloomy sentiments from my cheery little leprechaun."More tea?""No thanks."Chuck almost always wanted more tea."Another cookie?""No."I waited to hear Gabriel blow his horn to indicate the world was about to come to an end. Chucky Ducky always
wanted another cookie.I curled up at his feet and took his hand in mine."Shitty," I said."Sure is." He sighed. "What was it that Pat said?""We'll laugh again but we'll never be young again.""Yeah."There was a dinner party scheduled that night. Chuck wanted to skip it. We belonged in Chicago, not this sick place, he insisted.And I insisted that the Irish go out with smiles. I won, like I usually did when the issue was something important. In fact, generally when it was unimportant. So I dressed up in one of my sexier dresses and made Chuck wear a tie.He whistled as I dressed. I told him not to be vulgar. He's seen me so often slightly naked, nearly naked, and totally naked, I don't know why it's such a big deal. He likes my little show, however. It's a wife's job to keep her husband happy.I love my husband (madly), I enjoy sex (usually), I am always modest (appropriately), and I'm delighted (generally) when, after all these years, I note that my husband is gaping at me."Isn't that a dress from our honeymoon?" he asks."Certainly not!""Same size though?""Regardless!" I waved my hand.He likes to make the point when I tell him you can't give birth to five children and still be erotically attractive.I retied his tie. He has never learned how to do it right and probably never will as long as I do it for him. He kissed me gently, a ceremony which always concludes the tie ritual.At least I don't have to tie his shoes--very often.The party was at a charming old home in Georgetown, all chandeliers and mirrors and crimson hangings and shining china and crystal. The guests were some of the last-ditch veterans of Camelot, witty, sophisticated, in-the-know, and almost as bright as they thought they were.As usual we were the center of attention, not because I was beautiful, which I was not, and not even because Chuck was funny, which he was even in his grim mood, but because he was considered a marginal member of the "best and the brightest" and because the UN rumors were on everyone's lips."Are you looking at an apartment in New York, Rosemarie?" a woman with too much makeup asked.Actually the Ambassador to the United Nations lives in a suite in the Waldorf Apartments."We have a nice home in Chicago," I said firmly.Dead silence."You're really leaving the administration?" a very important journalist (whom Chucky and I both thought was a pompous fool) demanded."I'm going back to Chicago where I belong," my leprechaun said grimly.Silence around the table."May one ask why?"I was afraid that Chuck would repeat his line about LBJ being a corrupt and vulgar redneck."The administration," he said somberly, "is bungling into another land war in Asia. I want no part of that policy."No longer Mr. Life of the Party."Surely we have to stand up to the Communists in Southeast Asia if we are to maintain our credibility," another journalist said as if that were as certain as a statement of papal infallibility. Later this jerk became a leading critic of the war. They all did."Our credibility to whom?""Well ... World public opinion.""There is no such thing.""Our allies will say that we can't be counted on.""Maybe our allies should learn to take care of themselves."Gasp around the room. Even the second-string members of the "best and the brightest" shouldn't talk that way."We have to stand up to the Communists." One of the least intelligent women at the table repeated the line."We stood up to them in Greece and Turkey," my pint-sized lover replied. "And with the Marshall Plan and in Iran and in the Berlin airlift and in Korea and during the missile crisis. Isn't there a statute of limitations?""You sound like an isolationist!" she cried in alarm. "Didn't we stop them in Korea?""It cost us forty thousand lives! That's a small number compared to what we will lose in a guerrilla war in a jungle! And we won't win it either."Someone changed the subject. Ambassador O'Malley was clearlywrong. The United States of America could do anything it wanted to do.In the car returning to the Hay-Adams that night, he sighed loudly, and said, "I don't belong at a party like that, Rosemarie. You do, because you're a bright elegant woman. I'm a little punk from the West Side of Chicago who stumbled in by mistake."When he's very discouraged, Chuck puts on that West-Side-punk-stumbling-in-by-mistake persona. The worst part of the act is that he half believes it, sometimes more than half.A light snow was dusting the narrow streets of Georgetown. It fell on the living and the dead and covered the graves of our hopes."Don't be silly," I reply, as the scenario demanded. "You're a very distinguished American diplomat.""Yeah, and I was an all-state quarterback too."He was not all-state. In fact, he was fourth-string on a team that had only three strings. By a fluke he scored the touchdown which beat Carmel and enabled us to go on to take city. Chuck became a legend. He was never able to understand that myths transcend facts."Even the New York Times
thinks you did a good job over there.""The professional foreign service people didn't.""What do they know."He had said to me once that for someone like him, who had to rely on wit and charm to get by, being an Ambassador was easier than being a precinct captain for the Dick Daley organization.Regardless, that was no reason to doubt his obvious intelligence--obvious to everyone but himself."I'm not the only one who has his doubts about Vietnam. Dean Rusk is the only one who has no questions. McNamara goes along because he thinks it's what the president wants. Mac Bundy tries to play a mediating game. The generals naturally want another war.""That doesn't sound like an analysis that a stumbling punk would make."He ignored my point."There's lots of doubt at the next level down--George Ball, John McNaughton. We're going to have half a million men in there for a five-year war before the American people even know that there's a war going on.""No!""I think we'll be lucky to be out in ten years--1975.""Chucky!""Yeah, I know, Rosemarie. It's all hard to believe. LBJ has heard those estimates. He doesn't believe them. He thinks he can control the military once they have a big army in the country. He's wrong ...""You have no choice but to quit if that's what's going to happen.""I know.""Don't give me bullshit that you don't belong here, not if you can predict exactly what will happen.""No points for being right five years early, Rosemarie my love ..."He put his arm around me and began to hum the music from Rosemarie
as we turned off Connecticut Avenue. I knew what would happen to me when we were back in the fading opulence of the Hay-Adams. My husband is a very shrewd observer of people. As a red-haired runt he's had to be. There is nothing about me he doesn't know. When I stop to think about that, I feel totally naked. That's so embarrassing that I try not to think about it. Some of the time.There is nothing in my sexuality that he hasn't figured out. Since the first time he kissed me at Lake Geneva when I was ten I have been mush in his hands. He knows when to leave me alone and when to seduce me and what kind of seductions to use at which times. He insists that all lovemaking is a kind of seduction, which I suppose it is. The result is that he can do to me whatever he wants whenever he wants--that is, if I'm ready for it.I don't like that. Well, I don't dislike it either. However, I resent his confidence that he knows all the things to say and all the buttons to push and all the places to kiss and caress. It should be difficult for him, should it not? What is left of my dignity and independence when I act like a pushover? I tell myself that someday I must have it out with him. I must insist that I'm not a pushover.Then I see the glint in his eye and the confident smile on his face and feel his fingers as they unzip and unhook me and his lips as they explore me. He has no right, no right at all to take everything away from me, all my secrets, all my defenses, all my modesty, and turn me into a pile of pliant mush.Except that I like being pliant mush.In the early stages of his assault I want him to go away and leave me alone. I am a drunk. I am an addictive personality. I am a neurotic.My father abused me sexually. My mother beat me, almost killed me with a poker. I am a terrible mother and an inadequate wife. I have had five children and am no longer beautiful. I have no right to sexual pleasure. I am a lousy lover. I don't say any of these things because I am incapable of saying anything. I need him, I want him, I must have him. I've wanted him to make love since he came back from the White House. I'd been aroused ever since. No time for night prayers today. Love is a prayer, Chucky argued long ago. Oh, take me, Chucky Ducky. Please love me, even if I am not worth loving. Push into me, fill me, drive me out of my mind, let me be love, nothing but love, love exploding in and around me, all over me, love tearing me apart.Love.Love for this man who is everything for me. I want to give myself completely to him. I reach for the gift. Suddenly it's there. We both shout for joy.Then peace.He's always very satisfied with himself after he's made love to me. He knows that he's done a good job and that I have been conquered again and loved it. That upsets me a little, but not very much because I am so complacent, so satisfied, so happy.This time he says, "You're sensational, Rosemarie, more so every time."I almost give a smart-ass Rosie answer, "You'd better say that."Instead God makes me say, "You make me better, Chucky," and burst into tears.He nurses me gently back to solid earth and sings to me. I lay my head on his chest and, undone again, pleasured completely, and filled with love, fall off to sleep.Damn it, he should go to sleep first, but he never does.For a few minutes of unbearably sweet ecstasy, I do not doubt myself.2
"President Kennedy was always very fond of you two," the ethereal woman in black whispered as though we were at the gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery instead of in her flawlessly furnished drawing room in the Maryland hunt country. "He said that you Chicago Irish were different from the Boston Irish.""Better," Chucky said with his most charming grin.She laughed softly, something she didn't do often these days."He was very proud of your work in Bonn," she said, the mask of sadness slipping over her face again. "He said you were in the top ten of his appointments.""Five," Chuck insisted.She laughed again."Of course ... I know he would understand the reason you're leaving government service. I merely wanted to tell you that."I had never been able to understand her relationship with the President. I had figured she liked being first lady and tolerated his infidelities as a necessary price for her role. Now I did not doubt that she had loved him and that her grief was real. Maybe in the world in which she grew up Jack Kennedy's screwing around was accepted as the sort of thing husbands do. I had warned Chuck that if he tried that sort of thing, I'd kill him. He had replied that probably that was the reason he became impotent every time he was tempted."Lyndon," Chuck said, "will do a lot for the civil rights movement. I support that, not that my support matters very much.""It's the war," I said with a sigh."Yes, I understand. President Kennedy often said to me that he would pull our troops out after the 1964 election."Now he was dead and we were sending more troops in. I hoped that God knew what He was doing.Both of us were silent."I want to thank you both for your friendship and loyalty," shesaid, rising from her couch, like a queen from a throne. "I hope we will meet again sometime during better days."Her eyes flooded with tears as she led us to the door."Life," my husband said, his voiced choked with sadness, "is too important ever to be anything but life.""Oh, yes," she agreed.We drove back to the Hay-Adams in driving rain. I was at the wheel because, as I had established, I was a better driver than he was. I think he let me win that argument because he found it easier not to drive. I turned on the local station that specialized in rock music, the Beach Boys singing "I Get Around" and the Beatles doing "I Feel Fine" and "Love Me, Do.""Well," my Chuck murmured, "a little touch of royalty is nice in our society, isn't it?""We'll not see her like again," I countered, usurping one of his lines."I guess not." He sighed. "Rosemarie, do we have to listen to that noise?""You know the rules. The one who drives the car gets to pick the station.""I can't remember voting on that rule.""You didn't."Chuck, like his father who knew Louis Armstrong and the other jazz greats of Chicago forty years before, was a jazz aficionado. Rock and roll music he told me was an effort at musical orgasm and I liked it because I was oversexed. That made me a little nervous because April Rosemary was in love with the Beatles."I know as well as you do what the word 'jazz' means.""It's different.""Why?""It just is."Then, shifting emotional gears, I said, "I worry about A.R.'s obsession with the Beatles."The three boys, growing into tall, rangy Black Irishmen who could be a junior unit in the Irish Republican Army, ignored rock and roll completely and concentrated on their horns, which they blew on every possible occasion, thus making our residence in Bonn soundlike a school for retarded musicians. Moire, as in all things, strove to imitate her big sister."Music never ruined anyone," Chuck said, his mind elsewhere. "Not unless people use drugs with it."That sent a chill through me. I was an addictive personality. What if my older daughter were too?"I could have stayed in Bonn for Lyndon," he continued, "if it wasn't for this damn war."The impulse to public service of the Kennedy years does not die easily. Perhaps that's why so many of his people stayed on with LBJ."Are you sure you have to quit?""Yep."He sank deeper into his seat in the car and closed his eyes, as if to blot out the Beatles, the rain, and the sad lines on a widow's face.I didn't fully understand his opposition to the war. Everyone in Washington was saying that we had to take a stand in Southeast Asia to stop the spread of Communism. You'd think from the hindsight history written later that the people who wrote the history had been wiser than Lyndon and his staff and opposed it from the beginning. That's bullshit. People who thought like Chuck and George Ball were few and far between. Mostly they kept their mouths shut.The O'Malleys had a long history of military service. His father had collapsed on the parade ground at Fort Leavenworth the day the war in Europe ended, a victim of the Spanish Influenza, and was almost buried alive. His grandfather had enlisted for the Spanish-American War, though he was, thank God, too old to be sent off to Cuba to die of malaria. His great-grandfather, the original Charles O'Malley had joined the Union Army as a raw immigrant boy at the age of eighteen. John Evangelist O'Malley (Chucky's delightful father, aka "Vangie"), having survived the flu, served in the Black Horse Troop National Guard unit between the two wars. He was called up two weeks after Pearl Harbor and was destined for the jungles of New Guinea. Chuck, then fourteen, somehow managed to persuade our local congressman to have him sent to Fort Sheridan. And Chuck himself had served in the Army of Occupation in Germany after the war, with considerable bravery as some of his friends from that era had whispered to me."Military service, yeah," Chuck said to me, "but none of us ever had a gun fired at them in anger.""Except you in that black market roundup outside of Wurzburg.""That doesn't count ... Too many people I know died in Korea."One person in particular, I thought--Christopher Kurtz, the best male friend, maybe the only male friend, Chuck ever had was killed leading his platoon of Marines out of the trap Douglas Mac-Arthur had sent them into at the Chosin Reservoir. Chris was killed attacking a Chinese machine-gun nest. As usual, in that strange core of the real Chucky Ducky, the arguments were always personal and local, no matter how good he was at articulating more sophisticated arguments."Not our kind of people," Chuck said, breaking a long silence."No," I agreed."Didn't have a neighborhood.""Neither of them ever did.""Well," my husband concluded the conversation, "we do and we're going back to it. That's where we belong. We'll stay there."That it was where we belonged I did not doubt. However, my husband was a restless soul. I did not take seriously his vow never to leave the neighborhood again.There were many layers beneath his quick-talking, pint-sized redhead persona, not that the top layer wasn't authentic. Chuck was a gifted artist, deeply sensitive and compassionate, incorrigibly romantic (he'd freed the magic princess from the tower and then ravaged her much to their mutual delight), and tough as they come when he had to be (as he had to be with me). He was also shrewd enough politically to be a precinct captain in Cook County and intellectually smart enough to turn down an appointment at THE University as we called it. I can't describe what the inner core of the man is because I don't know. However, down there in the subbasement of his soul is the reason why I love him.Oversexed?Maybe. If he is, like I say, so am I. That's why back in our suite at the Hay-Adams that terrible afternoon we buried ourselves in one another in yet another passionate obsequy for Camelot. The rain, driven across Lafayette Park by a fierce wind, beat mindlessly against the windows.It was also raining the first Sunday in March in our sprawling and comfortable Dutch Colonial house on New England Avenue in Oak Park, technically beyond the boundaries of St. Ursula parish, but still our parish because Chuck's father John Evangelist O'Malley had designed it.(We also maintained an official voting address in Chicago in the basement of an apartment building I owned on the east side of Austin Boulevard. We had no intention of working for the city, but we figured it was our legacy to vote in Chicago elections. The tiny basement apartment was furnished so that it could be used as an occasional getaway from the kids.)Moreover, the house was quiet in early evening, which it almost never is. Our daughters were over at the Antonellis' house listening to the Beatles no doubt with Carlotta Antonelli. Carlotta's mother Peg is my closest friend in all the world and incidentally Chuck's sister. The boys were watching a basketball game upstairs on color television, something of an innovation in those days. Chuck was reading some dreary economics journal--he hadn't picked up his camera or visited our darkroom since we came home. I had thrown aside Herzog
in disgust at Saul Bellow's narcissism and picked up William Golding's The Spire
. We were both obviously in a bad mood. I longed for summer and Long Beach.Earlier in the morning, after we came home from Mass and while Chuck was eating his usual breakfast of bacon, eggs, waffles, cereal, and what he called his "Sunday breakfast steak," I had read the New York Times
magazine article about him. We both knew it was coming. My husband pretended to be indifferent. I did not."How is it?" he asked casually."It's okay," I said, with equal aplomb. "They think you left the ship because of grief more than because of the war, but they have some good quotes about the war in there too. They also praise the work we did at Bonn and lament that perhaps principles that are a bit too lofty caused you to leave government service.""Hmm," he said, soaking his already soggy waffle with syrup. "Lemme see."I pushed the magazine in his direction. He glanced at the pictures, scanned the text, and placed it carefully next to his plate while he inhaled the waffle."Who was the Ambassador to the Federal Republic at that time?" he asked, his lips quivering with suppressed laughter."You were, dear.""Most of the pictures are of my 'breathtaking' wife and my 'handsome' children. It would appear that they were responsible for the success of my work.""You noticed?""I was busy with my lofty ideas and they wandered around charming the Germans."He picked up the paper again."They don't mention my dissertation on the Marshall Plan, but they are obsessed with the clothes this breathtaking woman wore.""Naturally.""Gee, what would they have said if she was really beautiful and not the worn-out mother of five children?"I threw the book review section at him.Then we both laughed and dissolved into each other's arms."Isn't this a bitchin' picture of me?" April Rosemary stormed into the kitchen, waving a second copy of the Times
that had somehow found its way into our house. "Daddy, you look kind of funny in this picture, don't you?""Daddy always looks that way, dear," I corrected her. "People call it cute, not funny.""Yes, Mom," she said with a giggle.Then the family poured in--Vangie, the good April, Peg and Vince and their kids. For an hour we were young again and happy again, despite Pat Moynihan's mordant predictions. All of us argued that Chuck's presence at Bonn had been unnecessary. He took the position that the assertion was absolutely true. His "breathtaking wife" and his "handsome" children had snatched the bacon of the United States out of the fire. He continued to eat bacon and butter English muffins with raspberry jam as the festival roared. It ended, as all O'Malley family festivals did, in song, the last of which, as usual, was "Rosemarie," as it usually is.I loved seeing him happy again. I didn't mind the bias of the article. Fuck the New York Times
!Except I am not breathtaking. No way.Then, when everyone went home, we settled down in front of the fireplace with our books and our memories and our grief.Then the phone rang. Chuck ignored it. I picked it up."Rosemarie O'Malley," I said primly."Are you watching Judgment at Nuremberg
on the tube?" asked Peg."We've had enough of Germany.""They've broken into it with pictures from Alabama. The red-necks are murdering Negroes down there."I dashed over to the TV and turned it on."Chuck!" I shouted. "Look!""We are replaying this incident," said Walter Cronkite, "because we believe it is a historic event in American history. Some six hundred civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, are preparing to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River and to march on to Montgomery fifty miles away. They are about to march two by two across the bridge, led by Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. They intend to protest the denial of voting rights to Negroes in Alabama. Across the river [the camera cut to the other side] Sheriff Jim Clark's mounted posse awaits them, accompanied by scores of state troopers."As we watched, the Negro group marched onto the bridge. Someone ordered them to halt. They kept on marching till they were face-to-face with the white lawmen. They knelt to pray. Then there was an order to disperse. They did not move, then a voice--later we found out it was the Sheriff's--shouted, "Get those goddamned niggers!"While the whole nation watched, the lawmen charged, swinging clubs, cattle prods, bullwhips, and rubber hoses. They pushed into the crowd, and amid Rebel yells, beat men, women, and children. They rode their horses into people and drove them off the bridge into the river. Clouds of tear gas drifted across the river. The crowd broke up and ran. The police continued their pursuit, smashing heads, trampling over bodies with horses, beating them with bullwhips.The TV cameras caught the expressions of orgasmic satisfaction on the faces of the white cops and the pain and fear on the faces of the marchers."In Selma, Alabama," Cronkite went on solemnly, "the rule of law is Sheriff Jim Clark's order--'Get those goddamn niggers!'""My God," I said, "in the United States!"Chuck was grinning."Lewis and Hosea got what they wanted," he said happily. "Now the whole country knows what the South is like! Sheriff Clark doesn't know what television can do.""I have to go pack," I announced, tossing The Spire
aside."Pack?" Chuck was still staring at the screen."I'm going down there. We'll teach those rednecks who won the Civil War.""Lyndon will federalize the National Guard," he said still bemused. "It's all over. The Negroes will be voting in the next election.""I'm going to be in the next march!" I yelled, charging for the stairs."Then I guess I'd better be too," he said, still confused."With your camera!"Then, for the first time since he walked out on LBJ, my husband came alive."Hell yes!"3
At Selma I realized that I was a radical, always had been a radical. I had a hell of a good time. I also understood, without Chuck telling me, that I could become a dangerous woman. I discovered that being a radical gave me an adrenaline high. When the white cops who looked and acted like they were characters out of a Faulkner novel shouted obscenities, you yelled back at them that they were redneck trash. When they clutched their batons as if they were going to club you or threatened to turn loose their guard dogs, you snarled that we were going to turn Selma over to the Negroes and drive them into the swamps where they belonged with the other animals.Well, I said that. It was perhaps too literary an insult. Moreover, Peg, who was with me at all times to make sure I restrained my tongue, absolutely forbade me to use any obscenity."You must not sink to their level," she insisted."I didn't go to Rosary College," I told her, "so I don't know how to be a lady. I don't even wear gloves when it's not cold."Peg ignored me as she always did when I said something stupid."Besides, you shouldn't shock these poor boys who are gritting their teeth and protecting us," she said, gesturing toward the teenagers of the Alabama National Guard, who were now under federal command."With the stars and bars pins on their uniform! They're as bad as Sheriff Clark's bozos!""They now work for the United States government," she insisted, "and they're obeying orders, no matter how hard it is. We should respect their integrity."That's Peg for you. She was becoming more and more like her mother, the good April, a woman who thought benignly of everyone, even if they were not Irish, because after all, it wasn't their fault they weren't Irish. Occasionally I reflected that we were now older than the good April (Chuck's mother) was when I adopted their family--thereby as my shrinks have insisted saving my life. Just as I had deteriorated through the years, Peg had grown more lovely, a slender elegant symphony in brown just like her mother. I explained the contrast between us by the fact that she only had four children and I had five. Chuck once claimed that we were two forest animals, she a sleek timber wolf and I a prowling cougar. Now she was a grand duchess like her mother and I a shrewish, shanty-Irish fishwife--no matter what the New York Times
said about my performance in Bonn.When I announced to her on the phone that Chuck and I were flying to Selma to finish what the Civil War had not finished, she replied that she and Vince were coming with us, he to protect Chuck from being beaten up again like he was in Little Rock and she to help me keep my big mouth shut. "You must not call those poor people white trash," she had insisted, "it's just as bad as calling Negroes niggers."The four of us were obviously crazy. Nine cousins in our two families--my five and Rosie's four--and we were going to Selma. There was no one in the crazy O'Malley family to tell us not to fly to Atlanta, rent a car, and drive to Selma. Father Ed O'Malley, my husband's youngest sibling, was organizing a group to respond to Martin Luther King's plea to people of all faiths to rally around those who wanted to march through Selma and on to Montgomery in support of the voting rights bill President Kennedy had pushed for. As the good April said, "Well, if Father Edward thinks it's all right, then it must be all right."Lyndon, to give the devil his due as Chuck said, had delivered a powerful speech. Selma, he told the nation, was not a Negro problem or a Southern problem. It was an American problem. It was deadly wrong to deny anyone in America the right to vote. He ended by telling the people of the country in his rich Central Texas accent, "We shall overcome!"He federalized the Alabama National Guard to protect the marchers and those who had come to support them. Now it will be safe, I told myself. Then I repeated the reassurance to my husband, who was having second thoughts."That," he replied, "is what the man said on Fort Sumter."As we were departing the elder O'Malley house--having left thenine cousins in charge of their grandmother and grandfather, Chuck's doubts became more serious, surely because of his memories of Little Rock. He would go and the rest of us would stay at home. We vetoed that suggestion.The cousins didn't mind a few days away from their parents. Grandma April spoiled them rotten and they knew it. Only April Rosemary had her doubts. "I wish you wouldn't go to that terrible place, Mom," she said as she hugged me, tears in her eyes.I was too caught up in being part of a great turning point in American history to understand. You see, Chuck had been at the Mc-Carthy hearings and in Korea and in Little Rock. All I had ever done was to smile at people in Bonn. It was time for me to become part of the action.The Kennedy wake and funeral, for some reason, didn't count.Peg's marriage had been rocky at first. When Vince came home from the prisoner of war camp in Korea, he had been a real problem--sorry for himself and angry that no one else seemed sorry for him. Well, I had straightened him out in my best shanty-Irish-shrew style and that was that. I never had any problems with Chuck ... How could I? He had a hell of a lot of problems with me until I sobered up.The atmosphere in the Negro section of Selma as we do-gooders swarmed in was unbearably exciting. The Negroes (as they were then called) could hardly believe that we white folks had come to support them. We could hardly believe how poor and oppressed they were. We hugged and kissed and sang "We Shall Overcome" all night long. I hardly saw my husband. He was scampering around, clutching his Leica (which Trudi, his German love when he was in the Constabulary, had given him) and blazing away fearlessly. No wonder the thugs had got him in Little Rock. He seemed to think that because he was short and boyish and innocent, the rednecks wouldn't see him. Twice, Vince later told me, groups of good ole boys closed in on him, with booze on their breath and murder in their eyes. Then they saw Vince, in the same shape he was in when he made All-American guard at Notre Dame, and reconsidered their options."Where were the soldiers?" I demanded, suddenly afraid."They can't be everywhere. The orders are that the marchers shouldstay on this side of the river till tomorrow and the white folk on the other side. Chuck figures that because he's press, he can go wherever he wants."The adrenaline drained temporarily from my bloodstream. I wanted to go home.Chuck was indeed press. His friends at the New York Times
had commissioned him to do a photographic essay to be called "Selma!""There's nothing to worry about," he reassured me. "I talked to Bobby this afternoon. Lyndon has persuaded Governor George Wallace to keep his big mouth shut and, just in case, he's put on alert a battalion of Marines at Camp Lejeune. Bobby doesn't think we'll need them."Where, I wondered, had my exhausted and shivering husband found a line on which to talk to Bobby. Then I realized that Bobby had found him.We huddled in a sharecropper's barn outside Selma the night before the march to Montgomery. It was cold, not as cold as Chicago in March but plenty cold. We sang most of the night. Some of the northern whites were drinking to stay warm, not plastered by any means but, as the Irish say, a bit of the drink had been taken. A few of the kids from New York were smoking pot, the first time I had ever seen that."Bobby has cut a deal between Dr. King and the cops. Only a hundred and fifty of us will actually cross the bridge with him tomorrow, most of them will be local Negroes plus some church people from the north, those two Corondolet nuns from St. Louis, up in the first row with him. Eddie will be right behind them. The rest of you will drive or bus down to Montgomery and meet us in front of the State House.""What's this 'you and us' stuff?""You can't come," he replied, "because they don't need any shanty-Irish faces in the crowd and I can come because they need a photographer with an international reputation for courage under fire.""You're not scared?" Vince asked."Terrified," my brave knight admitted."Why the small crowd?" Peg asked."Easier for the troops to protect on the march. To the TV camera,a handful of people crossing the river looks like a mob. Then in front of the State House, they'll open up the lens and everyone can see that there are thousands."Then and there I made up my mind that I would be in the march. I had never walked fifty miles in my life. Well, it was time to try.The next morning was cold and gray. At the car, where SCLC marshals were trying to line up the convoy to Montgomery, I kissed Peg and hugged her big lug."If I don't make it, take good care of the kids," I whispered, and then dashed away before they could talk me out of it. No way was I about to let Chucky Ducky have all the fun.That shows how immature I was. I thought it was a movie and we were the good guys.No one tried to stop me as I joined the band of marchers at the bridge. I found Ed in his Roman collar and one of Chuck's Ike jackets from Bamberg."Need a broken-down Irish housewife to walk with you, Father?"He grinned at me, "I would have bet all the money I have that you'd show up ... And I reject the adjective and the noun."As Ed has matured in his priestly vocation, he has become talkative, not like Chuck, of course, but he has the flair even if he is less outrageous. He thinks I'm someone special because he claims I gave him good advice when he was thinking of leaving the priesthood. All I did was listen ..."Scared?" I asked him."Sure am ... You?""On a high ... I hope you or my pint-sized husband or someone is around when I come down off it."Then Dr. King began to speak, his deep baritone voice drowning out the wind. I don't remember what he said. The important thing was that he said it. Then we joined hands, sang "We Shall Overcome," and marched onto the bridge.I was sky-high. I wondered briefly whether my high was anything like getting drunk. I promised God that I would never permit such a high again--a promise I did not always keep--and asked him to take care of my husband and children.It never occurred seriously to me for a moment that my husband's life might be in danger, much less my own.The situation was scary. Sheriff Clark and his mounted police were lined up along the riverbank. The State Police were right behind them, their dogs-poor-white-trash dogs, I thought--were straining at their leashes. On the main street of the town, crowds of angry whites were shouting obscenities. Protecting our line of march were these poor kids in the National Guard, obeying their orders like good soldiers, though they probably would have been much happier if they were swinging their riffle butts against us.Shut up you bitch, I told myself. They're brave young men doing their duty.So far.What if the strain was too much for them? What if the cries of the white crowd, the barking of the dogs, the singing of a hymn they must have hated, the determined march all proved too much for them? What if they broke ranks and joined the mob?Where the hell was Lyndon's battalion of Marines when we really needed them?Then I was off the bridge and on the street. We were marching through Selma!"Smile for the camera, lady!" a familiar voice cried. "You too, fadder!""Charles Cronin O'Malley, act your age!""Yes, ma'am ... We'll call this one 'priest marches with beautiful woman!'"And off he scampered, like an organ grinder's little monkey.Take good care of him, I instructed the Lord. What would I do without him.I imagined that I heard a voice saying, don't worry!I did just the same.We managed to get through the town and out on the highway. The tension eased. Jim Clark's people had made their point and went home, unaware perhaps that the South, their
South, would never be the same. The marchers were protected on all sides by the troops, State Police, the National Guard, and federal marshals--jeeps in front of us, jeeps on either side of us, jeeps behind us. Bobby meant business. He was not about to permit a single incident to plunge the march into bloody chaos.This was after all, the United States of America, a hundred years,almost to the day since Appomattox Court House. I wanted to sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but I figured that Dr. King would not approve.Fifty miles is a long distance, longer than I would have thought possible. By the time our bedraggled band joined the huge throng in front of the State House, I was numb with cold and exhaustion and my voice was hoarse. At some points along the march only Dr. King and I were singing. I was ready to collapse. Indeed I would have collapsed if Ed had not grabbed me."I'm fine, Ed, just fine," I said bravely. "How many days have we been on the road?"Chucky bounced by me and kissed me quickly."Proud of you, Rosemarie my darling." He hummed a few bars from our song and then dashed up to the podium. Somehow the soldiers knew that he should not be stopped.He had to be twice as tired as I was. More adrenaline, I told myself."We'll take care of her, Ed," I heard Vince Antonelli say. "Could we give you a lift back?""I should stay with Dr. King," he said firmly. "Thanks anyway."Peg and Vince supported me on either side. A lot of people talked. The crowd replied as Negroes did in church, "Oh yeah! You're right! Tell it like it is."We sang hymns again. Astonishingly my adrenaline cut in yet again. My high surged back. I shouted and screamed as loudly as any Negro.Then it was all over and, still supported by my best friend and her husband, I stumbled back toward our Hertz car. I almost fell on my face as I stepped over a low concrete barrier. A young guardsman reached out to grab my arm."Thank you, soldier," I said brightly. "Thank you for everything."The kid's face split into a wide grin."Yes, MA'AM !""See, Rosemarie," Peg, like the good April, had to make their point, "some of them are nice boys, just like he is."Chuck was waiting at the car."What took you so long? I have to get this last batch developed!"He swept me up in his arms."Rosemarie, you're wonderful!""I just want to sleep for forty-eight hours and soak my feet in water while I'm sleeping."I promptly went to sleep in the rear seat of the car, still in Chuck's arms.Thank you, I told the Lord in my last waking moment. I am really an idiot to leave five kids at grandma's house and come on this crazy adventure. Thank you too that it's all over.My final gratitude was premature.I heard a sharp whine, something hit the window of the car and shattered it. Then there were several more whining sounds. The car leaped forward as though it had a turbocharger."They're shooting at us," Peg screamed."Hang on," Vince shouted.My husband, who never swears, cried out a string of angry expletives I didn't think he knew. But this is a dream, I told myself, so it's all right.There was one more whine but it didn't hit us."Peg?" Vince asked, a choke in his voice."Covered with shattered glass, but all right," she murmured, her voice small and unsteady."Chuck!"More fearsome obscenities."Rosie?""This is a nightmare." I sighed. "So I won't tell the good April the terrible things my husband said."When they all laughed nervously in response, I realized it wasn't a dream."Well," I said piously, "God didn't let them hit any of us."I curled up and went back to sleep in my husband's brave arms.Two people died on that road the next day.I was exhausted the next morning, but my high was back. While Chuck worked in his makeshift darkroom, I bounced around the Negro quarter hugging people and singing with them, a weary Peg trailing behind me. Then she borrowed a Negro's fiddle and we went into our usual act to the delight of the locals.Vince found us later and said that Chucky had finished his work and wanted to leave at once so he could begin producing prints. SuddenlyI wanted to be home. Now. Back in peaceful Oak Park in my own Dutch Colonial home with my own children. Enough history for a while. Chuck was still riding high."Rosemarie, this will be a book, a historic archive for the peaceful triumph of the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. The Negro problem in our country is over. Martin Luther King is one of the great Americans in the whole history of America. An American Gandhi!"Chucky Ducky doesn't usually get grandiloquentAt the airport the man wanted to know what the fuck we'all done with his car."Some white trash shot at us," I told him before saner voices could be heard. "Almost killed us.""Serves y'all right for not staying up North where you belong.""You didn't hear what our Southern president said the other night?""Who's goin' to pay for what y'all done to my car?""It's Hertz's car, you redneck asshole, and their insurance company is going to pay for it because I didn't initial the waiver. I didn't figure it was safe riding down your focking white-trash roads.""Rosemarie!" Peg snapped."I'm sorry, sir," I said, putting on my humble-pie face and voice. "You get shot at in the night, you get a little edgy.""Yes, ma'am," he said, "I surenuf can understand that. Praise the Lord that none of y'all were hurt.""AMEN to that," I replied fervently."He done delivered y'all from the valley of death.""And keeps us under the shadow of his wings.""Surenuf!""Chucky Ducky, where did you find this babe?" Peg asked."She used to hang around with my sister when we were kids."Chuck worked on his negatives on the flight back to Chicago."Make the prints tomorrow and then ship them off to New York. They may want to use them next Sunday or the Sunday after."We were met at the airport, like conquering heroes, by Vangie and the good April. Of course there was a celebration at their house with the usual crazy O'Malley songfest and drinks all around, save for me and my husband, who sipped Lapsang Souchong tea. The nine cousins cheered us and sang with us. Poor little Moire of the flamingred hair hugged me, and said, "I saw you on television, Mommy. You were singing and you were really pretty."Her big sister did not share her enthusiasm. I was going to have a problem there. Did she resent our risking our lives? Or perhaps leaving her and the others alone for a couple of days? There was no telling what the crazy and very risky adventure might do to a sensitive fifteen-year-old's head.Tomorrow, I told myself. Tomorrow.I woke up at least a dozen times that night. The rifle shots continued to whine by my head. I finally slept for a few hours and woke up, groggy and confused, about ten. I poured my morning cup of tea. Then suddenly it hit me. I had taken a reckless chance with my life and the lives of my friends. If it had not been for me, they would not have gone to Selma. If they had been killed, it was my fault.I glanced at the newspaper and sipped some more tea.The Marines had landed that day at Danang--the other side of Lyndon Baines Johnson.I would not tell Chuck until the prints were finished.I confessed my insanity to him as he worked feverishly in our darkroom."St. Crispin's Day," he muttered, as a print came up in the tray."What?""You know, Prince Hal, men abed in England ... Selma will be our St. Crispin's Day for the rest of our lives. We were mad do it. But thank God we did it.""And that we came home alive.""That too!""You're not going to send that print of me and Eddie to the Times,
are you?""No! Your picture's been in there too many times this year. I'll save it for the book.""Well, at least I have all my clothes on."Chuck suspended his frantic work for a moment."That really doesn't make any difference, Rosemarie, my darling."I left, lest I get into another silly argument with him.April Rosemary, in her plaid Trinity High School uniform, cornered me in my Edwardian, oak-paneled office where I was workingon notes for my next conversation with my shrink. (Chuck had once insisted that it was more expensive than the Oval Office.)"I want to have a very serious conversation with you, Mother."
When I'm mother
I am generally in deep trouble"Of course," I said with equal formality."Do you and Dad realize what you are doing to us?"Oh, boy."Suppose you tell me.""All the kids at school make fun of us because they say our parents are weirdos.""The boys too?""Mother
, that's not the point.""And what is the point?""Why do you and Dad have to be different
from everyone else's parents?"She wasn't angry about the risk to our lives. She was angry because we were different."Do they make fun of your cousin Carlotta too?"Carlotta was Peg's daugther and April Rosemary's "best friend.""Mother!
You know Carlotta is an airhead. Besides, her parents weren't on television yesterday like you and Daddy and Uncle Ed.""You're embarrassed because we were on television yesterday ... I'm sure we weren't on for more than a few moments, were we?""Mother,
you don't understand! You're on television all the time!"
I thought about demanding to know what other times, but decided against it."Kids make fun of you because we're on television?"Tears welled up in her eyes, tears of anger."Why can't you and Daddy just be like everyone else's parents?"I bit my tongue. She was new in Trinity and different from the other kids, none of whom had spent almost four years in Germany. A few jerks were trying to put her down. At her age in life that meant that the whole world had suddenly turned cruel.Little bitches. I hated them just like I hated those who made fun of me twenty years ago."Daddy is a very great man, April Rosemary. He doesn't quite realize it and he doesn't act like he's great, but he is. You have to let him be who he is. Maybe you could even be proud of him.""I just wish you and Daddy would understand what his greatness is doing to my life!""There were very bad things happening down South, dear. Daddy felt ... we all felt ... that we ought to do something about it.""Why couldn't the Southerners do it themsel
Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.
Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.
Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.
Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.
Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.