Terkel, Studs

Terkel, Studs, 1912–2008, American writer, social historian, and radio and television personality, b. the Bronx, N.Y., as Louis Terkel, grad. Univ. of Chicago (Ph.B. 1932, J.D. 1934). Terkel, who moved when he was nine with his family to Chicago, made the city his lifelong home. Spurning a law career, he wrote radio scripts and acted in soap operas and plays during the late 1930s, when he also renamed himself after the hero of James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy. Terkel became a radio disk jockey in 1944 and soon was hosting a television variety show. An outspoken political liberal, he was blacklisted from the commercial air waves in the 1950s. In 1952 he began working at a fine-arts radio station and for the next 45 years broadcast music, commentary, and interviews, winning acclaim for insightful discussions with the famous and “the uncelebrated.” His first book, Giants of Jazz, appeared in 1957. A decade later he published his first oral-history book (a form with which he is identified), Division Street: America, which chronicles the lives and thoughts of 70 diverse Chicagoans. His other oral histories include Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970), Working (1974), The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (1984; Pulitzer Prize), Race (1992), My American Century (1997), Will the Circle Be Unbroken (2001), and Hope Dies Last (2003).

See his memoirs, Talking to Myself (1977) and Touch and Go (2007); interviews in Studs Terkel: A Life in Words (by T. Parker, 1996); study by J. T. Baker (1992).

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