18 May 2014

"Well, it's of a bold reporter whose story I will tell..."

photo by William J. Smith/AP, via Washington Post
Via a series of Tweets from Tamara K. Nopper, I learned that William Worthy recently died at the age of 92.

I knew very little about Worthy the man, but his name has been one I've known since childhood, because of a Phil Ochs song about him, "The Ballad of William Worthy".

My father was a DJ at a radio station in Massachusetts in the 1960s and played that song one day, because though his politics were rather different from those of Ochs or Worthy (he voted for Nixon and generally supported the Vietnam War), he loved to challenge authority and get in trouble. That he did. As he told it, a bunch of little old ladies wrote letters to the station to demand that this upstart DJ be fired. The station manager screamed at him never to play anything like that damned song ever again.

By the time I was old enough to be taught the contents of the record collection at home, I heard that story and listened to the song. It was a catchy tune, and because I associated it with my father's amusing rebellion, I took a particular liking to it and quickly learned the words. And thus I have carried William Worthy's name with me ever since.
William Worthy isn't worthy to enter our door
Went down to Cuba, he's not American anymore
But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay
But Worthy was much more than just a journalist who went to Cuba. His is a story worth learning, a name worth remembering.

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