Joe Schwartz


As remembered by Mike Miller
May 5, 2024


It is with a great deal of sadness that I write to tell you of the death of Joe Schwartz. He died in London of pneumonia that thankfully took him out of the Alzheimer's decline that he was experiencing. At his side, and providing constant care, was his wife Rachel. Kathy and I visited them in December. Joe's mind was still working and he could get a few words into the conversation.

I met Joe at Cloyne Court Co-op in 1955 or '56, the year he entered UC Berkeley as a freshman majoring in Physics. We hit it off from the start. Our politics were similar and we wanted to act on them; we both liked tennis (he was a much better than I); we were active in SLATE, the campus political party. And Joe was a terrific guitar player, combining folk and flamenco.

When I returned to graduate school at Cal in 1961, I shared a flat on Cedar Street with Carl Werthman, Brian van Arkadie and Herb Mills when Joe and Roger Muldavin were next door neighbors. By then, I was known among our student movement friends for my spaghetti dinners. Joe was among those who shared them with us.

In late 1964, after most of the Mississippi Summer Project volunteers had left the state, Joe went to work for SNCC in, I believe, Hattiesburg. He stayed for six months. Like all of us who were part of "The Movement" that sojourn had a deep impact on him.

At some point Joe decided not to be a physicist, and returned to school to study psychotherapy. He became a therapist while living in New York City, and then moved to London where he was active in radical psychotherapy circles and part of a group that provided low-cost/no-cost therapy in a low-income London neighborhood.

He was my informal therapist. He understood and appreciated what I was doing in the world, even when he was questioning or critical of it. The work of an "outside organizer," which I was for most of my life, requires a degree of marginality from the community in which you're working. There were times when the loneliness that accompanied that was deeply wearing. I'd pick up the phone and call Joe in London.

Add to that the fact that many people on "The Left" either didn't understand what I was doing or were critical of it. It was great having a good friend who was also a good listener and as empathetic as a human being can be.

I miss you, Joe.


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