Page One

Stew Albert, Activist 1939-2006 By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday February 03, 2006

Stew Albert, one of the creators of People’s Park, a former editor of the Berkeley Barb and a founder of the Youth International Party—the Yippies—died Monday at his home in Portland, Ore. 

He was 66, and an unreconstructed radical to the end. 

According to longtime friend and almost-codefendant Paul Krassner, Albert died of liver cancer. His passing was noted by newspapers across the country, and in scores of blogs. 

Albert achieved his greatest notoriety during the Republican National Convention in 1968, when he and other members of the Yippies ran a counter-presidential campaign with Pigasus as their chosen standard-bearer. 

Fellow Yippie Krassner, a satirist who now lives in Desert Hot Springs, said that he and Albert were originally slated to be prosecuted as defendants in what became known as the trial of the Chicago Seven, radicals charged with crossing state lines for the purpose of conspiring to incite protesters to riot at the convention. 

Krassner said Albert may have been the first to have had his head smashed by a Chicago lawman during what was later characterized as a “police riot” by politicians and the media. 

He said William Kunstler, the famed defense attorney who represented the defendants in the conspiracy trial, told him that he and Albert weren’t charged and had been listed as unindicted co-conspirators because prosecutors feared they would raise a First Amendment defense.  

Albert was covering the convention for the Berkeley Barb, while Krassner edited The Realist, a satirical newsletter. 

“Stew served as a peacemaker in the Yippies,” said Krassner. “Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin would have arguments about something and Stew would serve as a buffer.” 

One such dispute involved whether or not the pig originally selected as the party’s presidential hopeful was sufficiently ugly for the part. In the end, “Stew went with Jerry to buy a bigger and uglier pig,” Krassner said. 

Krassner first met Albert when Krassner was invited to host the first Vietnam Day Teach-In at the UC Berkeley campus in 1965. 

“I was first turned on to marijuana by him then,” Krassner recalled. “I’d tried it a few times, but nothing. He gave me some Thai stick and I said, ‘Now I know why we’re fighting in Southeast Asia—to protect the crop.’” 

Albert described his involvement in the creation of People’s Park in an interview for the April 20, 2004 edition of the Daily Planet. 

“I got invited to a meeting at the Red Square on April 13 [1969]. Michael Delacour presented the idea of building a park, and different people laid out the plans,” said Albert. 

“I was given the assignment of writing a story for the Berkeley Barb, which appeared on April 18, 1969, as a call for one and all to one to bring building materials to the lot so they could build a community park. I signed it as Robin Hood’s Park Commissioner,” Albert said. “The Barb story appeared on April 19, and the next morning between 100 and 200 people showed up. 

“The next weekend we had something like a thousand. It was all spontaneous, and there wasn’t much of a central authority.”  

At Delacour’s suggestion, he and landscaper John Reed had driven up to a sod farm in Vallejo, buying turf that volunteers laid on ground they had cleared and prepared. 

A few days later, UC Berkeley administrators announced their intent to turn the area into an intramural soccer field, setting the stage for the violent showdown that was to follow. 

On May 14, the university sealed off the park with a fence, and the following day’s demonstration turned bloody when Alameda County Sheriff’s officers, clad in the jumpsuits that gave them the nickname of Blue Meanies, marched on the demonstrators. 

A Berkeley poet was blinded by a shotgun pellet, and a San Jose man who was visiting Berkeley was killed by another shotgun blast, both fired by deputies. 

Albert’s involvement in the protests led to an arrest and a two-month stretch in the Alameda County Jail at Santa Rita. 

The following year he decided to run for Alameda County Sheriff against incumbent John Madigan. He carried the city of Berkeley and captured 65,000 votes. 

Albert also served as the liaison between the Yippies and the Black Panther Party, Krassner said.  

Albert was in Algeria when LSD advocate Timothy Leary fled the country and sought refuge in that country, where Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver was also in exile, Krassner said. 

“Leary had some acid, and Albert asked if Cleaver was interested in trying some with Leary. Cleaver was afraid Leary was going to try to program him, so he said he’d do it only if he could hold on to his gun,” Krassner said. 

Krassner said he last saw his friend in August at the Portland Book Festival. 

“He had become very involved in his old religion, and he wrote a column for a local newspaper called ‘Jews in the News.’ He had his website and his weblogs, and he was very accessible. A lot of young people who wanted to know about the ‘60s and the Yippies wrote him, and it made him feel good to see that the spirit of questioning authority was continuing,” Krassner said. 

Albert had moved to Portland in 1984 with his spouse, Judy Gumbo, who had been at his side since his Berkeley days and was a co-founder of the Yippies. 

His memoir Who the Hell is Stew Albert? appeared last year and is available from Red Hen Press. His website at contains selections of his writings. 

Krassner said he’ll miss his old friend. 

“He was like a wise old rabbi in the body of a friendly blond teddy bear,” said Krassner. 


Photo by ©Robert Altman, 2003  

Stew Albert, a seminal figures of 1960s radicalism in Berkeley and the nation, died Monday at his home in Portland, Ore. In this picture he is shown speaking at a Berkeley protest in 1969.