Paul Booth

© Image Copyright : Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Edward Kimmel from Takoma Park, MD


  • Was national secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s
  • Husband of Heather Booth
  • Became involved with the New American Movement in the 1970s
  • Was a leading figure in Saul Alinsky’s Citizens Action Program during the 1970s
  • Currently serves as executive assistant to AFSCME president Gerald McEntee
  • Member of the Democratic Socialists of America
  • Board of directors member of the the Midwest Academy

In the early 1960s, Paul Booth served as national secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the largest and most influential radical group of its era. In 1965 he helped organize and direct the first anti-war march on Washington, DC. That same year, Booth organized the first sit-in at Chase Manhattan Bank, protesting the fact that this “partner in Apartheid” had some business dealings with South Africa.

In 1966 Booth left SDS to join the labor movement as research director for the United Packinghouse Workers of America, where a leading figure was the Communist Party USA member Jesse Prosten.

At a May 1966 antiwar protest, Booth met a young woman named Heather Tobis. On the third day of the protest, he asked Tobis to marry him. Two days later she agreed, and the couple were wed in 1967. The bride, Heather Booth, would go on to become an iconic figure in community organizing.

As of January 1969, Paul Booth worked for the Chicago radical newspaper, Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices. Also circa 1969, he was a sponsor of the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee, which was led by the Socialist Workers Party.

In 1969 Booth and his wife, along with onetime SDS field secretary Steve Max and radical community organizer Harry Boyte, published a pamphlet titled Socialism and the Coming Decade. This screed said that because the U.S. had entered a “non-revolutionary period,” socialist activists should eschew confrontational tactics in favor of a stealth, incremental approach to social change.

Also in the early Seventies, Booth became involved with the New American Movement (NAM). In April 1972, Paul and Heather Booth, along with Robert Creamer and his wife, taught an organizer-training workshop sponsored by NAM. By 1975, however, the Booths would leave NAM because they viewed the group’s unconcealed promotion of doctrinaire socialism as being doomed to failure.

In May 1973, Paul Booth contributed an article to NAM’s Discussion Bulletin, wherein he outlined some ideas designed to help “revolutionary socialists … begin to build the base for a mass revolutionary movement.” That same year, Booth’s wife founded the Midwest Academy, a training center for leftwing radicalism. Mr. Booth subsequently served on the Academy’s board of directors.

Also in the early 1970s, Paul Booth was a leading figure — along with Heather Booth and Steve Max — in Saul Alinsky‘s Citizens Action Program (CAP), a national coalition of community organizations coordinated through the Midwest Academy. Alinsky had established CAP to organize white middle-class residents after the Black Power movement had driven him out of the black projects.

In 1974]( Booth joined the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He initially worked to build Illinois AFSCME (Council 31), and then spent ten years as organizing director for AFSCME International. Today Booth serves as executive assistant to AFSCME president Gerald McEntee.

In 1990 Booth participated in a Socialist Scholars Conference in New York City. He was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America at that time, and he remained a member for the rest of his life.

In 2005 Booth served as an advisory committee member for “Tell the Story: The Chicago SNCC History Project, 1960-1965” — a retrospective on the activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The project was sponsored by the Chicago Area Friends of the SNCC.

On January 24, 2018, Booth died as a result of complications from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

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