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1975 Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner

The 1975 Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner was held on Sunday, May 4th, at the Midland Hotel. The honoree was Leon M. Despres, who was for many years the sole "independent" alderman, representing Chicago's 5th Ward. He was also an attorney representing many unions and clients in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties. He was also an activist in the cooperative movement in Chicago. The featured speaker was Joseph L. Rauh, Jr, a noted labor lawyer and activist. We do not have a program for the event. The Master of Ceremonies (or Toast Master) was Ralph Helstein. Apparently Jone Johnson presented the award to Leon Despres, but there were other speakers, including Carl Shier. According to the seating chart, there were 41 tables. Photos are by Syd Harris.

Speakers Table

A partial shot of the speakers table. Carl Shier is beyond the left edge of the photo and there are others to the right of the podium. Leon Despres is seated next to the podium and Joseph Rauh is at far left of the photo. There is no indication who the speaker or the woman (Mrs. Despres?) is.

Leon Despres

Leon Despres accepts the Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Award. The text is below.

Leon M. Despres

For your steadfast refusal to abandon your high principles in an age of cynicism and accommodation;

For your relentless insistence that the public domain is not the province of the few;

For your selfless attacks against those who would betray the public trust for their private gain;

For your tireless endeavors as attorney and advisor to advance the interests of working men and working women;

For your leadership in the battle to secure civil rights and civil liberties for all people;

For your fearless independence in attacking injustice wherever it might exist;

For the inspiration you have provided to thousands who might otherwise have despaired of our ability to direct our own lives;

The Norman Thomas ­ Eugene V. Debs Dinner Committee does hereby proudly present you with its award this 4th Day of May in the year 1975.

Joseph Rauh

Joseph Rauh at the podium and possibly Ralph Helstein behind him.

Joseph Rauh

Another shot of Jospeh Rauh speaking.

Eliseo Medina and friends

Of the audience shots, this is the most interesting. That smiling kid second on the left is Eliseo Medina. At the time, he was an organizer for the United Farm Workers Grape Boycott Campaign in Chicago. Now he's an International Vice-President of SEIU. The fellow at the left is identified as Jesse Rios, but we have no clue as to the other two folks.

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