Remembering Walter Reuther

Upon Walter Reuther’s untimely death in 1970, tributes poured in from around the country. Elected officials, newspapers, and working Americans sent their heartfelt condolences at the loss of one of America’s great labor leaders. We’ve compiled some of the eulogies below as a reminder of the impact Reuther had, and continues to have, on the lives of so many Americans.

 

“You didn’t have to carry a UAW card to be one of Walter Reuther’s constituents.  You were part of Reuther’s constituency if you were poor, powerless, a consumer, an outdoorsman, if you were old, if you were sick, if you were weak…” – Senator Philip Hart at the Reuthers’ memorial service

 

“Walter Reuther was to black people the most widely known and respected white labor leader in the nation.  He was there when the storm clouds were thick.  We remember him in Montgomery.  He was in Birmingham.  He marched with us in Selma, and Jackson, Mississippi and Washington…Only yesterday there he was once more in Charleston, South Carolina, the leader of a million and a half workers giving personal support to a strike of only 400 black women…He was a big man, so of course he had enemies and detractors.  He had the courage to be with the minority when it was right.  He was a simple man in his personal life, a rare quality in these flamboyant times…but if his ways were simple, his ideas were grand.  He aroused the imagination of millions…” – Coretta Scott King at the Reuthers’ memorial service

 

“The death of Walter Reuther is an even more substantial loss for the nation than for the labor movement…The void of his death will be greater still in the realms of idealism and social inventiveness.” – The New York Times

 

“The death of Walter Reuther has silenced one of the most compassionate and creative voices of our time.” – The Des Moines Register