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November, 2006

In Memoriam: Ebon Dooley, 1942-2006
Ebon Dooley
Ebon Dooley

Ebon Dooley, an activist, poet and revolutionary, passed away on October 12. He was broadcast director of WRFG (Radio Free Georgia) in Atlanta.

Ebon was born Leo Thomas Hale, the oldest child of Leo and Beatrice Hale of the small farming community of Milan, Tennessee. Son of a school-teacher and the grandchild of middle-class farmers, he went to Nashville's Fisk University on an early entrant scholarship. Ebon's activism might be said to have begun with his work as managing editor of the Fisk literary magazine and newspaper (which included Nikki Giovanni as a freshman reporter). He went on to further activism when, as a regional honors scholar, he entered Columbia Law School in 1963. In New York he saw two very different sides of the larger world, as a law school management trainee at Manufacturers' Hanover Trust and as a member of the Law Students' Civil Rights Research Council and volunteer for the Harlem community action project of Har-you-act. At the first Black Power conference in Newark, he was impressed by the Chicago delegation; unable to get a large enough scholarship to go on to graduate school in business after his 1967 graduation from Columbia, he went to Chicago as a VISTA legal volunteer.

Ebon's reputation rests mainly on one small but solid book of poetry. Revolution (1968) was written over a period of two years in the Chicago of the late 1960s. While Ebon found Chicago "a very depressing experience in many ways," he also found it an even more vibrant intellectual, political, and artistic community than he had found in New York. He witnessed the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968, worked with youth gang leaders of the "main 21," and counseled local citizens in their struggles for civil rights. The heart of Ebon's Chicago experience was the OBAC Writers Workshop (Organization for Black American Culture), founded in 1967.

After Chicago, though the quality of his work did not decline, Ebon's production slowed, as the activist poet gradually came to give more time to activism than poetry. In September of 1969 he went to Atlanta to take over the management of the Timbuktu Bookstore. He later managed Uhuru, another bookstore specializing in Afro-American works, until 1974. He was involved in the establishment of the Dunbar Center, the Atlanta Center for Black Arts, and the Arts Exchange, and was on the board of directors of the Southern Education Program, formed to recruit black teachers from the North for local colleges. As a CETA worker, he began teaching at Atlanta's Neighborhood Arts Center in 1975 and later was its acting director for nine months. He understood that these centers provide the opportunity for creative expression, community building and empowerment. In addition to all of the above and much more, Ebon was one of the early organizers of WRFG.

Tribute to My Father
By Teressa A. Hale, daughter of Ebon Dooley

  • In retrospect, I started to think about ...
  • What words I could possibly say
  • That would convey my deepest, most memorable feelings that I have for my father ...
  • So many recollections came to my mind
  • I admired so much about my father ...
  • He was a smiling, charismatic, gentle, loving, patient, helpful, peace maker, solution focused, driven, revolutionary, poet and activistÂ…
  • Who was also a sonÂ….a brother ... a father ... an uncle ... and friend to us all ...
  • In my opinion he was the epitome of "love"
  • I can honesty stand here and say that there was not a time in my life that I ever saw my father become angry.
  • He always saw, "the good" in everyone and everything.
  • Optimistic ... some may call him
  • It is a rarity in this lifetime that you come across genuine people
  • He had a genuine concern for people to become knowledgeable and empowered.
  • This was one of his life's mission.
  • I remember being told stories of all the significant people that he encountered and befriended as well as places that he had traveled to.
  • He spoke so eloquent ...
  • Filled with a surplus of knowledge
  • But had a humble disposition ...
  • You would have never known just by looking at him
  • Because he didn't do it for "show"
  • He did it because it was embedded in his heart.
  • I never quite grasped the meaning of the phrase " I'm going to die doing what I love to do".
  • My father did just that.
  • He didn't "live" to make a living
  • Yet he lived to make a life
  • To leave a legacy
  • And to help as many people as he could in the process
  • How he interacted with people left lasting imprints on every person he came into contact with.
  • Thus, why each of you are sitting here today.
  • I know a lot of times we as people take for granted the simple things in life.
  • The most precious present you can give a person is your time.
  • The reason why I say this is because you can't get it back.
  • Once it's gone, it's gone! That is why it's so special.
  • We as humans have a natural "desire" to want to be in the company of others. Hence, friendships and marriages :-). We are social beings. This is a known fact.
  • During life there will be times that you come into contact with people who leave "good" and "bad" memories of the "times" you've spent together.
  • Now learning comes into focus when you are able to appreciate the existence of each experience.
  • This is what my father continued to teach me
  • Everything and everyone that we come into contact with in this life has its place.
  • Just like the saying says, "a reason, a season, and a life-time".
  • Remember once we leave this world, material possessions, financial and social status are not what leaves a legacy.
  • Life is all about character building, helping the less fortunate and leading people to Christ.
  • This is a time of celebration of a great man ...
  • Who was born Leo Thomas Hale ...
  • Many of you knew his as Ebon Dooley
  • But I knew him as ... "Daddy."
  • I have accepted the challenge of carrying on the torch that my father has lit
  • In addition, to live life, love life and empower others in the process.
  • And I challenge each one of you to do the same.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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