Louis “Studs” Terkel, American author, historian, actor, Died at 96

Dead, Louis “Studs” Terkel on October 31, 2008 at the age of 96, he was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster.

Born to Samuel Terkel, a Russian Jewish tailor and Anna Finkelin in New York City on May 16, 1912.

At the age of eight he moved with his family to Chicago, Illinois, where he spent most of his life.

Terkel credited his understanding of humanity and social interaction to the tenants and visitors who gathered in the lobby there, and the people who congregated in nearby Bughouse Square. In 1939, he married Ida Goldberg (1912–1999), and the couple had one son.

Although he received his law degree from the University Of Chicago Law School in 1934, he decided instead of practicing law, he wanted to be a concierge at a hotel, and he soon joined a theatre group.

In 1944, Terkel landed his own program on WENR, the Wax Museum Show. A kind of variety program, he used the time to share his love of folk music, jazz, blues and any number of other audible curios.

A year later, he had his own television show called Stud’s Place, an improvised sitcom where he began developing what later became his interviewing style.

People listened and watched, finding his love for the every-man endearing and entertaining.

Terkel published his first book, Giants of Jazz, in 1956.

He followed it with a number of other books, most focusing on the history of the United States people, relying substantially on oral history.

He also served as a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Chicago History Museum.

He appeared in the film Eight Men Out, based on the Black Sox Scandal, in which he played newspaper reporter Hugh Fullerton, who tries to uncover the White Sox players’ plans to throw the 1919 World Series.

Terkel found it particularly amusing to play this role, as he was a big fan of the Chicago White Sox (as well as a vocal critic of major league baseball during the 1994 baseball strike), and gave a moving congratulatory speech to the White Sox organization after their 2005 World Series championship during a television interview.

Terkel was acclaimed for his efforts to preserve American oral history.

His 1985 book “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War Two, which detailed ordinary peoples’ accounts of the country’s involvement in World War II, won the Pulitzer Prize.

For Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, Terkel assembled recollections of the Great Depression that spanned the socioeconomic spectrum, from Okies, through prison inmates, to the wealthy.

His 1974 book, Working, in which (as reflected by its subtitle) People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, also was highly acclaimed.

Working was made into a short-lived Broadway show of the same title in 1978 and was telecast on PBS in 1982.

Late into his life Terkel continued to interview people, work on his books, and make public appearances. He was the first Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Chicago Historical Society.