Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson

Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson
Born January 14, 1945 (1945-01-14) (age 65)
Residence Brooklyn, New York
Nationality  United States
Education Swarthmore College (1966)
Occupation teacher
Known for 1970s Weather Underground radical, bomb maker, fugitive
Children one grown daughter
Parents James Platt Wilkerson, Audrey Olena

Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson (born in 1945), known as Cathy Wilkerson, is an American radical who was a member of the 1970s radical group called the Weather Underground (WUO).[1] She came to the attention of the police when she was leaving the townhouse belonging to her father after it was destroyed by an explosion on March 6, 1970.[2] Members of WUO had been constructing a nail bomb in the basement of the building, intended to be used in an attack on a non-commissioned officers dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey that night.[3] Wilkerson, already free on bail for her involvement in the Chicago "Days of Rage" riots, avoided capture for 10 years.[4][5] She surrendered in 1980 and pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of dynamite. She was sentenced to up to three years in prison, serving 11 months.[2][5]


[edit] Early years

Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson was born on January 14, 1945.[4] Her father, James Platt Wilkerson (Amherst 1937, Lawrenceville 1933) was an advertising executive and part owner of a radio station in Omaha, Nebraska.[6] and a radio station owner from the Midwest.[2][7] Her mother, Audrey Olena, graduated from Smith College and later took job as a teacher in Manhattan.[8] Wilkerson grew up in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Stamford, Connecticut she attended Martha Hoyt School through 3rd grade, Emma Willard Middle School (5th grade), and New Canaan Country School (6th through 9th grade). In Andover, Massachusetts Wilkerson attended Abbot Academy, an all-girls school.[9] She graduated from Abbot Academy in June 1962.

[edit] Early Activist Work

After graduating from high school, Wilkerson was accepted into Swarthmore College.[4] During the first year of college she became interested in politics. In April, 1962 Wilkerson became involved with a civil rights group that organized anti-segregation work in Cambridge, Maryland.[10] Her activist work continued throughout college. In June, 1963 Wilkerson attended Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) National Meeting in Pine Hill, New York, and wrote a pamphlet "Rats, Washtubs, and Block Organizations".[11] She graduated in June 1966 and spent summer and fall working for Representative Robert Kastenmeier, a liberal Democrat from Wisconsin.[4] In 1967, Wilkerson was employed in the national office of SDS, in Chicago, Illinois and became the editor of New Left Notes, an SDS newspaper.[4] In 1967, she was elected into SDS National Interim Council and moved to Washington, DC to set up a regional office.[4] Wilkerson and three other SDS members went to Cambodia where they met representatives of Vietnamese National Liberation Front.[1] After the trip she wrote several articles describing her experiences and stressing issue of failing morale of U.S. troops.[1] Although, as Wilkerson recalls in her memoir [12], she had few disagreements with the main ideas promoted by Weatherman, including their deep desire to be involved in the most effective endeavor to end the Vietnam War. Unfair policies both at home and abroad prompted her to become a member of Weatherman in 1969. Shortly after her graduation from college, Wilkerson traveled to Cuba to witness the results of the Cuban Revolution first hand. She was also very active in civil rights and the women–s movement. [1][dead link]

[edit] Arrests

In 1963, Wilkerson was arrested in Chester, Pennsylvania for distributing handbills advertising a mass meeting to discuss the planned boycott of the public schools. On August 25, 1968 she was arrested during the Democratic National Convention and charged with disorderly conduct and posting handbills on private property without permission of the owners. On May 2, 1969 Wilkerson was arrested and charged with unlawful entry and destroying property during takeover of Maury Hall at George Washington University, Washington DC. On September 4, 1969 she was arrested in Chicago on charges of disorderly conduct. On September 4, 1969 Wilkerson was arrested in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with 25 other female members of SDS, who were trying to recruit students to the anti-war movement by staging a high school "jailbreak". She was charged with inciting a riot, rioting, and disorderly conduct. On October 9, 1969 Wilkerson was arrested and charged with mob action, aggravated battery and resisting arrest.[13]

[edit] Joining Weathermen

Wilkerson joined the Chicago Weatherman Collective during the summer of 1969.[14] She actively participated in riots during the Days of Rage that took place in Chicago on October, 1969 and was arrested for attacking a Chicago policeman with a club.[4] After spending two and half weeks in jail she was released on bail.[15] Wilkerson attended the WUO "War Council" in Flint, Michigan during December 1969.[1] In January of 1970 she was sent to Seattle, Washington to join a local collective. After a few days in Seattle Wilkerson was invited by Terry Robbins to come to New York, New York.[16] After firebombing the home of New York State Supreme Court Justice Murtagh, who was presiding over the trial of the so-called "Panther 21" members of the Black Panther Party and few other unsuccessful fire bombings, the New York collective members decided to use dynamite in future actions. The bomb factory was set up in a townhouse owned by Wilkerson's father.[17]

[edit] Greenwich Village townhouse explosion

On the morning of March 6, 1970, there was an explosion in the sub-basement of a townhouse owned by Wilkerson–s father, located at 18 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village.[2] The blast killed three people, but Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin were helped from the rubble and they immediately went underground.[2] The townhouse was being used by the Weather Underground to make bombs, in particular a nail bomb that was to be used against soldiers and their dates at a non-commissioned officer's dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey that night.[3] That evening, a man's body was found in the basement of the townhouse, and a short time later, a woman's torso was discovered on the first floor.[18] Police also found several handbags with personal identifications that had been stolen from college students over the previous few months.[19] Over the next few days, police discovered at least 60 sticks of dynamite, a live military antitank shell, blasting caps and several large metal pipes packed solid with explosives and nails as shrapnel.[18]

Three members of the WUO were killed in the explosion, Theodore Gold, the 23 years old leader of a student strike at Columbia University in 1968; Diana Oughton; and Terry Robbins. [2][19] Wilkerson and Boudin stayed overnight at Boudin's parents' house a few blocks away on St. Luke's Place before they both went underground. [20][2] Her father, who owned both houses, was on vacation in the Caribbean. [3] She was charged, in absentia with illegal possession of dynamite and criminally negligent homicide and eluded capture for 10 years.

[edit] Surrender

On June 23, 1970 Wilkerson and twelve other members of Weather Underground Organization were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to bomb and kill.[21] Placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, some avoided capture for as long as ten years. On March 25, 1977 Phoebe Hirsch and Robert Roth became the first two WUO members to surrender.[22] Wilkerson stayed underground for three more years. She surrendered in 1980, was tried and convicted of illegal possession of dynamite and sentenced to three years in prison. She was released on a sentencing technicality after serving 11 months, with the judge noting that "her conduct while in jail has been exemplary." New York State's Commissioner of Correctional Services was critical of the early release, calling the judge's action "mistaken". He maintained that many inmates with better disciplinary records remained behind bars because they didn't have good lawyers and were black or Hispanic.[5]

[edit] Later years

Today, Wilkerson lives in Brooklyn, and is the mother of an adult daughter. Wilkerson spent the last 20 years teaching mathematics in high schools and adult education programs.[23] In August 2003, she gave the first telephone interview after not talking to reporters in about twenty years. Although Wilkerson agreed that mistakes were made, she maintained many of the ideas that she supported in the 1960s.[23] Wilkerson wrote a book about her experience in the Weather Underground, Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman [4].

[edit] Books

Cathy Wilkerson (left) with Meaghan Linick. Linick is an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d "Weather Underground Organization (Weatherman)". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 1998-2007. pp. p. 228. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gussow, Mel (March 5, 2000). "The House On West 11th Street.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-22. "At 18 West 11th Street, young radicals from the Weathermen were making bombs to destroy property, beginning with Greenwich Village. Three bomb makers, Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins, were killed. Two others, Kathy Boudin and Cathlyn Wilkerson, escaped and remained fugitives for more than a decade. The first was the daughter of the civil liberties lawyer Leonard Boudin, the second the daughter of James P. Wilkerson, the owner of the house at Greenwich. ... When Cathy Wilkerson resurfaced in 1980, she was tried and convicted, and served a brief prison sentence ... She rushed to No. 18 and saw two grime-covered young women coming out of the downstairs door. One (Cathy Wilkerson) was naked. The other (Kathy Boudin) was partly clad in jeans. The assumption was that their clothes were torn off in the blast. ..." 
  3. ^ a b Rudd, Mark. "The Kids are All Right". Retrieved 2008-10-10. "On the morning of March 6, 1970, three of my comrades were building pipe bombs packed with dynamite and nails, destined for a dance of non-commissioned officers and their dates at Fort Dix, N.J., that night." 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Charlton, Linda (1970-03-16). "Cathlyn Wilkerson: Portrait of a Young Revolutionary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-27. "Cathlyn P. Wilkerson, who took part in the "Four Days of Rage" in the streets of Chicago last October, did so "knowing they were bound to be defeated," according to a friend." 
  5. ^ a b c Shipp, E. R. (1981-12-24). "Correction Chief Critical Of Wilkerson Probation.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-16. ""I'll show Judge Rothwax thousands of inmates that have crimes of lesser importance than Cathy Wilkerson, who have better discipline and program records than Cathy Wilkerson"[Commissioner of Correctional Services] said, adding that these inmates remained behind bars "because they don't have a good lawyer and they happen to be black or Hispanic"." 
  6. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 8. ISBN 1583227717. 
  7. ^ "James Platt Wilkerson." Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. Fee via Fairfax County Public Library, accessed 2009-06-07. Document Number: K2017834261.
  8. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 9. ISBN 1583227717. 
  9. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. pp. 12–28. ISBN 1583227717. 
  10. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 46. ISBN 1583227717. 
  11. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 63. ISBN 1583227717. 
  12. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 273. ISBN 1583227717. 
  13. ^ "Committee Print the Weather Underground Report of Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and the Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee of the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-Fourth Congress, First Session. pp.112-114.". United States Government Printing Office. Washington, DC.. 1975-01. 
  14. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 270. ISBN 1583227717. 
  15. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 307. ISBN 1583227717. 
  16. ^ Wilkerson, Cathy (2007). Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman. p. 324. ISBN 1583227717. 
  17. ^ Franks, Lucinda (1981-11-22). "The Seeds of Terror". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ a b "Bombs, Dynamite and Woman's Body Found in Ruins of 11th St. Townhouse". The New York Times. 1970-03-11. Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  19. ^ a b The Brinks Robbery of 1981 - The Crime Library - The Crime library
  20. ^ Brightman, Carol (December 18, 2003). "Running on Empty". The Nation (New York, New York: Katrina vanden Heuvel). Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  21. ^ Flint, Jerry (1970-07-24). "13 WEATHERMEN INDICTED IN PLOTS; U.S. Grand Jury in Detroit Charges Bombing Plans.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-16. "The 13 indicted persons were: ... Cathy Wilkerson, 25..." 
  22. ^ "2 Weather Underground Members Give Up After 7 Years as Fugitives.". The New York Times. 1977-04-15. Retrieved 2008-11-16. "Robert R. Roth and Phoebe Hirsch surrendered March 25 after successfully avoiding capture ... for seven years." 
  23. ^ a b Wakin, Daniel (2003-08-24). "Quieter Lives for 60's Militants, but Intensity of Beliefs Hasn't Faded.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-16. "When explosives accidentally demolished a Greenwich Village town house 33 years ago, three young militants inside were killed, leaving two of their comrades to stagger out and into clandestine life. All were members of the Weathermen, a violent offshoot of 1960's radicalism." 

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