Rag Radio: Leading Civil Rights Activist Speaks Truth to Power

RAG RADIO: Paul Spike, author of 'Photographs of My Father' speaks about the vicious murder of his father; a leading civil rights activist.


Paul Spike, left, and Bobby Byrd.

Thorne Dreyer’s guests on Rag Radio are author Paul Spike and publisher Bobby Byrd.

London-based writer Paul Spike is the author of five books, including Photographs of My Father: A Lost Narrative from the Civil Rights Era about his father, murdered civil rights and religious leader, Robert Spike. Photographs of My Father, written when Paul Spike was 23 years old, was named one of the best books of the year in 1973 by The New York Times.

It was reissued in 2016 by El Paso publisher Cinco Puntos Press. A former editor of Punch magazine, Paul Spike’s writing has appeared in the Village Voice, The Sunday Times, Vogue, the literary weekly, TLS, and The Paris Review.

Bobby Byrd — poet, essayist and publisher — grew up in Memphis during the golden age of that city’s music. In 1963 he went to Tucson where he attended the University of Arizona. In 1978 he and his wife — novelist Lee Merrill Byrd — moved to El Paso with their three children. The city and the border region have become their home. Bobby and Lee are publishers of Cinco Puntos Press. In 2005 they received the Lannan Fellowship for Cultural Freedom.

At the National Council of Churches, Paul Spike’s father Robert had organized American churches to support the passage of both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, to march in Selma, and to organize in Mississippi. He helped the LBJ White House pass legislation and write crucial civil rights speeches. While struggling to save a federal Mississippi education program, Robert Spike was viciously murdered in Columbus, Ohio. The murder was never solved. The Columbus police and the FBI hinted the slaying was connected to Spike’s undisclosed gay life.

After Spike’s murder, civil rights leader Hosea Williams wrote, “We don’t believe these assassinations are an accident. We believe there is a conspiracy. Too many of our most important leaders have been assassinated. John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, Dr. King, Robert Spike…” In the afterword of this re-issue of Photographs of My Father, Paul Spike cites new evidence about his father’s murder that he hopes will lead to a fresh investigation and a renewed effort to bring justice to one of the least known but most important American churchmen of the 20th century.

ragradio250x250Rag Radio is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer, cooperatively-run community radio station in Austin, Texas, in association with The Rag Blog and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The host and producer of Rag Radio, Thorne Dreyer, is a prominent Austin-based activist and writer who was a pioneer of the ’60s underground press movement. The show’s engineer and co-producer is Tracey Schulz and the staff photographer is Roger Baker. The syndicated show is broadcast (and streamed) live Fridays, 2-3 p.m. (Central) on KOOP in Austin, is streamed live at Radio Free America, and is later rebroadcast and streamed on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Houston Pacifica’s KPFT HD-3 90.1-FM, and by KKRN, 88.5-FM in Round Mountain, CA — and is a featured podcast at VT. All Rag Radio podcasts can be found at the Internet Archive. Contact: ragradio@koop.org.


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