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Our guest today is journalist and author Rob Zaleski, for a conversation about his new book Ed Garvey Unvarnished: Lessons from a Visionary Progressive. It’s published by our friends at the University of Wisconsin Press.
As the subtitle indicates, Ed Garvey was indeed a visionary progressive, with a long and very varied resume of public service. Sixty years ago this week, he became President of the Wisconsin Student Association. In August 1961, President of the National Student Association. UW Law School, a job with a Minneapolis labor law firm.
Then from 1971-1983, the job that, for many, would define him, the first executive director of the National Football League Players Association. Deputy Attorney General under Bronson La Follette, Democratic nominee for Senate against Bob Kasten in 1986, Democratic nominee for Governor against Tommy Thompson in 1998. Environmental lawyer waging – and winning – lawsuits or political fights against Exxon, Perrier, and an out-of-state factory farm corporation.
And finally, the founder and driving force behind Fighting Bob Fest, the unabashedly progressive Chautauqua that brought Jesse Jackson, Bernie Sanders, Jim Hightower and others first to Baraboo then to Madison. Ed Garvey died of Parkinson’s Disease in 2017 at age 76.
Like the Burlington-born Ed Garvey, Rob Zaleski is a Wisconsin native, from the Bay View neighborhood on Milwaukee’s southside. And he probably knew Ed Garvey as long as anybody in Madison today, and longer than most. Because when Ed was the young, brash executive director of the NFLPA in the early seventies, Rob was the young, brash sports editor for the Green Bay Daily News, and the recipient of a number of scoops from Ed. And although we did not know it at the time, Rob and I were actually colleagues then, because I was doing some writing for the paper from Washington.
Rob came down to Madison after that as night editor for United Press International, became sports editor of The Capital Times in 1981, had a brief sojourn with the Los Angeles Times before returning the Madison for another 23 years as news columnist and special projects reporter for the Cap Times, in which capacity he amassed more than a dozen writing awards. In addition to freelancing, Rob has also written a novel, Searching for Sal.
It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat my friend and former colleague, Rob Zaleski.