Paul Potter

Paul Potter (1939-1984), president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1964-1965, was honored at the conference with a special memorial meeting, Wednesday, October 31, 2012, at the Hatcher Library Gallery, convened to mark the accession of his personal papers to the University Library’s Labadie Collection.  The curator of the Labadie Collection, Julie Herrada, spoke at the meeting and thanked Leni Wildflower for her generous donation of the Potter papers.

Paul Potter was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1939, and was raised in small towns in the mid-west. He attended Oberlin College and was elected National Affairs Vice President of the National Student Association. A founding member of Students for a Democratic Society, Paul became president of SDS in 1964-1965. He worked in Cleveland on the SDS ERAP project; later with the Boston Draft Resistance Group and the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam.

Paul and Leni Wildflower were married in 1972. The following year they adopted Cassie Wildflower, and Jesse Potter was born. Paul worked on the campaign to elect Tom Hayden to the U.S. Senate. Later he worked in President Carter’s Health Systems Agency in Los Angeles. He moved to New Mexico in 1980 and it was there that he received the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Paul died at home in New Mexico on Bastille Day, July 14, 1984.  He was 45 years old.

Paul Potter famously delivered an address known as “Naming the System” at the SDS-sponsored March on Washington to End the War in Viet Nam, April 17, 1965.  He published a volume of essays, A Name for Ourselves, in 1971.  A selection of writings edited by Leni Wildflower, “Paul Potter in His Own Words,” was printed for the memorial meeting. Conference organizers featured his words in a display publicizing “A New Insurgency”.