Weathermen Ratted Out Silas Bissell

June 25, 2002

Silas Trim Bissell, 60, Longtime Antiwar Fugitive, Dies


     ORTLAND, Ore., June 24 -- Silas Trim Bissell, a 1960's radical who
spent nearly 17 years as a fugitive after an effort to bomb the
     University of Washington's R.O.T.C. building, died on Saturday at his
home in Eugene. He was 60.

The cause was brain cancer, said a friend, Chuck Kaufman.

The bombing attempt occurred in Seattle in 1970, and Mr. Bissell, a member
of the militant Weathermen, remained a fugitive until his arrest in 1987
in Eugene, where he had started a new life as a physical therapist and
artist under the name Terrence Peter Jackson. A friend alerted the police to
his real identity, an act that Mr. Bissell attributed to a $5,500 reward. 

Mr. Bissell's mother, Hillary, was a civil rights activist. His father,
Wadsworth, was the son of the founder of the Bissell carpet sweeper company
but was disinherited for refusing to join the family business.

Silas Bissell taught English literature at Wayne State University in
Detroit before he began to take an active role protesting the Vietnam War, a
pursuit that eventually led to confrontations with the police.

"After his first arrest," Mr. Kaufman recalled, "his mother told him: `It's
about time. I was afraid you would never be arrested.' " 

Mr. Bissell and his wife, Judith, traveled to Seattle, where they joined
the Weathermen. In January 1970, the couple planted a bomb in the stairwell
of the R.O.T.C. center but were immediately arrested, and the bomb never
went off. Mr. Bissell later said he had learned that he had been
betrayed by the Weathermen, who, he said, had alerted the police as a way
of furthering their cause with publicity. 

Mr. Bissell's parents posted bond of $25,000 each for him and his wife. But
the defendants failed to appear in court, and a federal warrant was
issued for their arrest, earning them a spot on the F.B.I.'s most-wanted
list for a time. 

The couple traveled to a variety of cities before they split up. Mr.
Bissell found his way to Eugene, a university town with a reputation as one
of the
last refuges of 1970's radicalism. 

He later attended several colleges and universities, eventually earning a
master's in physical therapy from Duke University. He returned to Eugene in
1981 and began working with the elderly. 

His life as a fugitive ended on Jan. 20, 1987, when the Federal Bureau of
Investigation arrested him on charges of conspiracy to damage federal
property and possession of a destructive device. He was convicted,
sentenced to two years' imprisonment and released after 18 months. 

In 1996, he helped form the Campaign for Labor Rights to bring attention to
sweatshop conditions in factories around the world. He became the
group's national coordinator in 1997 but, with cancer affecting his memory,
had to quit last year.


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