There was hardly a demonstration in Fargo, ND where you wouldn’t see Lewis Lubka. In fact, Mark Froemke of The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union told People’s World, “If Lew wasn’t there, the first question you’d ask was ‘Where’s Lew’?”
Long-time activist and Fargo resident Lewis Lubka has died at the age of 90.
Lew Lubka was born on July 14, 1926 in the Bronx and was a graduate of Stuyvesant High School in New York.
Called “Red Lew” by his friends because of his lifelong membership in the Communist Party USA, Lew served as an Army paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. In civilian life, Lew obtained a bachelor’s degree in forestry at Syracuse University and earned his master’s degree in urban housing from Georgia Tech.
Friend Dean Hulse described Lubka in an open letter as having an “unvarnished style” and “limitless curiosity.”
“As our friendship developed, Lew taught me many things about living and about myself. For instance, he taught me to relish diversity, and likewise, rejoice in common bonds,” wrote Hulse.
Lew was intimately involved with the struggle of the Wade family in Louisville, KY for fair housing. After Anne and Carl Braden purchased a home for the African American family in white area of Louisville in 1954, the Wades faced targeted attacks and vandalism by white supremacists.
Lew was one of the white activists who acted as an armed guard at the home.
“I was in the back kitchen with a gun. And when we were shot at, we shot back. I was working days and helping guard the house at nights,” said Lubka in the documentary Anne Braden: Southern Patriot (a transcript of which can be found here).
Lubka was there when dynamite placed by white supremacists went off under the room of the Wades’ young daughter Rosemary’s room. No one was hurt in the attack.
As a result of his civil rights activities and his membership in the Communist Party, state prosecutors determined that the bombing was a part of a communist plot to incite racial division. Lew and four others were indicted for “criminal syndicalism and sedition” against the governments of the United States and the commonwealth of Kentucky. Lew Lubka was eventually acquitted.
Lew was one of the founders of the North Dakota Peace Council, which he helped win a nuclear freeze referendum in North Dakota in 1982. Years later, the North Dakota Peace council would honor him with an award for his distinguished service.
Lewis Lubka dedicated his life to progressive causes including the anti-war movement, the struggle for equal rights during the civil rights movement, and environmental protection. He was also a member of the Red River Freethinkers, a secular group that fought against the display of the Ten Commandments in public space.
He hosted a popular radio show called Peace Talk Radio on KNDS 96.3 FM in Fargo after his retirement from North Dakota State University where he taught urban and regional planning.
Lois Chikwinya, a former student of Lubka and friend for over 40 years, said that Lubka was a friend to all students, particularly the international students.
“He would travel to visit students across the world, he traveled to see me in South Africa. He was very much involved with anti-apartheid struggles,” said Chikwinya, “Lew never saw the color, he always saw the person. He helped all students achieve their goals.
“He never went to church, but he was better than a lot of churchgoing people.”
He is survived by four of his children and 9 grandchildren.
VIDEO: Lew recorded this for AFSCME on the importance of health care.