Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Typcial John Herling: When they gave the veteran labor reporter a testimonial dinner Tuesday and after hours of talk presented him with the first Debs-Thomas Award, he finally came on to say a few words. And he talked about somebody else.
It was Norman Thomas, he said, who lighted up an ear, who had the impossible dream and dared to turned it into a platform in 1932, when even a lot of labor unions were voting for Herbert Hoover.
It was Norman Thomas, in fact, for whom Herling worked, fresh from Harvard, where as a student he had protested the Sacco-Vanzetti case. And it was while working for Thomas that Herling met Mary Fox, executive secretary of the League for Industrial Democracy.
They married soon after, had a son and a grand child, founded the cooperative community of Bannockburn just west of Washington. Many Herling died 11 days ago. Nearly all the speakers mentioned it.
There was ADA's Joseph Raub, who traced Herling's causes from Sacco-Vanzetti to the Wilmington 10. There was former Labor Secretary Willard Wirtz, who said, "You never know whether to call him John out of admiration or Jack out of common affaction."
There was Kenneth Crawford, and Msgr. George Higgins, and Charles Perlik, and Warren Rogers and a parade of others. Ester Petersen was in the audience at the national Press Club, along with nearly 500 others from all corners of the liberal-socialist-labor world.
Many friends talked about Herling's work in the great labor struggles of the Kentucky miners and New Jersey textile people. He could ask the hard questions, they said. In his lettle paper, Herling's Labor Letter, he "served as a conscience to the trade union movement he loves so much."
He is still doing it. "This is not a retirement dinner," shouted toastmaster Ruth Jordan. Everyone had so much to say that the main speaker, writer Michael Harrington, didn't come on until almost 11.
"I'm embarrassed," Herling confessed as he roamed throught the crush before dinner. Then he walked away from the uproar, bending down a bit to talk to his 11-year-old grandniece Katy Allen.