Thaddeus "Spike" Zywicki, 91, who volunteered with Network, a national Catholic social justice lobby, and was a plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that reversed a ban on the distribution of political literature outside the court building, died of kidney failure July 14 at a hospice in McAllen, Texas.
Mr. Zywicki, for many years a familiar figure on Capitol Hill, filed a District Court suit more than two decades ago after police forbade him to hand out pamphlets outside the Supreme Court. The case was dismissed, and he and co-plaintiff Mary Grace, who was attempting to display a sign with the First Amendment, went to the Appeals Court, which ruled in their favor. That decision, affirming the right to free speech in public places, was upheld in 1983 by the Supreme Court. The demonstrations of a wide range of interests have continued outside the building since then.
Mr. Zywicki was a former Navy Department photographer who took a vow of poverty midway through life. He became a full-time advocate for peace and the rights of disadvantaged persons and Central Americans.
Mr. Zywicki was born in poverty to Polish immigrants in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in an orphanage. He did office work as a youth, traveled as a migrant worker and was a coal sorter on the railroad. He learned offset printing and photography through Catholic Charities in New York and worked as an apprentice inspector for International Projection Corp.
He joined the Navy Department in Washington in 1937 as a Multilith press operator and worked as a photographer there later.
He left Washington in the 1950s and over the years worked as a grip in Hollywood and was a papal volunteer in Mexico. He returned to this area in the 1960s to continue human rights advocacy. He moved to McAllen in 1999.
Mr. Zywicki was a founding member and former president of the Wanderbirds, a local hiking club, and newsletter editor for the Washington Canoe Club.
There are no immediate survivors.