Photo by Alan Pogue | The Rag Blog.

By Richard Croxdale | The Rag Blog | June 2, 2024

[Originally posted May 28, 2024, in the People’s History in Texas Substack and cross-posted to The Rag Blog.]

Doyle Niemann passed on May 1 of this year in Maryland.  Doyle worked on The Rag in Austin, Space City! in Houston, and the The Great Speckled Bird in Atlanta.  In Prince George’s County, Maryland, Doyle was a school board member, Mount Rainier City County Member, Maryland state delegate, health care advocate, and an Assistant State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County.  As the representative for District 47 in the Maryland House of Delegates for three terms, Doyle was a champion for progressive values, equality, social justice, and environmental protection.

People’s History in Texas (PHIT) interviewed Doyle at the Rag Reunion in 2005 as part of our three-part documentary on The Rag.  He was a delightful interview. Doyle was insightful and funny and an acute observer of his times.  I wish I had gotten to Austin earlier, so that I could have met Doyle earlier in my life.  Doyle was a good person.  He will be missed.  PHIT is happy to have collected his stories of his time in Austin.

We are losing way too many of that, well, my generation. When I say generation, I am not talking about the boomer generation, but the “I don’t want to do it this way anymore” generation.

The Rag documentary was a treasure trove of reminiscences.

The Rag documentary was a treasure trove of reminiscences.  One of the classic analyses was offered by Judy Walther during her discussion of feminism.  She laughed and said that it was a time of change, of deciding that…“We don’t want to do that anymore.  We want to do things differently.”

The Rag documentary was a treasure trove of reminiscences.

Doyle was another of those delightful interviews.  Doyle was an archetype of how to live a life of meaning, a life of doing the right thing.  People like Doyle are never a working majority.  Hopefully, one day they will be.  Hopefully, one day when rationality and good sense become a common thing, statues of people like Doyle will populate the world. And counties and elementary schools will be named after people like Doyle Niemann.

He will be missed.

Doyle Nieman oral history

[The following are excerpts from the People’s History in Texas oral history given by Doyle Niemann in 2005.]

“I came to Austin in 1967 as a transfer from Nebraska.  The lure was, here’s a place that was fun and cheap, very cheap.  That was very important, since I didn’t have any money. And Austin was progressive, and there were lots of good things going on.”

“I started hanging around The Rag and the SDS. I was also active in Young Democrats, at least until 1968.  Student Religious Liberals, SRL, was another organization that was active.  It was all a very, very fluid environment. SRL was the only one that had campus status, and we’d use SRL to get permission to have meetings.”

[Austin in those days was famous for creating a specific and practical approach to social activism and social change.  And Doyle was right in the middle of it.]

“I was much more in what I always thought was a main line of Austin tradition, which was, you know, grassroots, somewhat pragmatic, very anti-ideological.”

“Greg Calvert articulated some of that with his analysis of the nature of the workforce in America—that workers were workers whether they were white collar or blue collar. Everyone was still a worker, even students.  Sectarian organizations didn’t much like that.  And that was really the environment that we were organizing in.”

‘I don’t know if we called it socialism at the time, or democratic socialism or what later would be organized as democratic socialism—the emphasis on the democratic side—but that really, in a way, that’s what came out of Austin.  Prairie radicalism, if you will, was something rooted in America that was democratic and participatory. Participatory, that people could grab a hold of.”

[Doyle was also involved in some of the iconic demonstrations on the UT campus.]

“We had a number demonstrations on campus. It ended up being the reason I left Austin.  I was a teaching assistant in graduate school. I got fired for being in an anti-ROTC demonstration.”

We had little squirt guns, we were squirting them.

“The ROTC folks were all lined up. We actually have the picture of them lined up out on the campus doing their drills.  We went out, all of us folks wearing shorts, long hair and t -shirts, and mocked them. We had little squirt guns, we were squirting them. And they were at attention, and we came in, moving, running around them, squirting them.”

“That led to us all being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by the university. I think that was in the spring of 1970 and then in the summer they turned around and fired those of us who worked for the university. They did this after students had gone away, so they couldn’t protest.  That led to me leaving me Austin.”

[The other demonstration that Doyle was involved in was the Tree Demonstration. The UT administration wanted to cut down the trees along Waller Creek and to fill in Waller Creek in order to expand the football stadium.  Students did not think it was a good idea.  PHIT has written a previous substack about it.  And recently KUT has revisited the story. Doyle was one of the participants.]

“I remember the tree demonstration.  The university wanted to tear down all these trees. We had actually gone to court and got a court injunction to stop them.”

“But between the time the court injunction was issued and we could get it served on them, the university had called the contractors and cut the trees down. So we, in effect, had a spontaneous demonstration where we lifted up the tree limbs and the branches and marched across campus and posted them on the veranda in front of the tower, from the administration office, and had a spontaneous demonstration there. That was kind of the way things would happen —  very spontaneously.”

[When PHIT interviewed Doyle about his time at The Rag, these were his concluding remarks.]

“For lots of people, it was a defining moment because, no matter which way the people have gone in and they have gone in so many directions, you can trace back the path they took to the choices they made here.  The decisions, the consciousness that they developed in Austin have had an impact, in many, many cases, all the way down the road.”

Austin should erect a statue of Doyle Niemann.

[Richard Croxdale is an educational filmmaker with People’s History in Texas and teaches economics at Austin Community College. Croxdale helped edit the acclaimed new book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.]

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2 Responses to RICHARD CROXDALE | REMEMBRANCE | Doyle Niemann

  1. Alice Embree says:

    At 50, Doyle went to law school and then he served as an assistant state attorney in Maryland prosecuting financial crimes. He used his knowledge of the law to write up a synopsis of The Rag’s Supreme Court case in straightforward non-legalese that I could use in a RagBlog post. Thank you, Doyle for that recent kindness and for all your contributions to social justice along the way. Rest in power!

  2. Ken Carpenter says:

    Thanks for this article and all the others you run weekly. I never knew Doyle, but it raised the question in my mind whether he was related to Carol Niemann. I have lost track of her and wonder if she is still in the Ft Worth area. I would appreciate any news about her.

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