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Madison’s most famous protester

October 24, 2017

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, now 72, has been at the center of Madison city government off and on for more than 40 years.

That long career in local public service began in 1967 at the moment he was pushed to the ground and beaten by police on the campus of UW-Madison, where he was a student protesting Dow Chemical over the company’s manufacturing of napalm, used in the Vietnam War.

“One of them hit me right on the base of the spine,” Soglin recalls in David Maraniss’ book about the protest and an ill-fated battle in Vietnam over the same two days, “They Marched Into Sunlight.”

“I was on my side, and instinctively my arms went out and my legs went out, my limbs just shot out. And at that point everything was exposed. And then they started working on my legs and my head.”

The event and protests that followed on campus and at the Capitol elevated Soglin to a leader among student protesters. He was elected to the Madison City Council two years later and elected to his first term as mayor before he was age 30.