Bow down your heads, folks…

…a great, uppity American has passed:

Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and enduring radio-show host whose oral histories chronicled the travails and triumphs of America’s working class, has died. He was 96.

Terkel died today at his home in Chicago, his son, Dan Terkel, said in an interview. “He just went very quickly and was in no pain at all,” Dan Terkel said. “He lived a very long, full, satisfying though sometimes impetuous life.”

Born in New York, Terkel became synonymous with Chicago, the city where he moved at age 10 and rarely left. His parents ran a boarding house and a men’s hotel during the Great Depression, giving the young Terkel a steady diet of the struggles of ordinary people whose stories became his life’s work.

“People’s everyday experience can be as profound and as compelling as any celebrity,” said Russell Lewis, chief historian of the Chicago Historical Society, which houses many of Terkel’s collected works. “Everyday experience is powerful, and Studs understood this.”

Terkel’s most popular books, “Working,” “Hard Times,” and “The Good War,” which earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1985, were compilations of transcribed interviews with waitresses, truck drivers, gravediggers and prostitutes telling their own stories.

An unabashed leftist who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, Terkel considered President Franklin D. Roosevelt a hero and credited his New Deal programs for getting the U.S. economy moving again. Terkel, who always wore a red article of clothing as a symbol of his sympathies with labor, would later rail against welfare reform and other “small government” policies that he said hurt working Americans.

He had a website, too. The lessons he carried out of the Great Depression would be so applicable to today’s situation, and I think it behooves us all to read him and learn through the voices of the ordinary people he conversed with and championed.

Rest well, Studs. You done good.

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