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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Video Oral History: Bill "Bix" Bichsel

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Bill “Bix” Bichsel was born and raised in Tacoma, where he now lives.  A Jesuit priest, Bichsel is a long-time member of Tacoma’s Catholic Worker community, who commit themselves to social justice campaigns and working with the poor.

As a teacher at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, Bichsel worked on fair housing and anti-discrimination campaigns, and later took part in anti-Vietnam War protests in Boston. Upon learning from environmental activists about the nuclear weapons slated to be stored at Bangor Naval Base on Hood Canal, Bichsel joined the pacifist civil disobedience at the base, work he believes “made real” his commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience and the spiritual power of protest and resurrection.

In 1975, nonviolent theologians and activists Jim and Shelley Douglass helped form an intentional community near Bangor Naval Base, which later purchased land next to the base and became the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolence. Bichsel became involved with the work of Ground Zero, and took part in many of the acts of civil disobedience: fence cuttings, intentional acts of trespass, and planning for the peace blockade of the Trident nuclear submarine, the USS Ohio. Ground Zero also helped spark a nationwide campaign of witness protesting the movements of nuclear weapons from Texas to the Northwest on “white trains.”

In mid-1980s, Bichsel became involved in solidarity work in Central America, and then with protests at the School of the Americas—an American combat training school for Latin American soldiers—though he maintains his commit to anti-nuclear activism. As he says, it is our responsibility to continually protest: there is, he believes, “a power much greater than nuclear weapons.”

Click here to go to a special section Anti-Nuclear organizing in the Northwest.

Bill Bichsel was interviewed in Tacoma on November 12, 2008, by Matt Dundas.