Remembering Ed Chambers


To the Editor:
Ed Chambers, successor to Saul Alinsky at the Industrial Areas Foundation, died April 26 of heart failure in Drimoleague, Ireland. Chambers was born in Clarion, Iowa, in 1930.
Msgr. Marv Mottet and Chambers became close friends in seminary at Mount St. Bernard in Dubuque. He said that they spent many hours walking around the grounds exchanging ideas. He remembers Chambers as having a very keen mind. Msgr. Mottet said even after Chambers left the seminary he remained a strong Catholic.
Chambers’ first job was with Friendship House, founded by Catherine de Hueck Doherty, a Russian emigre who, according to Msgr. Mottet, had come to warn about the Russian revolution and the fact that they were trying to destroy the church.
After a year working with de Hueck Doherty, Chambers joined Saul Alinsky who, along with Bishop Bernard Shiel and Marshall Field III formed the Industrial Areas Foundation in 1940 to become an organization of organizations. Chambers went on to establish the systemic training of community organizers that is used by all of the national organizing groups today. In particular, he established the use of one-on-ones as a way to build intentional relationships. Msgr. Mottet believes the most important foundation Chambers laid was the understanding of the difference between personal and public relationships. Private relationships are close friends and family, whereas public relationships are temporary and generally with politicians across political lines, corporate leaders, etc. Chambers wrote the book “Roots for Radicals: organizing for Power, Action and Justice,” which is used by organizers and leaders today.
Chambers retired from the Industrial Areas Foundation in 2009 and moved to Ireland where he could live out his years in a peace that Msgr. Mottet said Chambers wouldn’t have been able to have in the United States.
Loxi Hopkins
Volunteer with the Social Action Office,
Diocese of Davenport

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