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an anecdotal sketch by Don Dedera
Ammon Hennacy, 64, who for many years was known as Phoenix’s One-Man Revolution, returned to town one day in July, 1957.
He visited friends briefly and quietly, and departed. The sighs of official relief in the offices of the Phoenix police, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, in total force, could have spawned a tropical storm.
Hennacy used to picket the post office building at income tax pay-up time.
"Seventy-five per cent of your income tax goes to war and the bomb," his signs react "I have refused to pay income taxes for the past seven years."
Hennacy was in a position of strength. He worked in the Valley only as a farm laborer, and taxes were not deducted from his pay. He would file a tax form, as required by law, and append a note explaining why he refused to pay taxes. He always managed to be broke when taxes were due.
A few times the police ran him in for questioning. After delivering lectures on the freedom of speech, Hennacy was back with his signs. Once revenue agents seized his signs as partial payment of taxes. Hennacy printed more signs.
Hennacy’s visit to Phoenix in 1957 was not for the purpose of picketing. He was sight-seeing en route to his home in New York City’s Bowery, after picketing the Atomic Energy Commission in Las Vegas and going on a hunger strike.
The AEC took pity on him and gave him a chair. One day an unexpected shift in wind delayed the firing of an atomic device at Yucca Flats. As the firing officer, a colonel, passed Hennacy’s picketing post, he bellowed:
"That’s one you stopped, Hennacy!"
Associate editor and street salesman for the Catholic Worker, Hennacy could look back on a life of conflict. At one time or another, he had been against everything.
Of Quaker parents, reared a Baptist, Hennacy heard Billy Sunday preach in 1909. Immediately, Hennacy became an atheist. He met a Socialist who was also a vegetarian. Hennacy became secretary of the Socialist Party in his home town of Lisbon, Ohio. He also became a vegetarian.
"I was against the killing of animals and for the killing of capitalists," he said. "I went to the University of Wisconsin and took military drills in order to learn how to kill capitalists. Then World War I came along and it was the wrong war for me.
He spent two years in a federal prison in Georgia for refusing to answer the draft in World War I. While there he led a hunger strike and was confined solitary for eight months.
"I was allowed to read only the Bible," he recalled "If they had given me a cook book, I guess I would have become a chef. I became a Christian. When I came out, I loved the warden."
Hennacy said be carried a Communist card for a couple of years. But he quit, he said, and now had nothing to do with Communists.
"I am a Catholic. I am a pacifist. I am a Christian Anarchist. In Russia the enemies of the free worker are the bureaucrats and the Communists. In the United States, the enemies of the free workers are the bureaucrats and the capitalists. I don’t believe in any government at all, and I am against violence of all kinds."
A Phoenix heckler drew the most revealing remark from Hennacy.
"Do you think you can change the world?" taunted the passer-by.
"No," answered Hennacy. "And damned if it can change me."
— Don Dedera, A Mile in His Moccasins (Phoenix: McGrew Printing, 1960), pp. 98-100. The book is a series of biographical anecdotes & sketches which originally appeared in his column for "The Arizona Republic."
Scanned & uploaded July 2002; images added from other sources
See also the Anarchist Encyclopedia entry for Ammon Hennacy at,
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