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Tue, 05.31.1921

Joseph Felmet, Activist, and Journalist born

Joseph Felmet

*Joseph Felmet was born on this date in 1921. He was a white-American journalist, pacifist, and activist.

Joseph Andrew Felmet was born in Asheville, North Carolina. He attended Lee H. Edwards High School and delivered newspapers for The Asheville Times. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

After graduating college, Felmet worked as a reporter for the Asheville Advocate. In 1942, he was sent to a conscientious objector camp for not registering with the Selective Service. In 1943, he was drafted into the United States Army and refused to report. Felmet was sentenced to one year and one day in prison but was released after six months. After the war, he joined the United World Federalists. He registered with the Socialist Party of America. In 1946, he became the Workers' Defense League (WDL) secretary. He was sentenced to 15 days in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in February 1947 for not registering with the city before canvassing in Black neighborhoods for the WDL.

In April 1947, he participated in the Journey of Reconciliation Freedom Rides, challenging racial segregation. Felmet, Bayard Rustin, Igal Roodenko, and Andrew Johnson were arrested in North Carolina for violating local Jim Crow laws regarding segregated seating on public transportation. They were sentenced to serve on a chain gang for 30 days.

In 1952, Felmet was engaged to Marianne Ryon. On July 27, 1965, Felmet married widow Marjorie "Margie" Halpern; they lived in a modest house in Winston-Salem. Felmet worked as a reporter for The Hartford Times in the 1950s. He returned to North Carolina in 1955 when he accepted a job with the Winston-Salem Journal, where he worked on the editorial staff. Felmet retired from journalism in 1969. In the 1974 elections, Felmet ran for the Democratic Party nomination for North Carolina's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives and lost. He ran for the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate in the 1978 election, also losing.

During this time, Felmet delivered a petition to President Jimmy Carter and Governor Jim Hunt seeking a pardon on behalf of the Wilmington Ten. As a member of the War Resisters League, Felmet petitioned President Ronald Reagan to end the draft, which Carter had reinstated during his administration. He was arrested on the campus of North Carolina State University for trespassing when he refused to stop circulating petitions. Felmet filed a brief with the court challenging the university's restrictions on outsiders communicating with students as a violation of his First Amendment rights. The university dropped the charges and agreed to review its policy.

Felmet enrolled at Wake Forest University to study the Russian language and petitioned the United States Information Agency for issues of Amerika, the Russian-language magazine published by the United States Department of State. They declined his request based on the Smith–Mundt Act. His wife died on March 9, 1993. Felmet remained in the couple's modest home after his wife's death. He died in September 1994, but his exact date could not be determined. A family member who had been unable to reach Felmet went to his home on September 28 and called the police when no one answered the door. An officer discovered his body, allegedly in the bathtub.

His death certificate says he was pronounced dead on September 28, 1994, but the date of his death is listed as September 20, 1994, when he reportedly was last seen alive. The cause of death, ischemic heart disease, was later added to the death certificate after an autopsy. The October 20, 1994, edition of the Winston-Salem Chronicle mentioned that Felmet had died "recently." The Chronicle noted that before his death, Felmet had expressed he did not want a memorial service held for him after he died. Instead, it was his wish that mourners donate to the War Resisters League, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, or the Unitarian Church of Winston-Salem. His fortune disappeared after his death.

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