Ed Murphy (activist)

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Ed Murphy (born August 6, 1945) is an American activist and the Executive Director of the Workforce Development Institute. He is a former military intelligence agent who exposed the CIA's Phoenix Program in April 1970.


Murphy has a long history as an advocate for peace and social justice; a leader in veterans services, public policy, organized labor, economic and workforce development. He taught at the New School for Social Research; has been a guest lecturer at other colleges; been published Vietnam: Our Father Daughter Journey and written a variety of articles and commentaries, appeared on local, national and international,[1] radio and television, had four photography exhibits related to Vietnam and participated in the development of two movies. Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam won an Emmy Award. Tom Brokaw came to Albany to talk with Murphy about the book Dear America, Letters Home from the War and Murphy's role as Deputy Director of New York State's Division of Veterans Affairs. [2]

Early years[edit]

He was born the sixth child of Irish-American Catholic parents, John and Gladys Murphy, on Staten Island on August 6, 1945, the same day the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.[3] His mother died before he was 7 years old. His parents set the stage for Ed's later civil rights work. His father worked for the NYC Highway Department and was a golf professional with five holes-in-one.[3]

His father's golfing with African-American golfers like Ted Rhodes and Joe Louis[4][5] and his mother's welcoming of non-denominational African American nuns to their home set the stage for Ed's later civil rights activities.[4]

Murphy left Staten Island for the Paulist Fathers Seminary in Baltimore before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge turned Staten Island into a more urban community. He attended a public grammar school and was graduated from St Peter's Boys High School, run by the Christian Brothers. When he decided to become a priest, he chose the Paulist Fathers, an American community founded in the mid-19th century by Isaac Thomas Hecker, who was influenced by Thoreau, Emerson and the Transcendentalists. He has credited his environmental consciousness to growing up “in the woods” and watching them destroyed by bulldozers in order to build homes that flooded in the 1950s hurricanes. In 1963 he joined the Paulist Fathers at their seminary in Baltimore.[3][6]

At the age of 18 Murphy was exposed to a national/international community, inner city poverty and visited the Maryland State Penitentiary. Walking through Death Row he stood next to the Gas Chamber, noticing a plaque with the dates and names of those executed, his opposition to the death penalty was confirmed. In his second year with Paulists he listened to Saul Alinsky explain community organizing and to a Paulist priest working in South Africa describing apartheid. He learned of the post-WWII Worker Priest movement, where priests earned their own living in factories and on docks, ministering as an equal. His third year was spent mostly in silence[7] and meditation at the Paulist novitiate without academic classes, radio, TV and newspapers. In July 1966 he left the Paulists, returning to "normal" life.[8]

He surrendered his draft deferment and began the process of enlisting in the military,[9] to become a Counterintelligence Special Agent. In January 1967 Ed began his Basic Training – Initial Military Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia and then returned to Baltimore for the US Army Intelligence School's Special Agent course, at Fort Holabird; followed by eight months studying Vietnamese, at the Defense Language Institute, Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas.


His professional life began in May 1968 as an Army Counterintelligence Special Agent.[8][10] He became fluent in the Vietnamese language and was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Dragon Mountain,[8] in the Central Highlands outside Pleiku, where his first recorded statement against the war was made[8][11][12][13] "The day Bobby Kennedy was killed, I wrote home 'Vietnam is one of our mistakes and our generation will unfortunately be linked with this mistake, unless we use the means available to rectify this situation. In our country there are many ways to make ourselves heard. I hope the legitimate means afforded us through the democratic process will be used. If the swifter and more dramatic means of violence are used, then history will have that much more reason to condemn us.'"[citation needed]

Murphy returned to the U.S. and was assigned to the 116th Military Intelligence Detachment in Washington D.C., conducting background checks for those applying for security clearances and was involved in military efforts to “monitor” the peace movement. He completed his military duty on January 15, 1970. The next day he met with Sam Brown, organizer of the Vietnam Moratorium and immediately spoke out against the Vietnam war and use of the military to spy on domestic activities.[14] In January 1970, Murphy returned to Staten Island and became an early organizer of VVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In May 1970, he appeared at the Overseas Press Club[15][16] with Michael Uhl and the Citizens Commission of Inquiry to expose the Phoenix Program[17][page needed][unreliable source?] He continued to speak out, organize and testify for peace.[18]

For more than 40 years Murphy has articulated the hopes, challenges, mistakes, missed opportunities and options Americans face interacting in a global economy. He has organized and implemented private and public sector veterans programs; established some of the earliest Readjustment Counseling (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) programs and served as an advisor to the federal court on the Agent Orange Class Action Lawsuit. Vietnam Veterans of American founder, Bobby Muller, wrote that "Ed Murphy's passion for peace is inspiring. Murphy was one of the earliest combat intelligence agents to speak out against the war in Vietnam; then his leadership and skills helped build the Vietnam Veterans movement".[19]

Murphy has used his intelligence background, his BA in American Studies from Richmond College (City University of New York), his two years of graduate work in the history of social change and revolution, also at Richmond College, and his MPA from the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA) to support his work as a public sector and non-profit executive; consultant to government,international businesses; for social justice, civil rights, as a community organizer, in organizational development and systems transformation.

In 1977, Murphy wrote a history of conservationists' efforts to protect the mineral springs in Saratoga Springs, New York and the founding of the Saratoga Spa State Park, This document, The Politics of Hydrotherapy and The Development of a New York State Policy (December 14, 1977) is part of the local history collection in the Saratoga Room at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. In his diaries, Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York, wrote "Ed Murphy, who was representing a Vietnam Vets group…eager to get back into government and politics."[20] Cuomo appointed Murphy Deputy Director, NYS Division of Veterans Affairs, where he created Vietnam Veterans in Government VVIG, an organization representing 9,000 Vietnam Era veterans and led the development of a Temporary State Commission on Vietnam Veterans which recommended programs to address their special needs. In May 1985 Tom Brokaw highlighted Murphy's work as Director of Workforce Planning. Murphy led the development of New York's first state workforce plan in 1989, recommending introduction of a Workforce Impact Statement (WIS) as a required component of public funding.[21]

In 1991, Murphy left New York to work on reconciliation with Vietnam, do business and environmental consulting[22] and provide humanitarian assistance. He participated in the United Nations' Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)'s 1991 Investors Forum in Ho Chi Minh City and subsequent meetings with government leaders in Hanoi. For a decade Murphy worked with government, businesses, organized labor, NGOs and educational institutions interested in establishing programs in Southeast Asia. Through his alma mater, the College of Staten Island (CSI), he lectured, initiated programs related to and assisted in development of the City University of New York's establishment of English language training in and educational exchanges with Vietnam. He brought his daughter Zoeann with him on a CSI trip to Indochina, after which they created a photography exhibit and wrote their book Vietnam: Our Father Daughter Journey.

In 1999, Murphy began to work with the the NYS AFL-CIO, establishing the Workforce Development Institute, as a national leader in workforce intelligence, education and training of unionized workers. WDI offers grants, public policy/social justice advocacy and direct services for working families. WDI develops and funds education and training programs for businesses, unions, minority, low income and disenfranchised workers. WDI has both statewide and regional operations; provides economic research, community audits, policy analysis and cultural services under contract with government agencies. Murphy was a co-founder of New York's Apollo Alliance[23] WDI hosts and funds this network of organized labor, business, environmentalists, educators and proponents of social and environmental justice to address energy concerns. WDI works with the Global Labor Institute (GLI) at Cornell University on issues related to climate change and the Building Trades, providing training related for Green Jobs. Ed Murphy has various writings about peace, politics, environmental justice, and workforce development.[24]


  1. ^ NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (May 1979)
  2. ^ NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw (May 5, 1985)
  3. ^ a b c Vietnam: Our Father Daughter Journey, op cit, p. 13
  4. ^ a b "Why I am A Liberal" by Thomas V. Murphy, Staten Island Advance (February 19, 2011)
  5. ^ April 20, 1997, "Tiger's Teddy a SS Regular" by Tom Flannagan, Staten Island Advance
  6. ^ "Vietnamese Culture Had Powerful Impact", Schenectady Gazette, June 18, 1988
  7. ^ "An External Mediation" (Connections), February 1992
  8. ^ a b c d Ed Murphy (December 1991). Vietnam Lives in My Soul!. Connections Magazine. 
  9. ^ "Hometown Memorial Overcomes Differences", Schenectady Gazette, May 21, 1988
  10. ^ Vietnam: Our Father Daughter Journey, op cit, pp. 17, 80
  11. ^ Dear America - Letters Home From Vietnam, 1985, W.W. Norton and Company.
  12. ^ Vietnam: Our Father Daughter Journey, op cit, p. 23
  13. ^ NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw (May 5, 1985)
  14. ^ "Islander describes ‘tortures’ he saw as a GI in Vietnam", Staten Island Advance by Dan McNamara (April 14, 1970)
  15. ^ "Vets Say GIs Tortured Captives" by Timothy Ferris, New York Post (May 14, 1970)
  16. ^ "Parallel News" by Nat Hentoff, Village Voice (May 4, 1970)
  17. ^ The Phoenix Program by Douglas Valentine. (Publisher: William Morrow: 1990)
  18. ^ NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, documentary on men who had fought in Vietnam and turned against the war (May 1979)
  19. ^ Vietnam: Our Father Daughter Journey, op cit, back cover
  20. ^ Diaries of Mario M. Cuomo, Random House, 1984
  21. ^ NYS Department of Civil Service website
  22. ^ 'Post-Vietnam Activist: "I'm Not Cynical After All These Years"' by Mary Roget, The Stars and Stripes Return to Vietnam (November 11–17, 1996)
  23. ^ Apollo Alliance website
  24. ^ "ed_murphy on". Scribd. 1945-08-06. Retrieved 2012-08-15.