Dismas Becker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dismas Becker
BornPaul Vincent Becker
( 1936-09-16)September 16, 1936
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedSeptember 19, 2010( 2010-09-19) (aged 74)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Alma materMarquette University
Political partyDemocratic

Dismas Becker (September 16, 1936 – September 19, 2010) was an American Democratic politician, civil rights activist, and former Discalced Carmelite friar and Catholic priest from Wisconsin.

Life and career[edit]

Born Paul Vincent Becker in 1936 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after graduating from high school he entered the Order of Discalced Carmelites, where he received the religious name of Dismas, named for the Good Thief depicted in the New Testament at the Crucifixion of Jesus. He had his name changed legally in 1986.[1] He graduated from St. Francis Seminary, becoming ordained a priest in 1964, and later earned a Master's degree in Sociology from Marquette University.[2]

In 1969, Becker became involved with the Rev. James Groppi, a fellow Catholic priest and activist leader in the city, in planning a demonstration at the State Capitol to demand action on welfare rights and school reform demands made by the state’s poorest communities. He arrived late to find that, led by Groppi, nearly a thousand activists from Milwaukee had occupied the State Assembly chamber and much of the rest of the Capitol. Groppi was arrested, leaving Becker the de facto leader of the protest.[2] Becker proceeded to lead a protest on the lawn of the capitol several days later, at which he was beaten by a police officer.[3]

In 1972 Becker helped to edit and publish a book giving voice to the poor women of the city: Welfare Mothers Speak Out: We Ain't Gonna Shuffle Anymore,[4] the same year that he left his religious Order and the priesthood. He married E. Fay Anderson, an African American mother of four in 1975. He later went on to run for state office, becoming elected and serving in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1977 until 1989. He was the Majority Leader in the Assembly for the Democratic Party in the mid-1980s.[5]

Becker died of cancer on September 19, 2010.


  1. ^ "Dismas Becker seeks name change". Milwaukee Journal. April 29, 1986. p. 9. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ a b Silvers, Amy Rabideau (September 20, 2010). "Obituary of Dismas Becker". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  3. ^ "Dismas Becker's radical Christianity and transformational politics". The Cap Times. October 4, 2010.
  4. ^ Becker, Dismas, Rev.; Tarantino, Howard Thomas, editors (1972). Welfare Mothers Speak Out: We Ain't Gonna Shuffle Anymore. W. W. Norton.
  5. ^ Wisconsin Historical Society: Becker, Dismas