A Publisher’s Tribute to Chuck Tilly

I had known Chuck Tilly for a dozen years when, on July 3, 2003, he wrote to Paradigm Publishers, attaching an outline for a new book he planned to write. Paradigm at that time was a one-man operation occupying a corner of my basement. Chuck generously offered the future manuscript for publication, saying “For years, I’ve been encouraging others to write this book. No one is doing it, so I have to write it myself.”

Knowing Chuck’s virtuosity – and that he had just finished two other books – I took him at his word that he would begin writing the following week. Chuck e-mailed next day, on July 4th, accepting my grateful contract offer, but warning “It might take me a little longer to write this, because on Tuesday I begin chemotherapy.” I granted him all the time in the world. We mortals would think in terms of years, but Chuck counted his writing schedules in days and hours. He set a manuscript completion date of September 15 for Social Movements 1768-2004, his worldwide history and theoretical treatise on social movements.

Occasionally I asked Chuck how he was feeling. Characteristically, he ignored such questions and replied with numbers of pages completed and a meditation on the next intellectual puzzle facing him.

At the August 2003 ASA meeting in Atlanta, Chuck joined a well attended luncheon Paradigm threw, I suppose, to encourage people to think that a press with no titles in print was a going concern. Before leaving, he opened his satchel and flashed about 250 pages of manuscript, saying, “It won’t be September 15, but you’ll have it on the 22nd.” He was true to his word. Upon submitting his manuscript, he said, “My doctor suggested I have a project to distract me during 15 weeks of chemotherapy. I wanted to finish it the same day I completed my therapy, but I couldn’t do it, it took another week.” There was some of the Tilly bravado, but mostly he sounded genuinely disappointed.

In the next four years, during cycles of chemotherapy, remission, and recurrence, he published 7 more books, 3 more with Paradigm and 4 others with Cambridge, Chicago and Princeton University presses.

Stories of Tilly’s professional accomplishments can overshadow his personal virtues. Unfailingly he was supportive and encouraging, respectful to all who crossed his path, showing genuine interest in their lives and work. Grad students in distant countries would sometimes ask me for Tilly’s contact information; they would quickly become recipients of his thoughtful advice and one of his copious bibliographies, which he assembled on many topics. He was as generous to individuals as he was in providing sociology a wide-ranging body of work that will not be forgotten.

Dean Birkenkamp
Paradigm Publishers, Founder and Publisher

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