*Leader of the 1960s and 70s domestic terrorist group Weatherman
*”Kill all the rich people. … Bring the revolution home. Kill your parents.”
*Participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the *Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972
*Currently a professor of education at the University of Illinois
Born in 1944, Bill Ayers, along with his wife Bernardine Dohrn, was a 1960s leader of the homegrown terrorist group Weatherman, a Communist-driven splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society. Characterizing Weatherman as “an American Red Army,” Ayers summed up the organization’s ideology as follows: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.”
Today Ayers is a professor of education and a Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois. He has also authored a series of books about parenting and educating children, including: A Kind and Just Parent; To Become a Teacher; City Kids; City Teachers; To Teach; The Good Preschool Teacher; Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment in Our Schools; and Teaching Towards Freedom: Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom.
In his most recent screed, Fugitive Days, Ayers recounts his life as a Sixties radical, his tenure as a Weatherman lieutenant, his terrorist campaign across America, and his enduring hatred for for the United States. “What a country,” Ayers said in 2001. “It makes me want to puke.”
Ayers was an active participant in Weatherman’s 1969 “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago, where nearly 300 members of the organization employed guerrilla-style tactics to viciously attack police officers and civilians alike, and to destroy massive amounts of property via vandalism and arson; their objective was to further spread their anti-war, anti-American message. Reminiscing on those riots, Ayers says pridefully: “We’d … proven that it was possible — we didn’t all die, we were still there.”
A substantial portion of Ayers’ book Fugitive Days discusses the author’s penchant for building and deploying explosives. Ayers boasts that he “participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.” Of the day he bombed the Pentagon, Ayers says, “Everything was absolutely ideal. … The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.”
On another occasion, Ayers stated: “There’s something about a good bomb … Night after night, day after day, each majestic scene I witnessed was so terrible and so unexpected that no city would ever again stand innocently fixed in my mind. Big buildings and wide streets, cement and steel were no longer permanent. They, too, were fragile and destructible. A torch, a bomb, a strong enough wind, and they, too, would come undone or get knocked down.”
All told, Ayers and Weatherman were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S. “I don’t regret setting bombs, said Ayers in 2001, “I feel we didn’t do enough.”
In 1970, Ayers’ then-girlfriend Diana Oughton, along with Weatherman members Terry Robbins and Ted Gold, were killed when a bomb they were constructing exploded unexpectedly. That bomb had been intended for detonation at a dance that was to be attended by army soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Hundreds of lives could have been lost had the plan been successfully executed. Ayers attested that the bomb would have done serious damage, “tearing through windows and walls and, yes, people too.”
After the death of his girlfriend, Ayers and his current wife, Bernardine Dohrn, spent the 1970s as fugitives running from the FBI. In 1980 the two surrendered, but all charges against them were dropped due to an “improper surveillance” technicality. Ayers’ comment on his life, as reported by Peter Collier and David Horowitz in their authoritative chapter on Weatherman in Destructive Generation, is this: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird, America is a great country.”
Notwithstanding his violent past, Ayers today does not describe himself as a terrorist. “Terrorists destroy randomly,” he reasons, “while our actions bore … the precise stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to educate.”
In Fugitive Days, Ayers reflects on whether or not he might use bombs against the U.S. in the future. “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility,” he writes.
In 1999 Ayers joined the Woods Fund of Chicago, where he served as a director alongside Barak Obama until the latter left the Woods board in December 2002. Ayers went on to become Woods’ Chairman of the Board. In 2002 the Woods Fund made a grant to Northwestern University Law School’s Children and Family Justice Center, where Ayers’ wife, Bernardine Dohrn, was employed.