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News Obituary Article

ATLANTA: Bud Foote, 74, activist, pursued a better world


Bud Foote was a folk-singing, rabble-rousing, protest-marching, storytelling, left-leaning activist. But only in his spare time.

The rest of the time he was a French-speaking, speed-reading, book-reviewing, poetry-writing, Princeton-educated scholar.

He hung out with '60s folkies Joan Baez and Pete Seeger --- who recorded one of his songs --- became friends with science fiction author Isaac Asimov, penned articles for academic journals and such underground newspapers as Atlanta's now-defunct The Great Speckled Bird, and wrote dozens of songs for political demonstrations and civil rights rallies.

"Bud had a continuing concern for the people who somehow get left out of the political equation," said his wife, Ruth Anne Foote of Atlanta. "He was a radical and he was a feminist and he always had a vision of a better world where the doors are open to more people."

Irving Flint "Bud" Foote, 74, died of complications from a stroke Saturday at his Atlanta home. The body was cremated. The memorial service is 4:30 p.m. today at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church. Wages & Sons Funeral Home, Stone Mountain, is in charge of arrangements.

He had a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a master's from the University of Connecticut and taught at Georgia Tech from 1957 to 1999.

He delighted in teaching survey English classes to technically inclined students and became legendary for freewheeling lectures that hitchhiked through the galaxy. He started a speed-reading program, based on his own practice of racing through a couple of books a day, and developed courses in African-American literature.

Mr. Foote, who named his cats after mythological characters, founded Tech's hugely popular science fiction studies program.

He donated his collection of 8,000 volumes to its library. He collected musical instruments, a habit fueled by his early coup of scoring a valuable Martin guitar at a used furniture store for $10.

"Bud was definitely a raconteur, and I could listen to him for hours," said friend Bill Hoffman of Silver Spring, Md. "He could be talking about something completely different and the next thing you know, he was quoting Keats or some philosopher. Everything he read, he took in."

Harlon Joye of Atlanta, host of WRFG-FM radio's "Fox's Minstrel Show," said Mr. Foote wrote scores of original songs and would take a melody such as Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and add lyrics that lambasted Georgia's Department of Transportation when it was planning construction through Atlanta's intown neighborhoods.

Mr. Foote's daughter, Anna Copello of Atlanta, who sang with him as part of the Adamantly Egalitarian String and Reed Corps, said folk, jazz and blues musicians --- from Buffy Sainte-Marie and Bernice Johnson Reagon, to brothers Nat and Cannonball Adderley --- would stop by their home while passing through town.

"No party was complete unless Dad got out his guitar and we sang," she said, "and no dinner conversation was ever the same twice."

Survivors include five sons, William Lewis Foote III and James Murray Foote, both of New York, and Joseph Nathaniel Foote, Samuel Joshua Foote and Lewis Ford Foote II, of Atlanta; his mother, Margaret Flint Foote of Concord, N.H.; his brother, William Lewis Foote II of Wolfeboro, N.H.; and four grandchildren.

© 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Mar. 16, 2005.