"The Relational Meeting, Big Ed and the Mixing of Spirits" From a Forthcoming Book By Perry C. Perkins, Jr.
Edward T. Chambers, “Big Ed” as the chronicler of modern populist history, Studs Terkel called him, was the successor of Saul Alinsky as the Executive Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation. Ed was the one who moved IAF from a collective of gadfly organizers who came and went, gathering around Alinsky, into a profession. Ed insisted on, and raised the money so that organizers could make professional wages and support their families. Ed, with great resistance from Alinsky but with support from Dick Harmon, Mike Gecan, Ernesto Cortes, and Arnie Graf of the IAF staff, created the Alinsky Institute and began to conduct 10-Day National Trainings as a place to teach organizers and institutional leaders the philosophy and methodology of Institutional Organizing. IAF National Training was the place where the young organizer Barack Obama, then affiliated with another organizing network, came in 1988 to receive training. Edward T. Chambers, more than another single person is responsible for creation of the profession of organizing.
He was my first organizing mentor. Prior to my joining the collective of IAF organizers, while working with the United Woodcutters in Mississippi, I would meet with Ed three to four times a year. Ed was not a touchy-feely guy. He was gruff and irreverent and sometimes his brusque, gruff and irreverent manner got in the way of his political judgement.