Jacobs and Coffin

Two populist icons of the Sixties are gone: William Sloan Coffin, and Jane Jacobs.

I look to the Times, of all things, for the authoritative obituaries — first for Bill Coffin, second for Jane Jacobs.

But little of the passion of these two people comes through. I encountered Coffin only once in person, and that was only a year ago, and I remember remarking on the power of the man close to the end of his life and wondering what that power must have felt like decades ago. Read Bill Moyers’s remembrance of Bill Coffin for a hint of the fire that only the end of life could extinguish. Jane Jacobs didn’t have Coffin’s public profile (and she wasn’t inscribed in a Doonesbury character), but her commitment was no less evident in her work, and her influence may, in the end, prove greater than his.

Agree or disagree with their ideas, respect the fact that they lived lives of ideas. Both should be celebrated and their work shared widely.