John “Tito” Gerassi (1931-2012)

July 28, 2012

Photo by Joel Simpson,

In the wake of the untimely deaths of Alexander Cockburn and Michael Nash, we are sad to report the passing of John “Tito” Gerassi, author, journalist, historian, and son of Spanish Civil War veteran Fernando Gerassi, the last Republican commander of Barcelona.

Gerassi received his MA at Columbia University and earned his doctorate at the London School of Economics. Among his publications are The Great Fear in Latin America (1965), The Boys of Boise (1966), and the biography Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century (1989). The Premature Anti-Fascists: Oral History of American and Canadian Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War was published in 1986. Sixty-five of the oral histories that were conducted for this project, along with with supporting research materials, are at the Tamiment Library (Gerassi Oral History Collection; Gerassi Papers).

His former student Steven Colatrella has written an extensive obit note for CounterPunch:

The night he was born in Paris, a who’s who of 20th century artists and writers were at the bar downstairs with Gerassi’s father, Fernando Gerassi, an accomplished artist in his own right, and when the rest got drunk only Jean-Paul Sartre went upstairs in time to see the moment of birth of the person who later would write a biography of him rightly called by a NY Times reviewer “dazzingly original,” and who would just this past year publish an invaluable volume of their conversations over the years on politics, philosophy, war, literature, culture, art and everything else, Conversations with Sartre, which is already in print in French and Italian as well. …

The legendary Wild Bill Donovan, founder of OSS recruited Tito’s father for espionage during the war and this helped the family, through the intervention of Robert F. Kennedy, to gain US citizenship. …

He was a friend of Che Guevara and had a lifelong allergy to shell fish after being poisoned and nearly killed at the table with Fidel Castro during one of the CIA’s incompetent attempts to do in Fidel during a dinner for radical foreign journalists in Havana.

Read the full note here. Read a recent interview with Gerassi here.