California minister was activist, Prankster host
LOS ANGELES — The Rev. Paul Sawyer, a Unitarian Uni- versalist minister and peace and social justice activist whose onion-shaped former sanctuary in the San Fernando Valley of California was the site of one of the Merry Pranksters’ famous “Acid Test” gatherings in the 1960s, has died. He was 75.
Sawyer died June 23 of pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Susan.
Sawyer was known as a passionate advocate for social justice who believed that one’s values weren’t worth anything unless one was prepared to go to jail for them. Over the past five decades, he was a leader in scores of nonviolent civil actions against war, nuclear power and the death penalty. In the process, he frequently was arrested.
“I stopped counting at 60,” his wife said.
“Paul Sawyer was a lion, he was a poet and he was an activist, and he was probably one of the most dedicated people for making the world a better place than anybody I ever knew,” said ’60s icon Wavy Gravy, a longtime friend.
During Sawyer’s tenure, the church built the distinctive Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society building. As Sawyer recalled in his recently published book, “Untold Story: A Short Narrative History of Our Time,” Prankster Ken Babbs called in 1966 to ask if they could put on an Acid Test at his church the next evening.
“I said he could as long as he didn’t give out acid to the audience,” Sawyer wrote, describing an Acid Test as “a happening of music, dance and costuming where participants got high on LSD (which was not yet illegal).”