Cal­i­for­nia min­is­ter was ac­tivist, Prankster host

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE -

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).”

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