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Mario Savio in The 1960s

Mario Savio (1942-1996) was the widely-recognized leader of the 1964 Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley. Born in New York to devout Catholic parents, Mario considered joining the priesthood. He was introduced to social activism through the Newman Club, the Catholic parish and social center at Queens College. In 1963, he transferred to Berkeley as a philosophy major. At Berkeley he became more involved in politics, participated in student efforts to integrate local businesses and, during the summer of 1964, traveled to the South to work in the Mississippi Summer Project.

During the Free Speech Movement he emerged as an eloquent speaker and uncompromising leader of the student groups trying to win increased rights of political advocacy and organization on campus. Their efforts won the support of the faculty and, ultimately, major concessions from the university administration.

Following the Free Speech Movement, administration officials obstructed Savio’s readmission to the university until 1971. But he returned only briefly to Berkeley. Ultimately, Savio graduated from San Francisco State University and taught math at several colleges before his early death in 1996.

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