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John Arthur (Jack) Penrod


Penrod, John

Penrod, John Arthur. (Jack), b. December 8, 1913, Birmingham, Alabama; Graduated from the University of Pittsburg, BA English in 1936; Single; Student, Teacher and Clerk; YCL 1935 and CP 1936; received passport# 427752 on May 28, 1937 which listed his address as 324 Vine Street, and 812 Coleman Avenue, both Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Sailed June 2, 1937 aboard the Aquitania; Arrived in Spain on June 19, 1937; Served with the XV BDE, Mackenzie-Papineau BN, Headquarters Company, Sniper Section, Section Leader, Cabo;  June 1937-May 1938; transferred to BDE Sanidad, Dispatcher for Ambulances acting Teniente, rank Cabo, June-November 1938; Returned to the US on December 15, 1938 aboard the Paris; WWII US Army, Philipines, rank Tech 5; d. April 12, 2008, Gainsville, FL.

Source: Sail, SACB, Cadre, Mac-Pap, Pay, RA, (obituary) Carol Giardina, “John Arthur ‘Jack’ Penrod, 1913-2008,” The Volunteer, Volume 25, No. 2, June 2008, pp. 21-22, Ancestry.

Photograph: John Arthur Penrod in Spain, RA Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 961; and.Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Photograph Collection; ALBA Photo 15; Series I Photographs 1930s-1990s, Box 2, Folder 89. Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries



Jack Penrod was a MacKenzie-Papineau veteran. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and resided in Gainesville, Florida, where he was a professor of English at the University of Florida. Jack died on April 12 in Gainesville at age 94.

Jack was a true forever activist. Before Spain he had been a radical student leader at Penn, his alma mater. There he joined the Communist Party USA, which he would leave and rejoin three times before finally parting from it. After Jack graduated from college, he went on to work with Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the newly forming Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He left union organizing to join the defenders of Spanish democracy in 1937.

Jack entered Spain, whose borders had been closed, by crossing the Pyrenees Mountains on foot by night with fellow volunteers. He led a sniper squadron in the MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion of the 15th International Brigade and saw action in major engagements, including Teruel and Fuentes de Ebro. A high point was Smith’s Maneuver, where Jack, comrade Len Levenson, and a handful of other snipers held off advancing fascist armies for hours. Jack was wounded. When he recovered, he became an ambulance driver until he returned to the U.S.

Jack was stationed in the Philippines during WWII. When the war ended, he organized a cell within his army unit to work with the radical Philippine Huks to agitate for U.S. withdrawal from the Philippines. The Huks had fought the Japanese invaders in WWII and were leading the way on land reform.

After WWII, Jack finished his doctorate on the G.I. Bill and became a professor of English. At the University of Florida, he won the Thomas Jefferson Award for excellence in teaching. In the 1950s, Jack worked against McCarthyist political repression of fellow professors. Later he helped to organize the faculty union at the University of Florida.

Jack also helped found a chapter of the United Nations Association and was a founder of the Unitarian Church in Gainesville. He gave talks about the Spanish Civil War at area colleges, high schools, and various functions. He demonstrated against the war in Iraq, was a member of the Labor Party, organized for national health insurance (HR676), and wrote letters for political prisoners for Amnesty International. He was at it all the time.
Jack was a member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and supported my radical women’s liberation work, including letting our groups, Redstockings and Gainesville Women’s Liberation, store archival material in his house, donating to our fund drives, editing drafts of tracts, getting library books for us, and staffing phone banks for our feminist scholarship.

Jack also volunteered as a reader for blind students, tutored ESL students, and served as a docent at the museum.

By Carol Giardina


ALB Archival Materials

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School Yearbook photograph, Ancestry.com

Full Database Record

Last Name Penrod
First/Middle Name John Arthur (Jack)
Ethnicity Note
Immigration Status
AKA Last Name 1
AKA First / Middle 1
AKA Last Name 2
AKA First / Middle 2
Foreign Nation
Foreign Nation City
Alt Pob State, City
Family: Name
Family: Relationship
Family: Begin Date
Family: End Date
Family: Comments
Education HS
Education College / Univ 1
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Education College/Univ 2
Graduate or Doctoral Work
Graduate or Doctoral Work Notes
Prior Military Service
Passport #
Passport Series
Passport Reported Lost in Spain
Passport Age
Passport Date
PP or Known Address Street
PP or Known Address City
PP or Known Address State
ALT City
Alt State
Sail Date
Marital Status
Marital Notes
Vocation 1
Vocation 2
Vocation 3
Party Affiliation
Date Affiliation
ALT Affiliation
ALT date
ALT affiliation 2
Arrival (in Spain) Date
Units served with
Battle action
Returned Date
Returned other
WWII Service
Place Died City
KIA/MIA/Died other
KIA/MIA/Died other Date
KIA/MIA/Died other Location
KIA/MIA/Died other Battle
Additional Notes