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John Quinn Brisben (September 6, 1934 – April 17, 2012) was an American teacher and political activist from Chicago, Illinois. Brisben was on the Socialist Party USA's presidential ticket twice. He ran as a candidate for president of the United States in the 1992 presidential election.[1] Previously, Brisben had been the Socialist Party USA's candidate for vice president in 1976, [2] the running mate of Frank P. Zeidler[3]

J. Quinn Brisben
J. Quinn Brisben in 1992.jpg
Brisben in 1992
Personal details
Born(1934-09-06)September 6, 1934
Enid, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedApril 17, 2012(2012-04-17) (aged 77)
Political partySocialist
ResidenceChicago, Illinois
Alma materUniversity of Oklahoma
University of Wisconsin-Madison


Brisben grew up in Enid, Oklahoma[4] during the Dust Bowl era. He met his wife-to-be, Andrea at the University of Oklahoma.[1] They married and lived for some time in Madison, Wisconsin while he studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Teaching careerEdit

He taught briefly in Gurnee, Illinois[1] before coming to Chicago, where he taught at Mason Upper Grade Center, Thomas Kelly High School and Harlan High.[1] Brisben worked as a high school history and social studies teacher in Chicago's inner city until his retirement in 1990.[2] He served several terms as a representative[2] in the American Federation of Teachers, Local 1,[4] and frequently served on strike committees. He received several teaching awards, including being named Teacher of the Year by Teachers for Integrated Schools in 1964.[2]


Active in the Civil Rights Movement,[4] Brisben took part in the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964—where he was briefly jailed—and in several Southern Christian Leadership Conference-sponsored activities in Alabama from 1965 to 1967. As a student, Brisben was once physically attacked[1] for being the first white member[2] of the local NAACP chapter. He was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and served as a boycott captain for the United Farm Workers among other social movements. In July 1990, he and Andrea helped smuggle 3,000 condoms[2] donated by ACT-UP Chicago to the Moscow Lesbian and Gay Union. Around the time of his run for president in 1992, Brisben had been primarily involved in the disability rights movement, with American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT),[2] even serving three days in an Orlando jail for taking part in an ADAPT demonstration.[2]

1992 presidential campaignEdit

Brisben and his running mate Bill Edwards were nominated at the 1991 Socialist Party USA convention. However, Edwards died [3]during the campaign and writer Barbara Garson[3] was selected to replace him on the ballot. In March 1992, Brisben participated in a presidential debate with other minor party and independent presidential candidates, which was aired on C-SPAN.[5] The Brisben−Garson ticket appeared on the ballots of Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia;[3] ultimately, they received 3,071 votes.[6] Brisben had been a member of the Socialist party since 1959.[4] He previously attempted to run for mayor in Chicago in 1975 via a write-in campaign after failing gain enough signatures to be placed on the ballot.[7]


Brisben published three poetry collections, and a novel, V for Victory Blues. He also contributed interviews to four books written by Studs Terkel, and to the 2003 anthology Queer Crips.



The writer Studs Terkel, a friend, interviewed Brisben in four of his books:

  • The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream (1988) ISBN 0-394-57053-7
  • Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992). ISBN 978-1-56584-000-3
  • Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth and Hunger for a Faith (2001) ISBN 0-641-75937-1
  • Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times (2003) ISBN 1-56584-837-3

Poetry collectionsEdit

  • The Significance of the Frontier: Selected Poems 1966-2002. Chicago: Scars Publications. 2002. ISBN 9781891470578.
  • I Saw This: New and Old Poems. Chicago: Scars Publications. 2006. ISBN 9781891470790.
  • Late Self Portraits. Becky Davis Design. 2008. ISBN 9780615237121.

Novels and storiesEdit


Brisben died at his apartment on April 17, 2012, at which time he and Andrea had been married 56 years. They had a daughter named Becky and a son named Michael.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Harlan High teacher ran for president as a Socialist". Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "J. Quinn Brisben". Socialist Party USA. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Ross, Jack. The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History. University of Nebraska Press. p. 657. ISBN 9781612344911. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d S, John. "Obituary for J. Quinn Brisben". Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Independent Presidential Candidates Debate". C-SPAN. March 1, 1992. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  6. ^ Ross, Jack (2015-04-15). The Socialist Party of America: A Complete History. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 657–. ISBN 9781612344911. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  7. ^ Rulli, Joseph Anthony (2019). Chicago Socialism: The People’s History. Arcadia Publishing. p. 117. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Willa Kenoyer
Socialist Party Presidential candidate
1992 (lost)
Succeeded by
Mary Cal Hollis
Preceded by
Socialist Party Vice Presidential candidate
1976 (lost)
Succeeded by
Diane Drufenbrock