By Ben Barrack
I’ll never forget that moment in 2008, just days before America elected Barack Obama as President of the United States. It was a video excerpt from a 1982 documentary. The excerpt featured a man named Larry Grathwohl, who little more than a decade earlier had infiltrated the Weather Underground for the FBI in 1969; Grathwohl was the only man who had done so successfully. In 1970, despite his protestations, the FBI needed a bust and decided to close in, arresting Linda Evans, an Underground member, and Grathwohl. At that point, Grathwohl’s cover was blown. While he was arrested, the Underground learned that he was an FBI informant.
In hindsight, Larry was right. Ayers is still a free man and Bill Clinton, with the help of then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, pardoned Evans.
On July 18, 2013, this true American hero and patriot passed away; he will be greatly missed.
In 2008, the mainstream media refused to vet Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, the group’s leader. Grathwohl knew Ayers personally and testified in front of Congress about his time on the inside.
In that 1982 documentary, Grathwohl spoke of being in a room with leaders of the Underground – to include Ayers – during a meeting. Grathwohl relayed what went on in that meeting. What he recounted was chilling when one stopped to consider the relationship between Ayers and the man who would go on to become president. Among other things, Grathwohl informed viewers that the Weathermen wanted to ‘eliminate 25 million people’ once they took over the U.S. Government:
It was that video that prompted me to reach out to Grathwohl, who I interviewed just a couple of days before election night, 2008. I found him to be warm, sincere, and incredibly concerned for his country. Here was a man who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, infiltrated the Weather Underground for the FBI, and made himself available again in 2008 to sound the alarm about a very disturbing figure Obama had connections to.
Since that time, I had multiple conversations with Larry. We came to know each other quite well and spoke to one another more times than I can count. He was a man of modest means and a humble heart. I remember one conversation in particular. We were talking about some current news event and he told me that he had been fighting with his dryer that day; it was old and wasn’t working right but getting a new one wasn’t in the budget.
When we hung up, I remember shaking my head as another example of how upside down the world is hit me like a ton of bricks.
“This man, who deserves to be treated like the American hero he is, can’t afford a new dryer while a terrorist named Bill Ayers swims in millions of dollars. It just isn’t right.”
When it came to Larry and the former Weather Underground members, there were plenty of similar examples. Consider that another Underground founder, Mark Rudd, raked in big bucks when he published his book. Larry was doing all he could to get his book re-published.
When I came up with the idea for Unsung Davids, I immediately knew that Larry would have to be one of the ten men I’d write about. As part of my research, I read his book, Bringing Down America, first printed in 1976, and simply could not put it down. It was replete with intricate details about what he experienced while with the Weathermen. As Bill Ayers gained more notoriety due to Obama’s meteoric rise, Larry wanted to get his book re-printed to again warn America.
Fortunately, he was able to see that happen before he passed away.
I’d interviewed Larry multiple times on-air but did so for the last time on April 13th of this year, to help with the re-release of his book. Here is that interview (it starts with an audio clip former Weather Underground member Kathy Boudin):
Some time in early 2011, I sat down to write Larry’s story. The juxtaposition of a righteous and truly honest man versus a wealthy, unrepentant terrorist who enjoyed notoriety and a cult following was both maddening and fascinating. To say I got angry at this injustice a few times while delving into Larry’s story would be an understatement. In fact, I think I was angrier than he was. Whenever I consulted with him about a detail, an account, or just to vent about the injustice, he was never bitter.
Never. He always seemed to accept that reality while simultaneously never being afraid to help change it. In fact, I can think of no man who better represents the will to continue fighting, regardless of how tired he may get. He began fighting in Vietnam and never stopped, until the day he passed away. This scene from Rocky I epitomized Larry’s spirit:
Larry was also a man of impeccable integrity who always insisted that he was telling the truth and Ayers was lying. I never questioned his story because it was both incredibly detailed and never changed but I also had a personal experience with Larry that underscored this. After completing the chapter I wrote about him, I sent it to him for his review so that he could correct any inaccuracies. Because it was still a work in progress, I wrote ‘for your eyes only’ in the subject line of the email.
Not long after sending that email, the phone rang; it was Larry. He wanted to know if it was alright for him to let his daughter read it.
That’s integrity. Of course I didn’t care! That’s not why I wrote that but Larry only further reinforced with me that his character was unassailable.
A few days later, Larry called me after reading what I had wrote and thanked me for telling his story. He signed off on my depiction and essentially authorized it with a virtual handshake.
After Unsung Davids was published, Larry asked me to ship him several copies, which I gladly did. What he told me in ensuing weeks really made me feel good for him. He told me that he gave the books to younger members of his family who were essentially apolitical and who hadn’t truly realized what he’d been through. I know that the realization on the part of those family members meant more to Larry than any personal recognition he could have received on a national stage.
Grathwohl cemented his extremely unique legacy as an American patriot when he risked his life by infiltrating a domestic terrorist group shortly after serving honorably in Vietnam. The asterisk next to his name relative to his time with the Weather Underground was supposed to represent his being the FBI’s only successful informant in the group. Years later, it would represent much more. – Unsung Davids, p. 116
While I never met Larry in person, we’d had countless conversations and email correspondence. I came to know him very well and considered him a dear friend. When you hear of someone’s passing, one of the ways you can tell that person was a friend is by how many memories come flooding back.
Four days after his death, they’re still coming at me.