Willens, Harold 1914-2003
WILLENS, Harold 1914-2003
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 26, 1914, in Chemigov, Russia; died of heart failure March 17, 2003, in Brentwood, CA. Entrepreneur, political activist, and author. Willens is best remembered as an anti-nuclear weapons activist who founded the Center for Defense Information. After emigrating from the Ukraine with his parents to avoid persecution after the Bolshevik Revolution, he attended the University of California at Los Angeles and earned a B.A. in 1944. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps at the end of World War II, and visiting the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima after they were devastated by nuclear warheads made a lasting impression on Willens. Back in America, he founded and ran Wilshop Corp., a distributor of condiments to restaurants, working as president and chairman of the board of directors until 1975; in 1949, he also founded the textile machinery company Factory Equipment Corp. in Los Angeles, running this company until 1982; in addition, he owned and developed commercial and residential real estate. The success of his business ventures gave him the capital he needed to campaign for nuclear-freeze initiatives. He supported presidential candidates, including Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and Jimmy Carter, who were for nuclear arms control, but when he became disappointed by the lack of progress politicians made, he started grass-roots campaigns on his own. His greatest success was in authoring what became known as the California Bilateral Nuclear Weapons Freeze Initiative, which was passed in 1982. He also cofounded the Businessmen's Educational Fund, which later became the Center for Defense Information, and helped found the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race. In the late 1980s Willens traveled to Russia as a business consultant and helped train businessmen there on how to run a factory. Willens book The Trimtab Factor: How Business Executives Can Help Solve the Nuclear Arms Crisis (1984) includes his thoughts about how citizens can influence politics for the public good.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Writers Directory, 12th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2003, p. B15.