Dellinger was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts to a well-to-do family (his father was a lawyer and a prominent Republican). A Yale University and Oxford University student, he also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary. Rejecting his comfortable background, he walked out of Yale one day to live with hobos during the Depression. During World War II, he was a conscientious objector and anti-war agitator.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Dellinger joined freedom marches in the South and led many hunger strikes in jail. As US involvement in Vietnam grew, Dellinger applied Mahatma Gandhi's principles of non-violence to his activism within the growing USA anti-Vietnam-war movement, of which one of the high points was the Chicago 7 trial.
Dellinger had contacts and friendships with such diverse individuals as Eleanor Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh, Martin Luther King, Abbie Hoffman, A.J. Muste, and numerous members of the Black Panther Party, including Fred Hampton, whom he greatly admired. As chairman of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee he worked with many different anti-war organizations.
In 2001, Dellinger led a group of young activists from Montpelier, Vermont, to Quebec City, to protest the creation of a free-trade zone. He died May 25, 2004, in Montpelier.
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