The Rev. Daniel Mallette, now 80, was in the news this week for resisting the Catholic archdiocese's effort to nudge him into a nursing home from St. Margaret of Scotland parish on the Southwest Side. He also was in the news in 2002 for fighting off two men who broke into his rectory bedroom and last December when burglars blackened his eyes and broke his ribs.
And the parish council chairman now says, "he has friction with everyone ... that's one of the reasons we all love him."
But in an interview back in 1975, two years before he was appointed to St. Margaret, the Rev. Mallette emphasized that he was "not militant."
The Rev. Mallette became a civil-rights activist at St. Agatha's in Lawndale, where he spent 11 years early in his career. During that time, he went to Selma, Ala., to march with Dr. Martin Luther King for civil rights. He was registering voters in Mississippi when three civil rights workers were killed. He was jailed in Chicago when some of his parishioners were arrested while demonstrating for better public education. One of his companions in jail was the comedian Dick Gregory.
Although he considered himself a student of Saul Alinsky, the Rev. Mallette said that unlike some others in the civil rights movement, he never confronted police with the intention of getting arrested.
"Police have the hardest job there is," he said then.
He was appointed pastor of Visitation Church in 1971 and in 1975 was appointed associate parish priest at St. Norbert's in Northbrook.
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