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Vern Partlow; His Peace Song Stirred Ruckus

March 04, 1987

Vern Partlow, whose 60-year career included stints as publicist, journalist, composer and folk singer but who will be remembered best by an older generation for one of the first peace songs, "Old Man Atom," died Sunday of cancer at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 76.

In 1945, shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima, Partlow wrote his grim, whimsical plea for an end to war, with this plaintive coda: "Peace in the world or the world in pieces."

Five years later, at the height of the McCarthy Era, recordings of the song were withdrawn and its broadcast prohibited. The New York Times editorialized that banning the song because the Soviet Union had developed its own nuclear arsenal was "a new high in absurdity."

After the furor, Partlow, who was then employed as a political columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News, was asked to publicly declare that he was not a member of the Communist Party. He refused on principle and was fired.

Before joining the News, he had worked as a public relations consultant in the campaigns of City Councilman (and now Rep.) Edward R. Roybal, Atty. Gen. (and later Gov.) Edmund G. (Pat) Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron.

He returned to the publicity and public relations fields, specializing in Jewish organizations.

Survivors include three sons and four grandchildren.

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