Essayist Milton Mayer Dies at 77


Milton S. Mayer, an essayist whose published works sought to pierce what he viewed as the fallacies of man in relationship to himself, his state and his God, died Sunday at his Carmel home of cancer.

Mayer, who was an adviser to University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins when Hutchins founded the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of California at Santa Barbara, was 77.

A former Hearst journalist in Chicago who won the George Polk Memorial Award and the Benjamin Franklin Citation for Journalism, Mayer liked to call himself an unemployed newspaperman, despite the success of his books.


He wrote several books, including “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45,” “The Revolution in Education,” “The Art of the Impossible: A Study of the Czech Resistance,” and perhaps his best-known collection of essays, “What Can a Man Do?”

His other books included “The Anatomy of Communism,” “If Men Were Angels” and “The Nature of the Beast.”

He also taught at several colleges and universities in the United States, Czechoslovakia, France and Germany and lived overseas with German and Russian families in the days after World War II.

The center in Santa Barbara fosters worldwide discussions about democracy. Mayer’s biography of Hutchins, the center’s founder, will be published soon.