Remembering Bill Pelke One Year Later

Death Penalty Action
3 min readNov 13, 2021

One year ago today, many of us awoke to the sad news that Bill Pelke had died.

One of Bill’s favorite photos. He is pictured with Sister Helen Prejean and Susan Sarandon, who won an academy award as Best Acress for her portrayal of Sister Helen in the film, Dead Man Walking.

If you are among those of us who knew Bill Pelke, or who knew of him, the hole left in our hearts and in our movement when he died so suddenly is massive. You can read his obituary in the Washington Post here, and in the Chicago Tribune, here. The newest publication to feature Bill and his story is this podcast: The Opportunity Agenda’s podcast, “Shifting the Narrative,” which includes an episode about Bill’s activism (#4) and how Bill’s journey tracks with shifting public perception on executions over the past 30+ years.

One of the amazing things about Bill is that while he himself was a murder victim family member, what disturbed him most about this issue is how the death penalty impacted the families of those facing execution. There is no question where Bill would be today. He would be standing with the family of Julius Jones in Oklahoma. He would be with the families of Rodney Reed and Melissa Lucio in Texas. And so many others.

Bill would be with us on Wednesday in Mississippi, standing with family and friends of David Cox. In the photo above, he is standing behind and in support of Lisa Brown, whose son was executed later that day (last year) by the federal government.

Please light a candle in memory of Bill Pelke this weekend. And by light a candle, I mean fan the flames for justice within yourself. Do something extra. Sign & share the petitions. Send a donation to the group Bill founded, Journey of Hope …From Violence to Healing. Share Bill’s message of “Love & Compassion for All of Humanity.”


Saturday night starting at 9pm EST, those who wish to do so may join us in a community zoom simply to share, reminisce, and comfort each other, and perhaps also to celebrate the ways that Bill Pelke’s legacy continues. Register here. Everyone is welcome.

Register now for the Virtual Vigil for David Cox during his execution on Wednesday, Nov 17 starting at 5pm CST.

In memory and honor of our friend, a man who has been my friend and colleague for over 30 years, I thank you for your support towards furthering Bill’s legacy.

Bill Pelke is here in spirit.

— abe

Abraham J. Bonowitz

Director, Death Penalty Action

PS: Bill signed every petition we offered. You can too, for campaigns on the front page at, and for upcoming executions, here.

PPS: Please share our posts on Twitter, Facebook, and now on Instagram too!



Death Penalty Action

Death Penalty Action provides high visibility resources, leadership and support in order to stop executions.