Bill Doub, Presente!

Photo by Bob Thawley, taken in San Francisco, March 19, 2017

William Coligny Doub II

San Francisco, Spring 2017. Several years into worsening dementia, Bill listened to a recording of Pete Seeger singing Little Boxes. The lyrics include:

And the people in the houses all go to the university
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same

After the song ended there was a pause.  Then Bill declared: “Not me, baby!”

Bill “Terry” Doub died peacefully in San Francisco the evening of August 3, 2017, with his daughter and her family singing a gentle chant of passage:  

We all come from love    

To love we shall return     

Like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean

Bill was born on July 9, 1935 in Oakland, CA, to Mary Belle Moore Doub and William Kelsey Doub. Though he died only ten miles from his birthplace, in his 82 years he traveled the world geographically, culturally, linguistically and politically. He also forged his own path of relentless devotion to ecological values — that humans have no right to dominate and destroy nature, and that we ultimately won’t get away with such behavior — and social well-being — that liberty and justice really should be for all. This devotion profoundly influenced most who met him; few people forget meeting Bill Doub.

Bill’s childhood in Piedmont, CA was economically privileged but emotionally harrowing, with adoring and doting grandparents and wealth on his mother’s side, and his father taking him to the Sierra Nevada many times, but also difficulties with alcohol and abuse in the family. As part of overcoming such adversity, Bill set out as soon as possible for the mountains:  At age 12 with the Berkeley chapter of the Sierra Club Rock Climbing Section, he made his first trip to the Sierra Nevada. Throughout his teens he found solace and joy in many trips to the Sierra and other mountains and rock climbing areas in northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia — rock climbing in summer and ski mountaineering as well as downhill skiing in winter.

At Pomona College, Bill started down the expected path: Engineering, an ROTC scholarship, and continuing to be interested in football, which he had played at Piedmont High and his father at Stanford. Bill met his future wife Nancy Platt Carlson, of Queens, NY, in art history class when Nancy admired his bare feet; soon afterward she stepped forward as the only volunteer to jump off a balcony for a belaying (securing the rope) practice he was directing. After getting to know each other, Nancy asked Bill why, if he didn’t like his academic and professional direction, he didn’t quit. He did. From that point, he turned to what would become lifelong passions:  Chinese philosophy, religion, language and literature — and activism for environmental and social justice.  

In the Bay Area and Yosemite in the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Bill climbed with people who would become legendary — Chuck Pratt, Steve Roper, Al Steck, John Harlin, Jules Eichorn. The winter of 1957-58 was spent downhill ski racing and as a ski bum in Aspen, Colorado, where lift privileges were earned by sidestepping down the slopes to pack the snow — before SnoCats.

In 1958 Bill was drafted into the US Army and stationed in Germany to be what he termed a “hired political murderer.” Despite his best efforts to be a bad enough soldier — including by reading Chinese philosophy in the foxholes and bumbling at repairing vehicles — to be transferred to, for example, the ski mountaineering corps in Austria, the Army kept him. His college sweetheart Nancy crossed the Atlantic by ship, and they were married in 1959 in Mannheim.

Back in the US, while Bill worked on his masters at Stanford, in 1960 their first child, Marian, was born in Palo Alto. After he earned his masters in 1962, the family moved to Taiwan for him to prepare for his doctorate, and while there in 1963 their second child, Eric, was born.

Bill’s PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle — based on a 6th-century text on Taoism — took from 1965 through 1971, with the family living in Kyoto, Japan 1967-69 where the best research materials outside of “Red China” could be found.

Upon an associate professorship offer at the University of Colorado, Bill moved with his family to Boulder in 1970. One more year, 1973, was spent in Kyoto leading a study abroad program of 19 CU students. Coming back from Japan, the family traveled through Hong Kong, Thailand, India for a month, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iran, and Western Europe.

Although Professor Doub earned high marks from students for his teaching, the vice of “Publish or Perish” squeezed him out of academia in 1980. In keeping with his dedication to environmental causes — Bill religiously rode his bike or walked or took the bus or hitched, and would not use the word “car” but rather say “pollution-waste machine” or “stinking metal box,” and drivers were “oil spill lovers” or “emphysema lovers” — he worked with a fledgling Eco-Cycle and helped start the curbside recycling program. Bill also was active in Boulder Bicycle Commuters, an organization that help lay the groundwork for by advocating for the cause of bicycling.

Bill was one of the first radical “parents” I knew. Such a refreshing and eye-opening experience of awesome familyness. Sure, I shrunk behind a steering wheel if ever I was driving and saw him. But I learned from that passion.       –  Longtime friend of Bill’s daughter

Throughout his life Bill engaged in many protests and nonviolent civil resistance actions against nuclear weapons, war, and militarism, and was proud to be arrested doing what was right for people and the planet. His daughter Marian has been arrested, for similar causes, some 75 times. Bill, Nancy, and Marian were all arrested at Rocky Flats in 1978, and an ensuing Nuremberg-principles-based trial had Nancy as one of ten defendants, with Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers, who became a family friend and stayed at Bill and Nancy’s north Boulder home, representing 300 arrestees. Bill’s last two civil disobedience arrests were in 2013 at Beale Air Force Base, against drone warfare, and in February 2015 with three generations of family (grandson Aidan and Marian and her husband Bob) against fracking in California blocking a door at the state building in San Francisco where Governor Brown was meeting.

Even two years into substantial Alzheimer’s plus Parkinson’s symptoms, in early 2017 when given a choice by Marian one day of “a movie at home, being read to, or a protest/demonstration,” despite severe cognitive and mobility challenges, he said:  “Demo.” Off they went, wheelchair down flights of stairs and on to banners and chants and marching (and rolling) in the heart of San Francisco.

Often in recent times, when Bill was asked “How are you?” — including by store clerk, a doctor, etc. — he would answer: “Everything is fine in the best of all possible worlds, except for the continued existence of capitalism.”

In 1983-4 while working for Mountain Travel Bill climbed to 20,000 feet on Mt. Everest. From 1985-97, Bill and Nancy were editors and publishers of the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, a quarterly journal started during the US war in Indochina.

With 1997 bringing the first two of their three grandchildren, they retired from the Bulletin and turned their attention to spending as much time as they could with Aidan, and then Ariel, and in 1999, Brian. In 1998 they bought a 45-acre property in the foothills of the Sierra, about 30 miles NE of Nevada City at 2,300 ft., for $185,000. With an off-grid house built in 1983, the property, which Bill and Nancy named “Oak Meadow,” became a second home, a labor of love improving forest and land health, and a return to Bill’s California roots — and a private camp of sorts for the grandchildren, as well as a gathering place for family and community members from near and far.

True to form, Bill insisted on not flying on their many California-Colorado trips. They made some three dozen trips by Amtrak.

Through the years many people experienced Bill’s harsh comments. Bill would not hold back on outright judgments of ecologically harmful lifestyles, excessive wealth and even even the driver of a car he hitched a ride in. It is probably a fair guess that such criticisms stemmed from his own sense of failure from not having gotten tenure at CU, with such self-criticism aggravated by having had an abusive father, and general frustration with a world gone mad with consumerism. (See his autobiography chapter called “Shrink Fodder.”) In Bill’s view, in the context of extreme environmental and social crises, why is resisting society’s rush off the cliff considered fanatic or extreme?

Despite Bill’s condemnation of behaviors he disagreed with and being tough on many people he met, especially in his earlier and middle adulthood, in his closest circles he was gentle, compassionate, good-humored and understanding. In this way he largely broke the cycle of violence and oppression in which hurt people hurt people. His three grandchildren, and their parents, were blessed with Bill’s and Nancy’s helping raise them. Love, care, encouragement — all of his close family members have been beneficiaries of these qualities.

During Nancy’s relatively quick passing in 2008-9 (two months from uterine sarcoma diagnosis to death), she made a list for Bill for after she was gone:  “OK women” and “Not-OK women.” About six months after Nancy’s death, Bill was fortunate to partner with top-of-the-OK-list Carolyn Mumm, a rural neighbor and friend of Bill and Nancy’s for many years.

Bill is survived by his daughter Marian Doub and son-in-law Bob Thawley, of San Francisco; son Eric Doub and daughter-in-law Catherine Childs, of Boulder; grandchildren Aidan Thawley, and Ariel and Brian Doub; his partner 2009 – present Carolyn Mumm of Camptonville, CA; his sister-in-law Mary Bolton Doub, of San Luis Obispo; and many other close family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his wife Nancy Carlson Doub in 2009, and his younger brother Phillip Moore Doub in 2015.  

Donations may be made in Bill’s honor to either or both

  • The Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, by clicking here or mailing a check to RMPJC   P.O. Box 1156   Boulder, CO 80306
  • The Nuclear Resister, by clicking here (via PayPal) or mailing a check to The Nuclear Resister, PO Box 43383, Tucson, AZ 85733 (Please make checks payable to The Nuclear Resister; donations of $50 or more can be tax deductible if made payable to The Progressive Foundation.)

Celebrations of Life will be held in San Francisco on September 3rd and in Boulder, on September 16th. For details, and for donations in Bill’s name,  links to Bill’s autobiography and a 2-min. film, please see