apap205
National Death Penalty Archive
Collection ID: apap205

Bill Pelke Papers, 1965-2005, Undated

Collection description

Summary

Creator:
Pelke, Bill
Abstract:
Bill Pelke is a leader in the national death penalty abolition movement. This collection documents Bill Pelke's involvement with Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), Amnesty International, and other organizations committed to ending capital punishment in the United States.
Extent:
18.32 cubic feet
Language:
English and English Italian Spanish Portugese
Preferred citation:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Bill Pelke Papers, 1965-2005, Undated. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Bill Pelke Papers).

Background

Scope and Content:

The collections documents Bill Pelke's efforts to abolish the death penalty in the United States from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. The collection includes organizing material for Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing and Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) as well as materials from Amnesty International and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). It also includes correspondence, publications, and materials related to various national, regional, state, and local activist organizations, non-profit groups, and religious organizations concerned with the death penalty and other activism related activities and events.

Biographical / Historical:

Bill Pelke was born in 1947 in Indiana. In 1985, Bill Pelkes grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke, a 78 year old bible school teacher was brutally murdered in her home by a group of high school girls during a robbery. The leader of the group responsible, Paula Cooper (15), was arrested and was found guilty and sentenced to die. At first, Bill Pelke believed this to be a just punishment but later, owing to a realization that his grandmother would show mercy, began advocating for a retraction of Paula Coopers death sentence. In 1989, Paula Coopers sentence was changed from death to 60 years, owing to recent changes in federal and state laws which barred the death penalty for defendants who committed crimes under the age of 16.

Bill Pelke is very active in the death penalty abolition movement both locally and nationally. He is the President/Co-Founder of Journey of Hope From Violence to Healing, that began as a two-week event conducted by Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) in which speakers told the story of their loss and their resolution to oppose the death penalty. Journey of Hope conducted yearly events beginning in 1993 in Indiana, and followed by events in Georgia (1994), California (1995), and Virginia (1996). In 1997, Journey of Hope was spun-off from MVFR and became its own organization called Journey of HopeFrom Violence to Healing. The same year, Bill Pelke who was a member of both boards left MVFR. After its incorporation, Journey of HopeFrom Violence to Healing has organized full two-week events, as well as a number of smaller events, in states throughout the United States and overseas; Philippines (1998), Italy (1998), Europe (1998, 1999), Germany (2009), and Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya (2011).

Over the last two decades Bill Pelke has been member in various capacities for National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), Murder Victims Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), Alaskans Against the Death Penalty (AADP), Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC), Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP), Indiana Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (Indiana CURE), Amnesty International, andMurder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR).

Bill Pelke is a retired steelworker, a Vietnam veteran, and a college graduate with a BS degree in Pastoral Theology. He authored the book, Journey of Hopefrom Violence to Healing, which details the murder of his grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke. He currently lives in Alaska and remains involved with the abolitionist movement worldwide.

Acquisition information:

Bill Pelke donated these records to the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives in a series of two acquisitions in 2005 and 2006.

Processing information:

Processed in 2015 by Jason Thomas.

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Preferred citation:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Bill Pelke Papers, 1965-2005, Undated. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Bill Pelke Papers).