Reverend Eugene “Gene” Boutilier

Reverend Eugene “Gene” Boutilier

Reverend Gene Boutilier picketing on O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, ca. 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Fresh from his seminary studies in Berkeley, where he specialized in Christian education, Reverend Eugene “Gene” Boutilier moved to Fresno with his wife Luana and young daughter Karen. Boutilier arrived at a Church of Christ congregation, his first, where he served as a member of the staff from 1963-1966 and organized a group of 80 volunteers in the church’s educational program each semester. Soon, his experiences with his congregation, which he noted mostly consisted of local business and political leaders, members of the grower class, and other prominent Fresno residents, led him to join the farmworker struggle.

Many members of his congregation strongly opposed his involvement and identification with the farmworker movement, which led one of them to remark, ““If Jesus were alive, he wouldn’t be down there (in Delano) picketing with those troublemakers and communists.” In 1966, Boutilier answered Chris Hartmire’s call and resigned his position in the congregation, joining the Migrant Ministry, where he was assigned to work for the UFW.

Rev. Eugene Boutilier picketing in front of a truck, Delano, 1966. Photo by Emmon Clarke.

Rev. Eugene Boutilier is talking to a UFW supporter from the Black Power movement during a boycott. The ally is wearing the UFW pin with the black eagle, symbol of the farmworker movement, on his coat and smoking a pipe.	Rev. Eugene Boutilier está hablando con un partidario de UFW del movimiento Black Power durante un boicot. El partidario lleva el pin de UFW con el águila negra, símbolo del movimiento campesino, en su abrigo y fumando una pipa.

Rev. Eugene Boutilier talking to UFW supporters, California, 1966

His first assignment was to direct the Student Summer Project, which consisted of recruiting university students from across the country to work for the Union during June 1966. He hired 70 full-time activists, which they trained in an intensive week-long orientation program. By Boutilier’s own calculation and the tangible results of their activities, the Student Summer Project achieved its purpose, availing itself of, “the student ‘shock troops’ with their militancy, freedom from the niceties of protocol, and time pressure of wanting immediate results were very effective in the boycott.” Shortly thereafter, Boutilier was assigned to coordinate support for boycott activities in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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