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Man who took vow of silence to speak at Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE — An environmentalist who took a 17-year vow of silence to protest a devastating oil spill will deliver the keynote speech at an upcoming Purdue University symposium.

John Francis speaks Oct. 16 at Purdue's Ecological Sciences and Engineering Symposium. He is an author and a visiting professor for the Nelson Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As a young man, Francis witnessed the aftermath of a 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill and in protest did not ride in motorized vehicles from 1972 to 1994.

In 1973, the son of a West Indian immigrant stopped speaking to add to his protest. Except for a phone call to his mother after 10 years of silence, Francis communicated solely by writing, gesturing and playing the banjo until he resumed speaking in 1990.