His defiant protests helped shape Americans' opposition to the Vietnam War—and they landed the Rev. Daniel Berrigan behind bars. The Roman Catholic priest, writer, and poet, who became a household name in the US in the 1960s after being imprisoned for burning draft files in a protest against the war, died Saturday. He was 94. Berrigan died "peacefully" after a "long illness" at Murray-Weigel Hall, a Jesuit health care community in New York City, according to a spokesman for the Jesuits USA Northeast Province. Berrigan and his younger brother, the Rev. Philip Berrigan, entered a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, on May 17, 1968, with seven other activists and removed records of young men about to be shipped off to Vietnam. The group took the files outside and burned them in garbage cans.
The "Catonsville Nine" were convicted on federal charges accusing them of destroying US property and interfering with the Selective Service Act of 1967. All were sentenced on Nov. 9, 1968, to prison terms ranging from two to 3.5 years. After the case had been unsuccessfully appealed, the Berrigan brothers and three of their co-defendants went underground. Philip Berrigan turned himself in to authorities in April 1969 at a Manhattan church. Four months later, the FBI arrested Daniel Berrigan at the Rhode Island home of theologian William Stringfellow. Berrigan said in an interview that he became a fugitive to draw more attention to the anti-war movement. He served about two years at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. When asked in 2009 whether he had any regrets, Berrigan replied: "I could have done sooner the things I did, like Catonsville." (More obituary stories.)