John Hovan

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John Hovan

John G. Hovan is a life long communist and a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Early activism

Hovan worked with unemployment rights groups and the American League Against War and Fascism before departing for Spain. He had left school at age 15 to work in his father’s shoe repair shop during the Great Depression, but lost that job when his father couldn’t get work.

The Great Depression pushed him toward progressive politics, Hovan said, and he was active in unions at his other jobs: a textile mill, a chemical company and a linoleum installation business.

“I saw the war clouds hovering over Europe,” Hovan said. “I felt it was very important that fascism be stopped.” [1]

Fought in Spain

According to the Communist Party USA paper[2]Peoples Weekly World;

Hovan went to Spain at age 21 in 1937 with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of Americans who volunteered to fight alongside the Spanish people and other international volunteers defending democracy against fascist forces headed by General Francisco Franco.


Hovan lost his first job as a Navy shoe repairman in Davisville after World War II. The ship’s service officer told him he couldn’t explain why, but authorities had told him Hovan had to be fired, Hovan recalled.

“Of course I didn’t give him any details, but it was because, in my record, I had been in Spain and I had also been active in such organizations that were called communist organizations,” Hovan said.[3]

Communist Party MLK tribute

On January 19, 2002, the Communist Party USA newspaper, Peoples Weekly World published a signed tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr..

We salute Dr. King’s courage and vision. He saw and struggled for an America and world that can be. We pledge in his memory to work to reorder our nation’s priorities “so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

Signatories included, John G. Hovan . Almost all signatories were confirmed members of the Communist Party USA[4].

Communist Party activist

Hovan is;

A lifelong Communist, Hovan served in the Navy in World War II and then worked in Rhode Island’s textile mills, where he was a union activist and leader. During the McCarthy period he lost his job, with local newspaper stories labeling him “John Hovan, Communist.”

Frustrated Obama supporter

“He’s one of those amazing people that has a real strong view of what’s just and what’s not just,” said Duane Clinker, a Cranston United Methodist pastor who has worked with Hovan on civil rights issues since 1973.

Clinker recalls working at a phone bank for President Barack Obama before he clinched the Democratic nomination. Clinker saw Hovan come in with his walker, ready to make calls. But the print on the call sheets was too fine for his nonagenarian eyes, and Hovan wasn’t able to call anyone.

“He’s all excited that he’s going to participate in what he hopes will be a significant and wonderful change, and then he’s apologizing to everybody because he couldn’t carry out his leg of the journey,” Clinker said.[5]


Im March 2010, Hovan, 93, who went on to fight in the Pacific during World War II with the U.S. Navy, received his Spanish passport and civil registry documents “in recognition of his service to the Spanish people defending democracy and fighting Fascism,” said Spanish Consul General Carlos Robles, whose family, like many others, was split during the civil war.[6]