Wiliam Haglund Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Voices from the Graves: Conversation with William Haglund; Director, International Forensic Program of Physicians for Human Rights; 9/22/00 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Background

Bill, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did your growing-up years shape your interest in human rights and working with the dead to find out the truths behind their stories?

I don't know if my childhood shaped me for anything, except growing up.

Okay, that's good.

I had experienced some deaths early, fairly early on. My grandfather, like most other people; and then my mother was a homicide victim when I was in high school, and that got me to thinking.

What about books? Were you a voracious reader in youth or did that happen later?

No, actually I was. After I flunked the second grade first time, about the fourth grade, I started reading. I remember the first book I ever read was Saying Grace: Riders of the Purple Sage, but I read a lot of books about animals. I read Raymond Ditmars, I was really interested in the Chapman Andrews in the early explorations of the Gobi Desert, and those kinds of things were very interesting to me.

You started out in your early career working in mortuaries, is that right? You were an embalmer.

I actually lived in a mortuary my last year of high school, and immediately upon graduating I went to California, L.A., and did that for about five years. I had an embalmer's license.

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