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Fighting Bob Fest founder Ed Garvey got a rousing standing ovation when he addressed the Bob Fest audience at Madison's Breese Stevens Field Sept. 17, 2016.

Ed Garvey, an icon among Wisconsin’s progressives and longtime nationally known labor attorney, died this morning at a Verona nursing home where he had been living the past two weeks. He was 76.

Garvey, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and its Law School, was the National Football League Players Association’s counsel and executive director from 1970 to 1983, leading the players through two strikes in 1974 and 1982, and then returning to Madison in 1983 as assistant to then Attorney General Bronson La Follette. He left the AG’s office for private practice as a labor attorney, often representing principled causes pro bono because of his steadfast belief in helping the beleaguered “little guy.”

In 1986 he ran as a Democrat against then incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Kasten, losing the race by a 52-48 margin. In 1998, with Barbara Lawton as his lieutenant governor running mate, he took on incumbent Gov. Tommy Thompson, but lost after a bruising campaign.

Garvey was a founder of the annual progressive political event known as Fighting Bob Fest and for several years ran, a website that featured progressive political content and a daily blog that he wrote.

He had been battling Parkinson’s Disease the past several years, which caused him to retire from his law practice and close the site. He was well enough last fall to make an appearance before the Fighting Bob Fest crowd at Madison’s Breese Stevens Field.

He is survived by his wife Betty and three daughters, Pam, Kathleen and Lizzy.

Information about funeral arrangements are forthcoming from Cress Funeral Service in Madison.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. He can be reached by email at and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.