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Alcatraz Clergyman Father Bush Recalls Time on “The Rock”

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary opened in 1934 and when it closed its cell doors for the last time in 1963 more than fifteen hundred prisoners had served time on the Rock. Throughout the prison’s 29-year history there was an average of one guard for every three prisoners. Today, there are only four or five surviving Alcatraz ex-cons and about four surviving guards.

Of the many members of the clergy who saw duty on the Rock, the only living, former clergyman is Father Bernard Bush S.J. It was curiosity about the mysterious island penitentiary in the middle of San Francisco Bay that first attracted Father Bush’s attention.

The young seminarian decided to volunteer his services on Alcatraz in 1958. Join correspondent Tom Wilmer on Alcatraz Island, administered today by the National Park Service for a visit with Father Bush as he vividly shares his recollections from his four years on the Rock.

Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.