Remembering Richard Waltonby Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Posted on 2013-02-07
WHITEHOUSE. Rhode Island is mourning the loss of one of
our most renowned and accomplished citizens. Richard Walton was an
activist, a teacher, a journalist, and a force for good in our State,
in our Nation, and indeed in the world.
It would take most of us many lifetimes to achieve as much and to touch as many as Richard did in his 84 years.
[[Page S518]] Richard organized workers to win collective bargaining rights, and he organized communities to win social justice. He helped build houses for homeless Rhode Islanders, and he helped preserve Rhode Island's historic buildings. He volunteered at and helped lead the State's largest soup kitchen, and he emceed concerts for and helped lead the Stone Soup Folks Arts Foundation. He served in the Navy, and he protested against war.
Richard worked to improve our country, promoting third-party politics. He was the Citizens Party candidate for Vice President in 1984, and was a central figure in the founding of the Green Party. Richard worked to improve our world, documenting movements for independence in Africa and heading up educational and medical initiatives in Central America.
Richard was known for his hospitality. Every year he welcomed hundreds of friends and strangers to his home on Pawtuxet Cove in Warwick for a combination birthday party/folk music jam. And he was known for his generosity. He asked his guests to donate to one of his favorite causes instead of bringing gifts.
One of the many social welfare organizations that benefitted from Richard's passion and brilliance was the George Wiley Center, a grassroots antipoverty nonprofit. In 2008, the Center asked Richard to compose its statement of philosophy. It begins like this: The George Wiley Center is, in the short term, ``a voice for the voiceless,'' but our enduring task is to help them find their own voice, to speak out for their own legitimate basic needs and not let those in power treat them as powerless, for they are not powerless once they recognize that their numbers count, that their voices count, that their moral worth as human beings, as residents of the United States, counts.
Richard's allies would attest that this was indeed his own philosophy, lived out each day of his life. Richard will be missed by many, including his children, Cathy and Richard. But his legacy of justice, compassion, and empowerment will be felt by many, for years to come.