Richard Pearl In Memoriam
Ray Ledford (Vice Chair, now Chair, Libertarian Party of Tennessee)
I have the sad, terrible duty to inform you that the Libertarian Party of Tennessee State Chair, Richard E. Pearl, Sr., Ed.D., passed away this afternoon after a brief, yet brave, fight with a rare cancer.
He was 54.
Originally from California, he moved to Tennessee in 1975, earning a B.A., M.A., and an Ed.D. in psychology while raising his son and daughter as a single dad.
Richard joined the LP in ’94, but didn’t get active until 1999 when the Libertarian Party of Rutherford County was organized and he was elected as their first Chair. He was elected State Chair in April, 2000, and again to a two year term in March, 2001.
Richard’s term as State Chair saw the LPTN grow in activity and influence, particularly the state party’s opposition to a proposed state income tax. His successful rallying of LPTN members in and around Nashville for the anti-tax demonstrations of the past three years has garnered praise from various income-tax foes, including Nashville talk show host, Steve Gill of WWTN, who has repeatedly stated that if it were not for the Libertarian Party of Tennessee, there would be a state income tax in Tennessee today. Richard’s involvement in the anti-tax fight even earned him the “Ax the Tax” award by the Tennessee Conservative Union, making him the first non-Republican recipient of the award in their 20-year history.
I first met Richard Pearl in 1999 through email, then finally in person in April, 2000, when he was elected State Chair and I was elected State Vice Chair. I am proud to say that, not only did we have an excellent working relationship, we developed a close friendship, as did the wonderful ladies in our lives. I have shared a lot of my own personal triumphs and setbacks with Richard, as he did with me, and I believe that we both benefited from the other’s kindness and support. Richard had, in fact, become a part of my chosen family, which makes this loss even more acute.
One of the last, best things I was ever able to do for Richard happened on April 22nd, just one day after I’d seen him for the final time. Having just received confirmation from our doctor that my wife, Helen, will be expecting our first child on December 27th, we phoned Richard’s room to deliver the good news. Before I was able to tell him, it was apparent that Richard was understandably feeling depressed, yet upon hearing the news, his mood did a complete reversal, and he stayed ecstatic for the rest of the evening. My own happiness brought Richard some measure of joy and comfort in one of his final days.
And yet I cannot help but think that, in the space of 24 hours, I learned first that my dear friend was dying, then that I was to be a father by the end of the year. One life was ending even as another one had begun, a reminder that there is a bittersweet continuity in Life.
One of Liberty’s best and brightest Warriors has finished his fight, leaving us enriched and inspired, and has earned his rest far earlier than we wanted, and ever the more grateful that he touched our lives.
Dear friends, please keep Richard’s daughter, TJ, his son, Richard, Jr., his friend, Desiree, and Richard’s grandchildren in your thoughts and prayers, as they cope with the loss of this wonderful man.
(Vice Chair, now Chair, Libertarian Party of Tennessee)
Ray Ledford (Vice Chair, now Chair, Libertarian Party of Tennessee) Eulogy (delivered at funeral services)
May 7, 2002
We have all heard today of the political Richard, but there was another side to Richard, a fun side. I’d like to quote a part of one of Richard’s favorite songs, “A Pirate Looks At Forty”, by Jimmy Buffett:
Yes, I am a pirate two hundred years too late.
The cannons don’t thunder there’s nothin’ to plunder
I’m an over forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late.
Richard may have been a Buffett-style pirate, but he didn’t come too late.
He was right on time.
All of us here today have had our lives enriched by Richard. He has inspired us, and continues to do so. He has challenged us, and we continue to rise up to those challenges. He has taught us, and we have learned.
He has left us — far too soon — and even as we mourn him, we are also celebrating his life, his legacy, and his incredible wealth. But his wealth wasn’t a material wealth, though, but rather a wealth of friends and family, colleagues and co-workers, support and love.
I am grateful for this chance to know Richard and for the chance to carry him in my heart for the rest of my days.
By Ray Ledford
Sean Haugh (LP of North Carolina)
Richard Pearl was so much more than any email obituary can convey. Because of him, Tennessee remains without an income tax. Because of him, I personally experienced a level of warm hospitality and friendship at a gathering of LP leaders that no other event (outside NC, of course) could possibly claim to match. Dang, Richard Pearl was so good at advocating for and fighting for Liberty that he could even fool hardcore statists into thinking that maybe they really were Libertarians after all.
Those are only three of the many concrete examples I can point to about a colleague I knew for only a year. But the true testament to him is what his friends say about him personally as he slips from our grasp. Today, Richard Pearl obviously has dozens, if not hundreds, of people all across his state and even the whole country mourning the loss of a man whom they considered to be one of their most cherished friends – this coming even from people who never experienced the joy of meeting him in the flesh.
We take a moment to mourn our indescribable, immense, and irreplacable loss. And then we pick right back up where we left off in the struggle to increase liberty, light, and love in this world. Richard would insist that we don’t waste too much time on the former, so we could keep our focus on the latter. Let the memory and spirit of this wonderful man and this great patriot live on in everything we do.
yours in liberty — Sean
(Comments by James W. Lark, III Chairman, Libertarian Party, text read by Dr. Deryl Martin LP National Treasurer and Tennessee Libertarian, at funera)
Ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for being here this morning. Please accept my apologies that I cannot be with you; my responsibilities elsewhere prevent me from doing so.
I first met Richard Pearl in Anaheim, California in late June, 2000, at the Libertarian Party national convention. I liked him immediately, as he impressed me as a gracious, kind man of courtesy, intelligence, wit, and wisdom. Above all, he struck me as a man who was passionate about seeing the triumph of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and human dignity.
During my visit to Smyrna, Tennessee in early August, 2000, I had the pleasure of getting to know Richard better. It became clear we were going to be good friends. It also became clear he was going to be an outstanding chairman of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee. He had a sense of vision, a determination to succeed, and a gracious manner that are a rare combination. He led by example, and he had the respect and affection of his LPTN teammates.
Since that time, I came to regard Richard as a great friend and trusted advisor. His support for me and my efforts as Libertarian Party chairman helped make the burdens of the chairmanship bearable. It is hard to believe that he is gone, and it pains me greatly that he passed away before I could tell him again how much he meant to me. The movement for Liberty has lost a wonderful champion, and we have lost a wonderful friend.
God bless you, Richard, and thanks!
James W. Lark, III
Chairman, Libertarian Party
Sam Reid (fellow activist & friend, comments delivered at the funeral service)
Yesterday morning, news of Richard Pearl’s death hit me like a hammer blow to the chest. To say that his passing was untimely is profound understatement. I’m simply not ready for it, nor is the community he loved and supported.
I first met Richard four years ago when he was a guest speaker at a community civic meeting. I had never actually met a Libertarian before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Richard’s pony tail and liberty tie would provide only a small clue to the true depth of this remarkable man. Once he spoke, you were captured. Words flowed smoothly and effortlessly from Richard, forming ideas with brilliant clarity on topics that may have been completely antithetical to your belief system, but leaving you believing that those ideas were simple common sense, and that they were your own ideas all along. And Richard delivered those ideas so smoothly, so subtly, never ranting, his words dancing and weaving, his voice and manner as comforting as a lava lamp in a darkened room. One writer referred to Richard’s voice as a “mellifluous baritone.” Thereafter, I always referred to him as “Mr. Mellifluous.”
Richard campaigned tirelessly for any group that found itself steam rolled by big government. Richard was the classic David vs. Goliath warrior, the perennial defender of the underdog. He suffered fools not lightly, but he was never insulting. He chafed constantly at the machinations of mindless bureaucrats, and he never lost an opportunity to illuminate their stupidity by his prolific e-mailings. Richard was an unabashed and unapologetic supporter of our Constitution and a most eloquent spokesman for its principles. Richard had the rare ability to offer ideological comfort to conservative and radical alike. To loosely paraphrase Barry Goldwater: “To be conservative in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. To be radical in the pursuit of liberty is no vice.” That was certainly Richard.
Richard was a man of faith, although he didn’t wear it on his sleeve. He was a true believer in one almighty God, less so in the artifacts of organized religion and many of its leaders. Richard was as suspicious of the self-proclaimed pious as he was of bureaucrats, but he was civil to both. In fact, civility was as much a trademark of Richard as his liberty tie, and I don’t ever remember seeing him without either.
Richard was just 54, and the span from first symptom to his death from a rare cancer was just six weeks. Given that there are several of us who don’t look nearly as good as Richard even now, this should be a wake up call. I deeply regret not having the opportunity to speak with Richard during his final days. From this day forward, I will stay in closer contact with my friends, I will value each of them more, and I will never take those friendships for granted. I beg the same from each of you.
Richard’s passing has left a huge hole in our universe where he used to be. He will forever be remembered by me, and I’m sure, by hundreds of others, as the quintessential libertarian, the true American patriot, a scholar, everyman’s intellectual, the activist, the teacher, but most of all, a friend. May god bless him and all of us who held him so dear.
Don Gorman (New Hampshire)
What a terrible sorrow has befallen the LP of Tennessee and all of us who knew him or met him briefly. I only met Richard recently at the State Chairs Convention in Tennessee. I can remember his warmth and pride in extending Southern hospitality to the visiting Chairs in his home state of Tennessee. I can remember many moments during that convention when Richard showed himself to be a true leader.
But probably the thing I remember most about him was standing in a honky-tonk bar down on the strip, surrounded by guitars, photos and the history of American country music. I was listening to someone who understood what America was all about and where the Libertarian Party should be going. In that brief time I recognized him as a friend and ally.
I too will miss him.
Elias Israel (LP of Massachusetts)
I am sad to report that on Sunday, May 5, Richard Pearl, the state chair of the LP of Tennessee, passed away.
I met Richard only once, at the state chairs’ conference this year. I remember him as an energetic and dedicated Libertarian and I am sorry that I will not get a chance to get to know him better.
Ray Ledford, Richard’s friend and the man called upon to fill his shoes, tells me that Richard’s passing has left some medical bills behind for his family to cover. If you would like to help out, the LPTN treasurer is administering an account for that purpose (see address above).
Ray further suggests that the best way to remember Richard is to treasure all Libertarians and to keep working to build the party that he loved. I couldn’t agree more.
Kat Schlesinger (LP Nevada)
You have my deepest sympathy on the loss of your friend and fellow warrior.
I would also like to extend sympathy on behalf of the entire LP of Nevada. You and yours are in our thoughts and prayers.
Kat Schlesinger, LP Nevada