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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Rick Halperin, Dallas TX

Rick Halperin with NCADP Board Member Claudia Whitman on the Texas 05 Journey of Hope

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty honored Rick Halperin with its Life Time Achievement Award at the NCADP’s annual conference in 2003.

As a member of the NCADP Board of Directors, I nominated Rick for that award. The NCADP Board overwhelming agreed.

To me, Rick Halperin is Mr. Abolition. Please read the list of organizations that he is a member of, and make a note of when he joined and for how long he stays a member. For years I have called him Mr. Abolition. I can do that because he is my friend.

Rick has given over 35 years of his life for the advancement of Human Rights through his work with Amnesty International USA.

I met Rick at an Amnesty International USA Annual General Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia in 1988. I got to know him a lot better on the Pilgrimage March in 1990. Sister Helen led the Pilgrimage March from death row in Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.

Inspired by the Pilgrimage March, Rick brought folk to the state of Texas for the TASK March (Texans Against State Killing) in 1991. I came along with Wayne Crawley, Bob Gross, Sister Helen, Sam Sheppard and others. Rick led this Amnesty International supported event from death row in Huntsville to the Capitol in Austin.

Inspired by both marches, I had an idea on the TASK march about holding a somewhat similar event in Indiana, only led by murder victims family members. That eventually led to the Indiana Journey of Hope. During the march, I asked Rick if he would come to Indiana to be a keynote speaker when the time came and he immediately said yes. I ask Bob if he would organize it. He did.

I knew then that whatever we did in Indiana would be a success.

We took two years to organize the Indiana event. It became a project of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation. Sam Reese Sheppard and I were on the MVFR board with founder Marie Deans, Pat Bane and Teresa Mathis. Bob asked Sister Helen is she would come that first weekend and also keynote.

Bob, Field Director for the NCADP operated out of his home in Liberty Mills, Indiana. Sister Helen was Chair of the NCADP Board.

Both Sister Helen and Rick Halperin keynoted a three-hour rally opening rally across the street from Indiana’s Death Row in Michigan City, Indiana.

Sister Helen Prejean’s book, Dead Man Walking, came out the first weekend of the Journey. Rick was at my house when Sister Helen opened her first box of books. Rick got the second signed copy of her book. Guess who got the first.

Getting to know Marietta Jaeger better while on the Indiana Journey especially inspired Rick. Marietta’s young daughter Susie had been kidnapped and murdered. Marietta healed without seeking revenge.

It was only a few months after the Indiana Journey that Kerry Kennedy, Marietta and I were invited to speak at an SMU Amnesty Event arraigned by no other than SMU’s own Dr. Rick Halperin.

That evening Rick, Marietta and I sat at a dinning room table in the home Joan Brett in Dallas, Texas. That night the seeds were firmly planted among us that led to forming of the ad hoc Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) and the implementation of the Annual Fast and Vigil at the US Supreme Court in Washington DC.

The 13th Annual Fast and Vigil will be taking place this year.

The first Fast and Vigil took place June 29th to July 2nd 1994.

It was Rick, the History buff that wanted to do something in commemoration of these dates.

    • June 29, 1972 Furman Decision
    • July 2, 1976 Gregg Decision

Rick’s birthday is July 2, but he refuses to celebrate it until the death penalty is abolished it.

At 12:01 am June 29, 1984 the Annual Fast and Vigil began. There were only four of us that started the first fast and vigil, Rick, Marietta, Kathy Ford and yours truly. Many others joined us over the next 72 hours.

It was a time of bonding

On the 20th anniversary of the execution of Gary Gilmore, January 17, 1996, eighteen people were arrested for unfurling a banner on the top steps of the US Supreme Court. The banner read STOP EXECUTIONS. Rick, Marietta, Art Laffin, Stephanie Gibson, Abe Bonowitz, Phyllis Pautrat, others and myself became known as the DC-18.

Dave Atwood founded Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in 1996. The Journey of Hope came to Texas in 1998. Abe Bonowitz, with help from George White, The Bruderhof interns, and others successfully organized the Texas Journey. Abe left his beautiful home in California and moved to Texas to organize the Journey. Rick’s promotion of the Journey to the abolitionist is Texas was invaluable.

The 1998 Texas Journey brought together people that had never worked together before and Dave was better able to do future organizing in a better sense of a true coalition. Rick played a leading role in helping Dave work with others to build TCADP into one of the most effective and growing coalitions in the movement today. It is moving forward with new leaders like Nancy Bailey, Susybelle Gooslee, Bob and Jean Van Steinberg and Jim and Sherri Coombes. Stalwarts in San Antonio with Rosalyn Collier and Roger Barnes just keep moving forward.

Rick was Chair of the TCADP Board, when by overwhelmingly acclamation they invited the Journey of Hope to come back to Texas for 2005. It was so wonderful for the Journey to come back to Texas seven years later, and to see how the movement in Texas had grown.

And when TCADP had their annual meeting this past January, it was Rick Halperin who on behalf of TCADP presented me with a certificate of Appreciation for leading the Texas Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing in 1998 and 2005.

And there is no one in the world I would rather have presented it.

Thank you Rick,

Thank you my friend.




Affiliated with many Human Rights Organizations, including:
1971-present Amnesty International USA
1985-present National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP)
1990-present Texans Against State Killing (TASK)
1993-present Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR)
1994-present Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC)
1996-present Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP)
1997-present Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP)
2001-present Capital Punishment Investigation and Education Services

Joined the following journeys

2005 Texas
2010 Texas