Beth Rickey

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Elizabeth Ann "Beth" Rickey
Political party Republican activist who exposed David Duke for neo-Nazi ties

Born June 11, 1956
Lafayette, Louisiana, USA
Died September 12, 2009 (aged 53)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Spouse Single

Parents:
Horace B. Rickey, Jr.
Flora Ann Womack Rickey

Elizabeth Ann Rickey, known as Beth Rickey (June 11, 1956 – September 12, 2009), was a Republican political activist from Louisiana who exposed the neo-Nazi connections of former state Representative David Duke, who ran for the U.S. Senate and for governor of Louisiana in 1990 and 1991, respectively, under the GOP label though opposed by the party leadership.


Background

Rickey was born in Lafayette to Horace B. Rickey, Jr. (1901–1967), a veteran of World War II, and the former Flora Ann Womack (1921–1998).Rickey, who was single, had a brother, Robert Harper Rickey and his wife, Karen Elizabeth Rickey, who reside in England. An uncle, Branch Rickey, was a major league baseball executive who in 1947 signed, Jackie Robinson to play for the then Brooklyn Dodgers, the first African-American player so designated.[3]

Rickey's family was Republican. Horace Rickey was the early 1960s the secretary of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee[4] on which his daughter would later be a member. In 1964, her parents supported Barry Goldwater for U.S. President against Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, and then Ronald W. Reagan in 1980 and 1984 against Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

Beth Rickey received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in government at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.. She taught government at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond in Tangipahoa Parish until she entered Ph.D. studies at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Targeting David Duke

Beth Rickey: David Duke has not changed his views even though he says he has.... There is a difference between being a conservative and being a racist. He's trying to blur that distinction.

In 1988, Rickey received only 135 votes but won the House District 93 slot on the 144-member Louisiana Republican State Central Committee.She was considered one of the more moderate members of the RSCC.While residing in New Orleans, she began to follow Duke in 1991 to various appearances across the state and nation, and discovered his continuing involvement with radical groups that he had claimed to have repudiated. On more than one occasion, Duke met with Rickey to try to convince her that he was a mainstream conservative who could be trusted with political office. Duke called Rickey, took her to lunch, and introduced her to his two daughters." [2]

Quin Hillyer, then of the Washington Post and a personal friend of Rickey's, said that her revelations did the most to stop the election of Duke as governor. With three weeks before the election, Duke was running in a supposed dead heat in public opinion polls against the Democratic candidate, former Governor Edwin Edwards. Hillyer said that "Duke had the momentum. What Duke could never escape, though, was all the evidence that he truly was a neo-Nazi, rather than what he claimed to be: a next-generation Reaganite conservative with a long-ago tawdry Ku Klux Klan past that he had thoroughly put behind him. Muchof that evidence was unearthed by Beth Rickey." [2] In the gubernatorial general election on February 1, 1972, Rickey supported the Republicannominee, David C. Treen., who was defeated by Edwards, and again in 1979, when Treen was narrowly elected to the state's highest post over the Democrat Louis Lambert, a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission. She also campaigned for Treen's brother, John S. Treen, a businessman from Metairie in Jefferson Parish, who lost the District 81 state representative special election runoff to David Duke in 1989. Rickey even left her Tulane studies to work in the Treen campaign. The House seat opened when Republican Charles Cusimano of Jefferson Parish resigned to become a state court judge.[2]

Rickey followed Duke to a national gathering in Chicago, Illinois, where she taped him making what she considered a "racist remark. She released the tape and arranged for detectives to visit Duke's residence and legislative office where he was found selling Nazi books. As a Republican central committee member, she introduced a resolution to censure Duke, but the move was tabled because the committee has jurisdiction only over its own members, and Duke had never been a member of the state committee. The publicity generated by Rickey hurt Duke among Republican leaders and voters who questioned his Nazi ties. Signs appeared saying, "Vote for the Crook. It's Important", a reference to Edwards' questionable ethical conduct. The campaign was also known as "the election from Hell." Rickey started getting death threats and hired security guards to watch her apartment.

Duke tried to convince Rickey, that he was a mainstream conservative in the post-Reagan era. As their communication developed, Rickey said that Duke told her that Jews were responsible for most of the nation's problems. [2]

Rickey, Hillyer, and eight other Duke critics formed a new organization to hound the candidate in the weeks left in the gubernatorial campaign. The Louisiana Coalition against Racism and Nazism included figures from both parties, Christian ministers, Jewish activists, and various liberal scholars. The coalition prevailed, as Edwards defeated Duke, 61.2 to 38.8 percent.[2] Edwards himself was sent to federal prison in Oakdale in Allen Parish on a conviction of racketeering. Duke's subsequent political races, the most recent a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2016, were futile, and in 2003 he was sentenced to fifteen months in a federal prison after pleading guilty to filing a false tax return. In 2009, Duke was ousted from the Czech Republic for allegedly promoting attempts to suppress human rights.

Treen endorses Edwards

David Treen, whose political career had been launched in part to defeat Edwin Edwards, in 1972 and 1983, wound up supporting Edwards in 1991 to block the potential election of David Duke as a Republican governor. He also later tried but failed to get the George W. Bush administration to commute Edwards' prison sentence. Treen declared that Duke "simply is not believable. He is an opportunist who will say whatever is necessary to gain him votes....To my Republican friends, therefore, I say do not be persuaded in favor of Duke simply because he has adopted the Republican label…. Duke affiliated with the Republican Party for one reason and one reason only: pure political opportunism. It is my judgment that David Duke must be defeated. He can't be defeated by voters staying at home out of disaffection for both candidates for governor.… There are but two names on the ballot: David Duke and Edwin Edwards. To defeat David Duke, one must vote for Edwin Edwards. That's what I will do." [6]

Clyde Cecil Holloway (1943-2016), then the 8th congressional district representative and later a public service commissioner, finished far behind in the gubernatorial nonpartisan blanket primary. Duke then went into the general election with Edwards on November 16, 1991. Embattled incumbent Buddy Roemer finished a strong third but was eliminated in the primary.

Rickey claimed that "some members of the Republican Party are not sure what Duke's views are. My point is there is a difference between being a conservative and being a racist. He's trying to blur that distinction."

New Orleans Times-Picayune analysis

The New Orleans Times-Picayune that Louisiana voters might not have rejected Duke if Rickey had not made his exposure her life's crusade. "... Without Rickey, [voters] would never have known how big a fraud and unreconstructed Nazi [Duke] was. The media never had a more prolific and intrepid source [than Rickey]. If you weren't around here at the time, you could hardly credit what a threat Duke posed, although he was best known as a former Grand Wizard in the Klan who had at various times spoken warmly of Adolph Hitler. Duke's meteoric rise obviously signified that plenty of voters shared, or were at least prepared to overlook, his racist views. But he had been at great pains to create a more moderate persona, appearing in natty suits, and adopting the pose of a mainstream conservative politician who happened to have been a 'rascal"'in his long-ago youth. He was glib and, thanks to his plastic surgeon, quite photogenic. "With an electorate in a fit over welfare cheats and high taxes, there was no need, at least in polite society, for an explicit, white supremacist spiel. Duke was adept at telling white voters what a lot of them wanted to hear, and that is always the best way to come across as smart and reasonable." [7] Rickey's last years

In her later years, Rickey fell on hard times with declining health and financial woes. She took a church mission trip to Mexico in 1996 and returned with a mysterious virus which ruined her health.[2] Thereafter, she was diagnosed with hypertension and Crohn's disease. She was a former Presbyterian who converted to Roman Catholicism. Unable to find steady employment and with high-deductible health insurance coverage, she had practically exhausted her life savings before being found dead with a pitcher of ice tea in her hand at the Silver Saddle Motel in the capital city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A friend had paid for a week of lodging for Rickey. A concerned social worker found a philanthropist who was willing to help, but the offer came too late. Rickey first came to Santa Fe to escape Hurricane Katrina but had been in the New Mexico capital for the last time for just a few weeks prior to her death at the age of fifty-three.

David Treen died in 2009 at the age of eighty-one just six weeks after the passing of his longtime supporter Beth Rickey.

In 2000, along with another New Orleans Republican, Marilyn Thayer, Rickey was inducted into the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business Hall of Fame at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish.

References

1. Social Security Death Index. Search.ancestry.com, May 1, 2010, under pay wall.
2. Tom Sharpe, "Eizabeth Ann 'Beth' Rickey, 1956-2009: David Duke nemesis dies in Santa Fe: Activist who helped scuttle neo-Nazi's political career had hoped to rebuild life here". [1], January 4, 2013. Santa Fe New Mexican, September 13, 2009. May 1, 2010.
3. The author is unable to determine exactly how Beth Rickey is descended from Branch Rickey.
4. List of Officers, Republican State Central Committees, October 3, 1961. Nixonlibrary.gov. September 2, 2013.
5. Patricia Sullivan, "Beth Rickey dies with an immune disorder and Crohn's disease," Washington Post, September 16, 2009.
6. "Duke denies he's maintaining ties to controversial neo-Nazis," Minden Press-Herald, June 8, 1989, p. 1.
7. Louisiana Secretary of State, Election returns, March 8, 1988
. 8. Quin Hillyer, "Beth, what can we do? Against David Duke, a tale of courage." Washington Times, September 15, 2009. May 2, 2010.
9. Quin Hillyer, "Dave Treen, Political Builder". American Spectator, October 30, 2009. May 1, 2010. " New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 16, 2010. May 1, 2010.
11. "Elizabeth Rickey, GOP activist who denounced David Duke, dies at age 53." New Orleans Times-Picayune, 6 June 2018.
12. Social Security Death Index.
13. Tom Sharpe, "Eizabeth Ann 'Beth' Rickey" 1956-2009: David Duke nemesis dies in Santa Fe; Activist who helped scuttle neo-Nazi's political career had hoped to rebuild life here". [2], January 4, 2013. Santa Fe New Mexican, September 13, 2009, accessed May 1, 2010.