Alice Embree :
Remembering Richard Jehn

Richard Jehn, 1950-2016, was the founding editor of ‘The Rag Blog’ in May 2006.

Photo from Richard Jehn Memorial page on Facebook.

Photo from Richard Jehn Memorial page on Facebook.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | November 28, 2016

Richard Jehn, founding editor of The Rag Blog, passed away on November 2, 2016, at the age of 65.

Richard was born in Austin, Texas, on November 14, 1950. His father taught meteorology at the University of Texas. In October 1967, Richard was kicked out of McCallum High School for failing to cut his hair short enough to please the school administrators. He made his way down to the UT Student Union where he met staffers from The Rag, Austin’s underground newspaper.

Richard wrote of his encounter with Ragstaffers: “They asked me whether I wanted to write the article or if I wanted them to write it.” He did, in fact, write an article that appeared in the October 23, 1967 Rag. It began this way: “From the outside, McCallum doesn’t look like a graveyard for young minds.”

Richard managed to finish the requisite coursework and was part of the 1968 graduating class of McCallum. He attended UT briefly. In 1970, unwilling to be drafted into a war in Vietnam that he opposed, Richard made the trip across the Canadian border. About 100,000 draft resisters made this migration as did military deserters. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to resisters.

Richard returned from Canada — just across the border — settling into the beautiful Pacific Northwest in Bellingham, Washington, 60 miles south of Vancouver, B.C. His experience with The Rag brought him into the circle of outreach for the 2005 Rag Reunion. Although he did not attend that reunion, he was inspired by the shared memories and the notes from those who took part in the reunion conversations at the Old School in Austin.

On October 1, 2005, after The Rag’s first reunion, I commented on the impassioned writing of the original Rag and the possibility of creating an online blog to carry that writing forward. Richard seized upon this idea and created The Rag Blog on Blogspot in May 2006, referring to my words as the “raison d’etre.”

In late 2007, Thorne Dreyer joined Richard as co-editor. The Rag Blog morphed, expanded, and grew. Richard left for other ventures and Dreyer took over as editor in 2008, but Richard remained involved with the Rag community and contributed an occasional article. In January 2014, The Rag Blog moved from Blogspot onto a WordPress platform that was more flexible in terms of style and offered more potential for growth. Thorne Webb Dreyer was listed as editor and Richard Jehn’s name remained on the masthead as founding editor.

Richard made his way back to Austin in May 2008, for a McCallum High School reunion. I wasn’t here for his visit because I had made my way to the Columbia strike reunion in New York, but Richard stayed at our home with my husband as host. He was going to stay here again for the 2016 50th Anniversary Rag Reunion, but he canceled those plans during the week of the reunion with an e-mail message that now seems prophetic, “Well, life has overtaken me (and perhaps run me over) and I do not have the money to come down that way.”

Richard had turned his attention to a grassroots environmental newspaper in Bellingham.

In recent years, Richard had turned his attention to another journalism project, the Whatcom Watch, a grassroots environmental newspaper in Bellingham, now in its 25th year of publication. He was proud of this effort and mailed us several of the print issues.

A moving tribute to Richard was posted on his brother’s Facebook page. It is written by Terry Weschler, a citizen journalist whom Richard had inspired.

Your brother [Richard Jehn] was a very special person who was in the right place at the right time and who made a remarkable contribution to one of the most notorious grassroots movements in the history of this nation’s environmental movements. We re-wrote the book, and your brother was the publisher. He will be sorely missed.

I wouldn’t be a citizen journalist were it not for Richard. I was advocating against a proposed coal terminal here, when Richard approached me to ask if I was ready to move beyond the Protect Whatcom Facebook Page, and start writing “real” articles about what the coal terminal proponents were really proposing. He not only gave me a platform but every other person in the community willing to do any research and tell the truth about the proposal. He WAS citizen journalism, when it mattered the most not just for Bellingham or Whatcom County, but the Pacific Northwest. He also provided the first platform of which I was aware for the Lummi Nation to explain to the general public their treaty rights, and the importance of Quel Hoy. He recently returned from the latest totem journey with Paul Anderson and Jewell James, on which he served as the journey scribe…

Richard was a good friend and a great mentor to a community in desperate need of moral support when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Having that print and online platform completely changed the conflict. I can never put too fine a point on this: he was the tide that turned and saved the region from the worst environmental threat in recent history.

He is deeply loved and will be sorely missed.

Terry Wechsler,
Facebook Page Administrator
Whatcom Watch

PS: In case you were not told, there is no more coal terminal proposal.

In October 2008, Richard posted to The Rag Blog a poem titled, “All the Colour.”

Driving through a cavern of colour,
Unwittingly watching my life change as the leaves.
For all the times I drove that highandlowway,
Never did I see it so profoundly as that day.

I wanted to believe in God.
That’s how beautiful and moving was the     experience.
Knowing that I had answered two key questions
Certainly, for once.

Too long waiting,
But finally the answers.
And with them god-food:
Cajun smoked salmon from the best.

To make a loving dish for someone special,
A Friend so dear, means so much.
The cadence of quiet, the rhythm of soft.
The leaves’ brush of love.

A memorial was held for Richard on November 19, 2016, in Bellingham at the Unity Church.

Read more articles by Alice Embree on The Rag Blog.

[Rag Blog associate editor Alice Embree is an editor of the book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.  A veteran of SDS, the original Rag, and the Women’s Liberation Movement, Alice is a long-time Austin activist, organizer, and member of the Texas State Employees Union.]

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9 Responses to Alice Embree :
Remembering Richard Jehn

  1. Fran Clark says:

    Wonderful tribute, Alice.

  2. I agree, it is a wonderful tribute.

    Two minor corrections, this is the 25th year for Whatcom Watch and Bellingham is 60 south of Vancouver , B.C.

  3. Janet Gilles says:

    What a fine addition to the Richard Jehn legacy, not just our Rag publication here, but publishing the rebuttal to coal in the Northwest that sent them flying.
    He liked to listen to problems, and publish solutions.

  4. Larry Piltz says:

    Richard is one of the very nicest and most thoughtful of people I’ve ever known. His memory will always have an active place in my life because I will always have the need of and appreciation for the selfless encouragement and wise guidance he would reliably lend. I owe him a debt of gratitude and wish I could have been there for him as much as he had been there for me. I almost got to see him in Vancouver when the tribal tour began there this year but events intervened. Make time for your friends and other loved ones.

  5. Jorry says:

    Richard actually lived in Canada for some time; we both worked for the Economic Development Department of the Government of Alberta in Edmonton during the 1990s, an experience probably a bit out of keeping with, although maybe (re)formative toward, the kind of work it seems he returned to in the States. A great of time has passed with, for no good reason and no fault of his, no contact between us. But, against a backdrop of countless other social intersections forged over the last quarter century, I do remember him, as stated by others here, as a particularly kind, giving, and considerate person, all that a friend should be, a better one to me than I to him. I was sorry to learn of his passing.

  6. Allen Young says:

    For Alice and Thorne and other friends of Richard, I extend sympathy wishes. Thanks for this nice tribute.

  7. Alan Brodrick says:

    Thank you Alice . Richards cook books and his love of friends !

  8. Shawn Watson says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

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