Topic: End of the Age
Elizabeth Ann "Beth" Rickey
Elizabeth Ann “Beth” Rickey, 53, died Saturday, September 12, 2009 in Santa Fe, New Mexico after a lengthy illness.
Beth had recently resided in Jena, and in fact, had served the Town of Jena as its media consultant during the episode involving the Jena Six about two years ago.
Elizabeth was born June 11, 1956 in Lafayette and graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Grand Coteau. She subsequently attended Newcomb College in New Orleans, the University of the Southwestern in Lafayette and the LSU Law School.
She ultimately worked on her doctorate in political science at Tulane University and was elected to the Louisiana Republican Central Committee in the late 1980s.
Throughout her life, Elizabeth was active in politics and remained true to her conservative Republican background.
Beth Rickey had a very fond place in her heart for Jena and LaSalle Parish. She often spoke fondly of the many friends and good experiences she had while living here and working for the Town of Jena.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.
She is survived by one brother, Rob Rickey of London, England.
This is part of the September 23, 2009 online edition of The Jena Times.
Services for Beth Rickey on Saturday
Visitation for Beth Rickey, widely credited with exposing David Duke's Nazi sympathies in the late 1980s and early 1990s, will begin at 4 p.m. Friday at Martin & Castille Funeral Home, 330 St. Landry in Lafayette.
Rickey, 53, died Sept. 12 in New Mexico.
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m, Friday and from 10 a.m. Saturday until the 1 p.m. Mass scheduled for Our Lady of Wisdome on the UL campus. Copyright ©2009 The Daily Advertiser
Elizabeth 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
9/13/2009 - 9/14/09
A Louisiana activist who helped expose David Duke's ties to neo-Nazis 20 years ago by infiltrating his political circle was found dead this weekend in a Santa Fe motel.
"She was the bravest woman I've ever known," said a journalist who worked with her in bringing to light a background that scuttled Duke's political career.
Elizabeth Ann "Beth" Rickey, 53, had been ill in recent years, suffering for more than a decade from an immune disorder, Crohn's disease and high blood pressure.
She had been in Santa Fe since July, broke and homeless, sleeping on a friend's couch until last week when another friend paid for a week's lodging at the Silver Saddle motel, 2810 Cerrillos Road.
Mary Olivea, a Santa Fe quilting artist who had been bringing food to Rickey and taking her to the hospital for tests, said Rickey was found dead in the motel room on Saturday afternoon. No services have been planned.
"I met her about three years ago, not long after Katrina," Olivea said. "She had come here to escape from the travails of Louisiana. She couldn't handle it mentally. So we became friends. Then she disappeared for a time and then came back. Actually, I helped her come back and she was going to try to re-create her life here because Santa Fe had been good to her before, sort of a sanctuary. ... It opened its arms to her like it does so many people."
Rickey was born on June 11, 1956, in Lafayette, La., to a politically and socially well-connected family. An uncle, Branch Rickey, was a Major League Baseball executive who broke the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Active in Louisiana politics, Beth Rickey supported Ronald Reagan for president in 1980 and 1984, worked on a doctorate in political science at Tulane University and was elected to the Louisiana Republican Central Committee in the late 1980s.
But in 1989, when David Duke won a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives after switching from Democrat to Republican, "she was appalled at this huckster getting into her party," said Lawrence Powell, a history professor at Tulane. "And she was more appalled that her own party wouldn't back her up. ... She was cast out of her political tribe."
Although Duke's background as a Ku Klux Klan member was well documented, he was able to "build up this image of himself as a very mainstream guy who had gone overboard when he was young, but who was still a conservative against taxes," said Quinn Hillyer, a journalist who worked with Rickey early on.
Rickey went underground to expose Duke, visiting his basement office to buy anti-Semitic books and following him to Chicago to secretly tape him speaking to neo-Nazi groups. In the meantime, Duke, who fancied himself an intellectual, tried to win her over, flirting with her and often calling her to discuss his political philosophy, Hillyer said.
Rickey played along, pretending to be interested in Duke as she taped his late-night ramblings and eventually fed the information to the news media. That led to anonymous telephone threats and trucks following her on the highways at night.
Powell said he believes Rickey's experience with Duke led to long-term emotional and psychological damage. But Jason Berry, an investigative reporter in New Orleans, said Rickey "came out of the Duke experience with a surge. She was courted by both parties. The Republicans wanted her to remain a Republican. The Democrats wanted her to jump."
Jewish groups particularly lauded Rickey, a Presbyterian who had converted to Roman Catholicism.
"She was a great voice of principle and against bigotry and, more than that, she was a courageous person who put herself at great risk," said Ken Stern, director of anti-Semitism and extremism issues for the American Jewish Committee, which nominated her for a "heroic person award" in 1991. "She could have decided she was too busy, that she would just write a letter instead. But she could not ignore this horrid, dehumanizing voice."
Louisiana political observers saw Duke no longer as a political force because of Rickey's efforts. He went on to lose numerous political contests and spent 15 months in a federal prison in 2003 and 2004 after pleading guilty to a charge of filing a false tax return.
Most recently, he has been reported to be living in Salzburg, Austria. Earlier this year, he was ousted from the Czech Republic after being detained for allegedly promoting movements that suppress human rights.
"He's been branded as both a loser and a Nazi, which even in Louisiana is a lethal combination," said Powell, who wrote a book about Duke called Troubled Memory.
In a phone interview with The New Mexican last week, Rickey said she had spent all of her savings on health care and was too ill to work. She said her last income came from selling her incomplete dissertation on Duke to the American Jewish Committee, but believes that the public should not forget Duke.
"He wrote his book like Mein Kampf in jail and he's come out as a full-fledged Nazi," she said. "He has a Web site and he spends a lot of time in Europe, but he operates out of the north shore of New Orleans in St. Tammany. So he's still out there and his followers are, so that took a lot out of me, people calling me and threatening me. ...
"I had been through a lot with the Duke situation, and I wanted to move away and try to get my head cleared up. I moved here to kind of get away from the insanity that I had been through, and I had some health problems as a result. Santa Fe is an important place in my life even though I have not successfully found, you know, a niche, so to speak, but I feel it's a place where anything can happen."
Attempts to reach Duke on Sunday via his Web site, davidduke.com, and a published telephone number were unsuccessful.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.