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Fundraiser and E-Book to Honor the Late Richard Walton

The late Richard Walton and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

The late Richard Walton and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Faculty and friends will gather on Sunday to honor the late activist and educator Richard Walton through a public reading of select correspondence.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo and Pawtucket Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer Herb Weiss will cohost this RIC Foundation fundraiser titled “Song of the Open Road” from 2-3 p.m. on Sunday, March 23, at the RIC Student Union Ballroom, 600 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Providence. Carriuolo and Weiss will offer readings from an e-book of Walton’s correspondence that they jointly edited. 

With his prominent beard and his red bandana, Walton, who passed in 2012 at the age of 84, was a well-known figure on the Rhode Island scene. In the early ’80s, he ran as the Citizens Party vice presidential candidate. Later, he became an early member of the Green Party. At Rhode Island College, where he taught English for more than 25 years, he ran a successful campaign to unionize adjunct faculty.

Walton attended Classical High School and Brown University before moving to New York to enroll in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His journalistic career included stints at the Providence Journal, the New York World-Telegram, the New York Sun and Voice of America.

A self-described “peacenik,” the journalist was known not only for his political views, but also for his charity and volunteer work with such fixtures as the Amos House homeless shelter and the musical venue Stone Soup Coffeehouse. In fact, for many years he used his birthday party to host a highly regarded and well-attended annual fundraiser to support Rhode Island’s homeless community.

Weiss, who is also a RI columnist and blogger, reflected, “Throughout his 84 years, Richard Walton served as a role model for generations of activists, watching out and protecting Rhode Island’s voiceless citizens, showing all that positive societal changes could be made by making sound arguments.”

Walton’s e-book is comprised of electronic correspondence shared by many of his friends and colleagues and covers topics as diverse as baseball, hurricanes and world politics. Some tidbits include:

  • On his career choices: “I did turn down a job as an NBC News correspondent because I refused to shave my beard.”
  • On the fact that at age 79 he traveled to Shanghai to teach children: “It might turn up in a game of Trivial Pursuit some day.”
  • On his losing battle with leukemia: “I’m going on a great adventure.”

Carriuolo stated, “Richard understood early on the power of social media. He began emailing and connecting friends electronically in the early 1990s and wrote thousands of correspondences on topics ranging from serious social causes to entertaining observations about people and events.” 

Walton himself commented on the changes to the publishing world as he rued the demise of print encyclopedias. “Yes, I'm sad the printed Britannica is biting the dust but I'm glad it will survive, and probably, prosper in its digital form. Hmm, I wonder how much it costs. It'll sure be a lot lighter,” he wrote.

The suggested donation for the event is $10. Proceeds will be used to equip the English Department Conference Room, which will be named in Walton’s honor.