Richard Walton was an unforgettable presence for decades in our cozy state. An activist, he was in the forefront of so many campaigns for social justice and peace during his 84 years on this earth that even his friends couldn’t do a full accounting. A graduate of Brown in the 1950s, at a time when most of his WASP classmates went into banking, law or joined the CIA, Richard took the path less traveled. He became a reporter for the Providence Journal, then worked in New York newspapering during the Golden Age of print journalism. His stories of the Lions’ Head and other Manhattan haunts entertained friends for many years.
With his flowing white beard and trademark red bandana, Walton was a fixture at Rhode Island peace and justice causes, whether serving soup at Amos House or organizing Stone Soup. He was a prolific writer, a learned and well-read Renaissance figure, and a wonderful companion. His annual June birthday at his wonderful home on Pawtuxet Cove was a must-attend for aficionados of fine food, music and celebration. These events raised thousands of dollars over the years for good causes from Nicaragua to Niantic Avenue. He was especially proud of all the money raised to help his beloved Amos House.
While Richard was serious about his political causes, he was never a humorless zealot. Rather, he embraced that old Emma Goldman line, ``If I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution.’’
He ran for vice-president on the Citizens Party ticket in 1984 and had an opinion on just about every political topic. Until weeks before his death he taught at Rhode Island College, where he was head of the union representing adjunct professors. He was a huge sports fan; some of us remember hoisting lagers deep into the wee hours, eyes riveted to Celtics playoff games during the Larry Legend years in the 1980s, as the clock ticked past midnight at Hope’s, the raffish Washington Street tavern that gleefully winked at state closing hours as well as the state edict against torching up weed in the kitchen.
Now, Richard’s friends are getting together to organize a benefit for his many good causes. The inaugural event has been dubbed the Red Bandana Fund and the concert will be held on June 2, a Sunday afternoon (Richard’s great birthday parties were on Sunday afternoons) at 3 p.m. at Shea High School at 485 East Avenue in Pawtucket. The event will be held in the auditorium.
Among the musicians are many of Richard’s close friends and compatriots, fine men and women all. Signed up so far to perform are Bill Harley, Charles and Consuela Sherba, Sally Rogers, Aubrey Atwater, Cathy Clasper-Torch, Kim Trusty, Kate Katzberg, Marty Ballou, Chris and Meredith Thompson, Elwood Donnelly and Howie Bursen. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at, (where else?) www.stonesoupcoffeehouse.com