Friday, August 29, 2008

Rachel King (RIP)
1963 - 2008

Rachel King wrote about me several times. It is way past time for me to write something about her.

Rachel’s family has requested contributions to the The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in lieu of flowers in her memory.

Rachel helped the abolition movement in many ways. Most people have no idea of the extent. To really know and understand Rachel, you need to read her works. It would honor her if you to took the time to read what she wrote. You would see first hand her contribution to the movement.

I got to know Rachel pretty well when she was writing her first, and I think greatest book, Don’t Kill in Our Names: Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty. Check out any of these links to know Rachel and her work better:
Family photo album

Her next major work was Capital Consequences: Families of the Condemned Tell Their Stories. Check out any of these links to know Rachel better.
About the book

Another very important piece by Rachel was NOT IN OUR NAME: Murder Victims Families Speak out Against the Death Penalty. It was a project of Barb Hood and Rachel’s during her stint as the inaugural Director of Alaska Against the Death Penalty...The first printing was in 1997 and has since been updated and reprinted at least 4 times. Barb and Rachel began their project with pictures and interviews that were taken during the Virginia of Hope in 1996.

Rachel used the message of Murder Victim’s Families for Reconciliation as the introduction for their work in photos and personal stories. Her message for this book was MVFR’s message:

“In the aftermath of a murder, we often hear cries for the death penalty. For centuries, killing people to punish them for killing has been a part of our culture. But in recent decades, the justifications that have long sustained the death penalty in the public mind have been largely discredited. For example, studies now show that the death penalty does not deter violent crime, and instead may provoke it; that executions are much more costly than life imprisonment, not less costly; and that police find the death penalty among the least effective crime-fighting measures that many politicians and prosecutors would have us believe.

As reasons for supporting the death penalty grow thin under scrutiny, proponents often fall back on the old stand-by question: Well, what if someone in your family was murdered? Wouldn’t you want their murderer to die? This is meant to disarm us. “Of course,” we are expected to say. After all, our culture has long supported killing for killing. But as people who have experienced first-hand the effects of murder, we are here to say,


We are members of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, a national organization of family members who have lost relatives to murder to execution by the State. We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and work instead for alternatives to the death penalty. We promote policies that prevent violent crime and programs that help victims heal and rebuild their lives. We know too well the horrible effects of killing, and how important it is that the cycle of killing in this country be broken. We can’t stop all violence, but we can work to stop the violence carried out by a government that kills in our names.

Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation was founded in 1976 by Marie Deans of Richmond , Virginia , after the murder of her mother-in-law Penny. Since that time the organization has become a leader in the abolition movement, both nationally and internationally. Since 1993, MVFR’s “Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing” tours have helped spread the message to communities across the U.S. that executions are terrible memorials to people we love.”

If you read the Interview with Rachel on history of NOT IN OUR NAME you really begin to understand her.

Again, Rachel’s family requested that contributions be made to The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in lieu of flowers. The NCADP is the leading organization in this country solely dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty. It is an organization that is worth your investment. Rachel invested in this organization and I know she would want you to do likewise.

Rachel King and I were both elected to the NCADP board in 1996. Rachel and I have both had the privilege of serving as past chairpersons on that board. I know she believed strongly in the NCADP and in Executive Director and friend Diann Rust-Tierney. An investment to the NCADP will go far in helping abolish the death penalty.

Rachel contributed the royalties from Don’t Kill in Our Names: Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty to support the Journey of Hope … from Violence to Healing and Murder Victim’s Families for Human Rights. As a founding & present, board member of both of those organizations I can say we owe a debt of gratitude to Rachel. She also supported and promoted these additional organizations.

The Journey of Hope blog has been memorializing Rachel King since her death on Monday. I invite you to check out what others have said in her memory.

We have listed many personal comments as well as blog posting of MVFHR, ACLU, NCADP and others. Read how Marshall Dayan, Jack Payden-Travers, Ron Carlson, Phyllis Pautrat, Renny Cushing, Diann Rust-Tierney and others are remembering and honoring Rachel during this time.

The Journey of Hope blog would love for you to add your words of honor in her memory.

I will also be adding some additional posts during the next few days sharing my thoughts and feelings about Rachel. I will share some special moments like the time in 1996 when she shaved her head to join Sam Reese Sheppard in solidarity and fun. This was years before she lost her hair the second time, this time due to chemo.

There is a story about how Don’t Kill in Our Names, caused Common Courage Press to back out of their agreement to publish my book Journey of Hope … from Violence to Healing in early 2003. In spite of that Rachel and I were still able to travel together for an Alaskan book tour sponsored by Alaskans Against the Death Penalty in 2004. We promoted our books and each other.

Rachel kept a journal on her illness and her friends were updated by Journal reports sent out from time to time. I will share some of her thoughts of experiences she encountered as she courageously fought for life. She was a great battler. We can all learn from her. She is a heroine.

She was an angel sent from God.

Young people in the movement have someone to look up and to emulate. Who can fill her giant footprints? Maybe Rachel Lawler, maybe Ashley Kincaid, maybe Will McAuliffe, or maybe you.

With this small glimpse of her life I hope you got to know Rachel King a little better. Show honor by reading her words and spreading them. Show honor to her by supporting her causes.

Her stories and her causes will help bring abolition of the death penalty. It is up to us how long that will take.

Bill Pelke

1 comment:

Cyril Thomas said...

Requiescat in pace, Rachel.
We will miss you and hope one day the whole world will be free of death penalty, as you dreamed.