Elizabeth Rickey, GOP activist who denounced David Duke, dies at age 53
by Danny Monteverde, The Times-Picayune
Monday September 14, 2009, 8:56 PM
Elizabeth 'Beth' Rickey 1989
The Times-Picayune archive
Elizabeth "Beth" Rickey, a longtime Republican activist best known for denouncing David Duke when he started campaigning for his House seat in the late 1980s, died Saturday in a motel room in Santa Fe, N.M. She was 53.
No cause of death was available Monday. However, Mary Olivea, a friend in Santa Fe, said Ms. Rickey had moved to New Mexico because she suffered from several health problems, including an immune-system disorder, Crohn's disease and high blood pressure.
A founding board member of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism and a member of the Republican State Central Committee, Ms. Rickey "did probably more than any other human being to stop Duke's rise," said Quin Hillyer, a longtime friend and ally in the anti-Duke movement.
Hillyer and Ms. Rickey worked together on John Treen's campaign for the House in early 1989. Treen, a brother of former Gov. Dave Treen, lost to Duke in the campaign. Doing research for Treen's campaign, Ms. Rickey became "horrified" by what she learned about Duke, Hillyer said. Two of her most notable denunciations of Duke involved trips to Duke's Metairie legislative office and to a Populist Party meeting in Chicago.
As a political-science doctoral student at Tulane University, Ms. Rickey in the summer of 1989 was part of a research project that purchased neo-Nazi books and videotapes from Duke's home office.
Shortly after Duke was elected, he went to Chicago to attend a meeting of the Populist Party and was photographed shaking hands with Art Jones, the No. 2 man in the American Nazi hierarchy at the time.
At that meeting, Ms. Rickey sat in the audience, tape recorder rolling, while Duke spoke to the group.
When Duke ran for the U.S. Senate in 1990, Ms. Rickey helped found the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism. The group provided information to the media that indicated Duke still held Jews and black people in contempt.
Duke lost to incumbent Democrat J. Bennett Johnston.
When Duke ran for governor, the state's Republican Party couldn't decide how to handle the Duke-Edwards runoff -- party rules would not allow an Edwards endorsement. Ms. Rickey simply said the party should denounce Duke.
Local author and journalist Jason Berry met Ms. Rickey during Duke's House campaign. By the time of the gubernatorial campaign, her devotion to moral issues over party loyalty was apparent, Berry said.
"She stood on moral principle, " Berry said. "She made life very uneasy for the Republican Party, and a lot of us admired her for that."
A Lafayette native, Ms. Rickey was a niece of Branch Rickey, who, as the Brooklyn Dodgers' president and general manager, integrated major-league baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson in 1947.
Survivors include a brother, Robert Rickey, who lives in England.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.