PORT ARTHUR, Texas — Richard James Whitaker passed away suddenly at his home in Port Arthur, Texas, on Nov. 27, 2013.
Rick was born in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1945, the third of son of Dr. John O. and Mrs. Ruth (Teal) Whitaker.
After WWII, the family moved back to Oneonta where Rick grew up and graduated from Oneonta High School in 1963.
He is survived by his wife, Adelaide McGill and her daughter, Megan McGill and grandson, Martin McGill; his two sons by a previous marriage, Nathan of Minneapolis, Minn., and Cullan of Brunswick, Maine; his stepdaughters, Stephanie (Blackwell) Smithers and Petra Blackwell; his brothers, John O. Whitaker Jr., (Royce) of Terre Haute, Ind., and William D. Whitaker (Esperanza) of Oneonta; and his aunts, Waneta (Whitaker) Lewis of Oneonta, (formerly of Delhi) and Mildred (Whitaker) Lehman of Oneonta, (formerly of Cooperstown); and by numerous cousins, nephews and nieces.
A funeral service was held in Nederland, Texas on Dec. 7. The service was under the direction of Broussards Funeral Home. www.broussards1889.com.
Rick had an intellectually interesting experience his entire life. Following his graduation from Yale in 1967, he shortly thereafter entered Albany Law School, receiving his J.D. in 1971. He practiced law from then until 1995. He spent his entire legal career trying to assist those in need of assistance, but unable to afford it.
His legal training concentrated in constitutional law, civil rights, education law and poverty law. He was a member of the bars of New York, Vermont and South Carolina and the United States Supreme Court. He won cases in both South Carolina and Vermont where classes of people were being wrongfully detained. In Vermont this resulted in a change in the State Constitution. Early on he was the Managing attorney, Neighborhood Legal Assistance Program in Beaufort, S.C. He was then the Executive Director, North County Legal Services (NY). Then, in 1989, he became the Vermont Chief Attorney at the Vermont Advocacy Network in Waterbury, Vt., where he remained until 1995.
During this period he also received an MA in English from the University of Vermont and completed most of the work towards a PhD in literature at McGill University. Giving up law in 1995, he then had numerous positions, some great, some small. He taught English at Plattsburgh State, the University of Vermont and Cobleskill CC; taught within the prison system of South Carolina and at the University of South Carolina. He taught as a substitute teacher in the Oneonta area.
Prior to entering the University of Maryland’s Library Science program, he worked as a law librarian at the Maryland State Law Library in Annapolis. He received his Library Science degree from the University of Maryland in 2000. He then held various library positions in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md. He also worked at Delhi Tech in Delhi.
In 2009, he joined the Port Arthur Library System as assistant director where he remained until his death. While in Port Arthur, he was responsible for significant expansion of library services, creating a more favorable working environment and assisting the director of the entire library system to achieve greater funding and stability of resources.
As stated by the Port Arthur city manager at Rick’s funeral service, “Rick was not only a great benefit to the library system, but also an invaluable citizen of Port Arthur.” And as stated by his co-workers, “He was a great man to work for, a leader, an example to us and ethical to a fault.”
Memorial contributions may be made in Rick’s name to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104 or a charity of choice.