Remembering Pat Murphy

Pat Murphy — our friend and colleague — died June 19, 2013, after a month-long illness. He spent the last days of his life with the love of his life, his wife, Freddie, his three children, Kathy, Terry, and Patrick, and Freddie’s daughter, Barb. Many friends visited him yesterday as well. Pat was much-loved.

Pat was a long time activist, educator, and writer who has volunteered for the American Friends Service Committee, the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, and many other causes.

He was also an experienced administrator and writer. He retired in 1991 as Five College Professor of African Studies, based at Smith College, Northampton, MA.
Pat was also a Quaker and an avid sailor until degenerative mobility problems forced him to spend most of his time at the computer. He shared our progressive beliefs and values and, until recently, decided which letters Progressive Secretary wrote.
Below is an article that Cat Christensen wrote about Pat earlier this year.
Kathie Turner, Executive Director
Progressive Secretary


“Local Boy Makes Good”
by Cat Christensen

Have you ever jumped in the car on a balmy Sarasota day and cruised to the Marina where you suddenly encountered a peace march at that juncture? You probably didn't notice the resolute, elderly man confined to a wheelchair doggedly holding a peace sign, but even a wheelchair cannot compromise Pat Murphy's lifelong social justice activism.

Pat is an 86-year-old native Floridian whose occupation as a professional Africanist revolved between Washington, New York, Accra, Lagos, and Dar es Salaam with the African-American Institute. He labored to end colonial domination and promote cultural ties between Africans and Americans. He eventually wrote five books on African history and culture as a result of his comprehensive experiences there.

Pat subsequently served as Executive Director of Five Colleges, Inc., and adjunct Professor of African Studies. Pat would escape to the Caribbean where he lived on his sailboat between vocational engagements. Sailing has always been a passion although lately relegated to limbo.

When he fully retired in 1991, Pat didn't sail into the sunset but instead began his ?third career as a devoted peace and justice activist. He has held leadership positions in several peace coalitions including our local SWFCPJ.

He has a solid track record of attendance at scores of vigils and demonstrations in Florida , Massachusetts , and Washington , DC . With his beloved wife of 24 years, at his side, Pat and Freddie have continued to champion social justice causes year after year. Ain't no moss growing on them.

Upon retirement Pat began working actively with Frances Crowe, a dedicated Quaker activist, in the Northampton , MA , office of the American Friends Service Committee. Curiosity led him to attend meetings of local Friends at Mt. Toby and Northampton Monthly Meetings, and in 1995 he formally became a Quaker. Involvement in Quaker meetings and activities have become focal points in life for both Pat and Freddie ever since. He has been a member of Friends Meetings in both Jacksonville and Sarasota since moving to our area in 2003.

Pat was asked what our city could improve, so he identified a lack of residences and welcoming services for the homeless. In addition, there is a lamentable shortage of affordable assisted living for the elderly in Sarasota / Bradenton .

He remains one of the two leaders of Progressive Secretary, a national free email letter service which has sent thousands of letters to government decision-makers on peace, justice, and environmental issues on behalf of its members. As its principal letter-writer since 1999, he avidly believes in the power of the pen and freedom of speech to evoke change in a dynamic democracy. (Check out

Pat modestly claims that his most satisfying personal achievement besides sailing involved designing, then essentially building a home from scratch in Massachusetts with Freddie. Receiving the Certificate of Occupancy was a proud moment for them as the culmination of a major learning curve in construction.

Anyone else might elect to rest on his or her laurels beneath a palm tree on the beach at this point, but not Pat and Freddie, who still share a host of unrequited activist goals, such as an end to the preponderance of prejudice, discrimination and sexism, the reversal of the huge, widening gap between rich and poor, the mitigation of our aggressive, hawkish foreign policies, and the reversal of collective greed and rampant consumerism.

Pat refers to the curious passivity among so many otherwise good people in the world but does not show discouragement in the lack of support by his peers. This gentle man prefers to do what he believes is right and takes one challenge at a time without flinching. You wouldn't notice Pat and Freddie in a crowd except for the wheelchair, but they have touched more lives locally and globally with their sincere determination than most able-bodied people ever will.


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