Sunday, August 02, 2009

Remembering Rick Taylor

Rick Taylor was a man of huge appetites – for the political fray, for down-home Southern food, for women’s and veterans’ causes, for advancing African-Americans in all spheres – in a word, for life itself.

Raised in Elmwood Gardens public housing, he went on to become a decorated Vietnam veteran, a city councilman, mayor, head of two community service agencies, a minister, a radio personality and above all, the arbiter in the mid-1980s of how things should be in Plainfield.

One of his watchwords was that he wanted to see in City Hall “people who look like me.” He also wanted city and school officials with large salaries to take home their pay to the Queen City as bona fide residents.

Rick Taylor never hesitated to make the media his partner in his many campaigns, whether to bring positive attention to Plainfield or to trounce the opposition. He was able to bring in the likes of The Rev. Jesse Jackson, The Rev. Al Sharpton, John Amos or Eddie Murphy to Plainfield to capture headlines.

After studying him for a while as a reporter for the weekly Plainfield Today and for the daily Courier News, I concluded he had as powerful a political periscope as existed on the planet. When he made a move, he could see not just the first consequence of his action, but ramifications way around the corner.

Later on, illness took its toll on Rick. But anyone who lived here in the mid-1980s has many Rick Taylor stories and anecdotes. He was a force to be reckoned with. In years to come, a bigger picture may emerge. Meanwhile, we wish him peace at last after his physical travails, and we will always remember him as a political warrior of the first rank.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

& what exactly did he accomplish in Plainfield???

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many years later, and a single term, what do we have to be thankful for?

With all due respect, did he not bring all the housing projects to Plainfield?

Maybe a list of actual accomplishments would be more helpful for those of us who have lost a few brain cells along the way.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Bernice said...

I expect that his obituary will detail his accomplishments. I was attempting to describe his style and personality.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernice, I was reminded by your comment "people who look like us" of a story. I was with Rick at some gathering, Can't remember where or what, but what I do remember is I was sitting next to him (this was long after he had lost his sight) and he made a comment about "people who look like us". I just had to sidle over and whisper in his ear... "Rick, I guess I never told you... I'm white".

He thought that was pretty funny!

RIP Rick, you will be missed.

Joan Hervey

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elmwood Gardens was not built yet when Rick grew up here in Plainfield, in the 600 block of West Third Street. We used to call him "Country" because that's where he was from before moving to Plainfield.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a lovely tribute to someone who lived and loved in plainfield. as a relative newcomer it's nice to see some of the history of Plainfield come to life in this bpost.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Sad news, Bernice. I think I'll always remember two things about Rick Taylor.

First, he gamed me. When I initially began writing about Plainfield after you retired, he'd just decided to fight to get new uniforms for the high school band. He phoned me up out of the blue and vowed there would be mayhem at a school board meeting as parents and others turned out in protest. I don't think I'd been to a single meeting of any kind of elected officials at that point, but I dutifully showed up, wanting to prove I was taking an interest in all the things in the city that people were talking about. I arrived at the school, and it turned out it wasn't an actual full board meeting, but instead a smaller board committee gathering -- and Rick had clearly staged a scene for my benefit.

It could have made me wary (and at first it probably did), but later I gained respect for him. He was wily and bright and more than a little cunning, all of which traits seem necessary for a life in politics in the Queen City. (As you well know.)

The other thing burned into my memory is the image of him visiting council meetings in his later years. This was maybe four or five years ago. Even with all the physical problems he had, he still pushed to get himself to those things. His vision had dimmed and was nearly gone by that point. He had to be helped to the microphone to make a statement during public-comment periods. Sometimes he couldn’t speak much louder than a hoarse whisper.

When he stepped up to talk, though, the noise in the room abruptly died. People strained to hear him. It was a very elemental thing, this respect and deference he commanded. ("Blind eyes could blaze like meteors ...")

My condolences to those who knew and loved him.


1:04 PM  

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