Richard Wolf Boone
(1927 - 2014)

Richard Wolf Boone
Nickname: Dick

Kentucky, United States of America
March 29, 1927

California, United States of America
February 26, 2014

Social justice, family, running, animals, government, Greek philosophy, classic literature and music
Richard W. Boone, a leading strategist and architect of the War on Poverty, including Head Start, the Community Action Program and the Legal Services Program, died February 26, 2014 at his home in Santa Barbara, CA after a long illness. Richard Wolf Boone was born in Louisville, KY, on March 29, 1927, the son of a doctor whose patients impressed on him the harsh realities of Appalachian poverty and segregation.

At 16, without finishing high school, Boone enrolled at the University of Chicago to study criminology. There he helped in a study that found 88 percent of state felons released to fight in World War II had gained honorable discharges. This “astounding fact,” as he called it, helped modify parole decision-making in Illinois. As a student assistant to a parole officer at the Kentucky State Reformatory, Boone developed a new procedure that prevented inmates from getting “lost” in the bureaucracy and being held well after completing their sentences.

As a police captain in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Boone reorganized the Juvenile Bureau to focus on juvenile delinquency prevention and led a team confronting organized crime, focusing on establishments run by Sam Giancana, the head of the Chicago organized crime syndicate.

Boone worked for Robert F Kennedy at the Justice Department, There he created the Appalachian Volunteers, a college service corps that tackled poverty and local political corruption and brought legal services to low-income people. Boone then became Director of Special Projects in the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime.
“He shared ideas with Robert Kennedy and shared his ambitions for the country,” said veteran activist Frank Mankiewicz and RFK Press Secretary. “I don’t know anyone who was closer to RFK. Certainly he was one of four or five people who had his ear, always.”

He joined the White House Special Projects Staff in 1963-64 and then served as Director for the Community Action Program in the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1964-65. At the Office of Economic Opportunity, in 1964-65, Boone was key not only to the concept and enactment of Head Start but also for Upward Bound and the Foster Grandparents, Community Health Centers and Legal Services programs.

Boone insisted that the budding war on poverty involve “maximum feasible participation” of the people the programs were trying to help. “I was very skeptical of ‘top down’ approaches to social action,” he wrote in an unpublished memoir. “In particular I was highly skeptical of professionals who seldom asked the ‘clientele’ about their own perception of needs.”

This awareness, he recalled, had originated with renowned community organizer Saul Alinsky at a neighborhood meeting in Chicago. Boone had been working as a police captain and Youth Bureau director in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office made a reference to “target groups.” Alinsky responded sharply that those on Chicago’s South Side were “more than a little tired of being your targets.” Thereafter Boone championed planning with rather than for the country’s disadvantaged.

He pioneered a “three-legged stool” approach to anti-poverty programs, in which control over funds and activities would be split among the public sector, the private nonprofit sector and representatives of the areas to be served. “People are still building on what he did and the way he did it,” said Rep. John Lewis. “He made a lasting contribution to the betterment of America.”

Boone has since noted “I was definitely interested in ‘shaking things up,’ but not in organizing the poor against everyone else,” he wrote. “Those of us attempting to advance this precept were concerned about Indian communities long dominated and mismanaged by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, migratory workers badly exploited by growers and long excluded from most labor laws, poor people trapped and exploited in the rural fiefdoms of Appalachia and the South, and those trapped in urban ghettoes.

With the support of Walter Reuther and the United Auto Workers, Boone left the government in 1965 to establish the Citizens’ Crusade Against Poverty as an outside “watchdog” on anti-poverty programs. He conceived and was the principal organizer of the Citizens’ Board of Inquiry Into Hunger and Malnutrition in the United States, whose report Hunger USA documented serious and shocking hunger and malnutrition problems that had long been ignored.

“Someone had to draw attention to the fact there were people in this country who were in dire need, and to force people to pay attention to it,” recalled author Nick Kotz in the tribute video. “Boone was among the people who took that on as a mission.”

With the support of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and other prominent legislators, the work of the Citzens’ Crusade led to the enactment of the nation’s Food Stamp program, replacing commodity distribution as the basic way to reach the hungry poor.

“He was the first lifeline of hope for people in Washington who were working out in the field trying to help the poor,” said Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund. “He is owed a huge debt of gratitude for…fighting against a huge bureaucracy and winning.”
Eddie Brown of the Citizens Crusade Against Poverty recalled him as beyond determined: “If he sunk his teeth into something, he was like a pit bull.”

In 1968, Boone joined the Washington-based Center for Community Change as senior vice president, organizing The Youth Project, the first national program advocating progressive youth development programs in local communities. In 1970 he became director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, organizing a National Board of Inquiry into High School Journalism to fight censorship and commissioning the “Push-Out Report” on the tendency of newly integrated schools to suspend or expel black student leaders. He also place RFK Fellows in community organizations around the country.

Boone moved to California in 1974 to be a fellow at the Urban Policy Research Institute in Los Angeles. The following year he became co-director of the Citizens’ Policy Center in Santa Barbara, promoting opportunities for young people.

In 1977, he moved to New York direct the Field Foundation. Boone had an entrepreneurial
approach to philanthropy and he reached out to a wide variety of people to discuss social problems and then designed solutions to address specific problems. He founded the Indochina Refugee Action Center to rescue and resettle Indo-Chinese boat people escaping the Vietnamese mainland but being preyed upon by pirates. With the late Lisa Goldberg of the Revson Foundation, he founded the Funders Committee for Civic Participation to promote voting and protect voting rights particularly among the young, low-income Americans, especially minorities.

He also conceived and created the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, now the nation’s most reliable sources of nonpartisan information on federal and state policies affecting poor and moderate income Americans. He supported development of the Communications Consortium Media Center, which helps nonprofits use media and new technologies as strategic tools for policy change.

He remained active as an independent consultant and policy adviser on social and antipoverty policy issues until his death.

Boone is survived by his wife of 62 years, Chloris Robinson Boone; 4 sons, a daughter and six grandchildren.
Boone is survived by his wife of 62 years, Chloris Robinson Boone; sons Steven, of Santa Fe, NM; Wade, of Kensington, MD; Brent, of Santa Barbara, CA; and Jed, of Wappingers Falls, NY; a daughter, Laurel Boone Nelson, of Oxnard CA; and six grandchildren.

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Guest Book (28 entries)
My best wishes to all the Boone family. I worked for Dick at the Citizens Policy Center i remember a man who always wore jeans, took power naps in the closet and had a beautiful and ferocious dog named Rafa. Dick gave me a career that I have loved for 40 years. Dick saw something in me I didn't even know was there. What. I remember most are wonderful dinners sitting around the table at the beautiful 'old yellow house' in Santa Barbara solving the worlds problems. It was years after that I realized the scope of his impact not only on the young people he worked with but with people throughou his life. He will be greatly missed by many
Melinda Moore (Employee and frien)
March 27th, 2015
Mr. Boone hired me as a college intern at CCAP during the summer of 1967 to do a spot followup survey to the Hunger Report on current poverty conditions. This was to be part of a progress report to the board of directors. Under his direction I made telephone calls and a trip to the deep South to assess the impact of the Report on actual conditions in target areas.

The experience was very significant to me. He treated me as a full adult (even though I knew that it was a bit premature) and, in a mentoring way, thoughtfully helped me deal with a youthful, self-imposed sense of my personal limits. I learned to contact important people and document facts that contributed to causes (both socio-economic and racial) that I was coming to deeply believe in. I had the opportunity to make a presentation on my survey to the Board, which included Ralph Abernathy at the time.

I have thought of Mr. Boone with affection and respect many times in the intervening years (not to mention some effort keeping him separated from Richard Boone of Have Gun, Will Travel, who I also greatly admired as a younger child). Reading comments on this website, I realize now that, had I not been so awed by him, I might have been able to maintain a small but significant (to me) relationship with him. I would have greatly valued that, as others who have done so have clearly expressed here.

Reviewing the balance of his life's work in the obituary on this site and in other articles, I see that my youngster's immense sense of respect for his leadership, his personal commitment, and his remarkable effectiveness was very well deserved. I have no recollection of what prompted me to do a Google search for CCAP last week, after nearly half a century, thus discovering the articles about his recent passing. But I am glad to have this opportunity to pay my deepest respects to one of the most impressive and thoughtful people I have ever had the privilege to know.

My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends, who I hope are consoled to know that his life was one of great purpose and great accomplishment in the pursuit of that most complicated of goals, social justice.
Jack Jenkins (Employee, mentee)
June 4th, 2014
You were a rock, always there to provide guidance and wisdom whenever it was needed. Even for extended family, such as when my mom became ill and needed to be hospitalized, or when she needed to be moved to another facility. I'm eternally grateful to you for your support during those difficult times. The world is a colder place with you gone from it. Your life's achievements and selfless struggles to help those in need are an inspiration to us all to do whatever we can to carry on the good fight. We will never forget you.
Donna Cayot (Dick's son Jed's sister-i)
May 16th, 2014
To: Chloris, Steven, Wade, Brent and Laurel Boone
Date: March 1, 2014


Dick Boone has died. Many memories flood my mind regarding my relationship with him over a forty-year plus period. Two phone calls that I made to him over the years stand out as flashbulb memories. Flashbulb memories are personal experiences that become deeply embedded in one’s recall neurons. Regardless of the length of time in the past that these memories occurred, they are vividly etched in one’s psychophysical being and on instant recall when stimulated.

My flashbulb memories of Dick do much to define the relationship we had, particularly at the height of his powers and my youth during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Dick was my mentor, friend and supporter during my coming of age as a more fully realized human being.

The first flashbulb takes me immediately back to Omaha, Nebraska in 1972. Dick was the executive director of the RFK Memorial in Washington, D.C. I was finishing up my second year as a RFK Fellow, assigned to Rapid City, South Dakota. Reuben Snake, a Winnebago Native American, had asked me to monitor and legally chaperone the first historic Native civil rights march to Nebraska’s capital, Omaha. The march would end at the Governor’s office, where tribal members would under media scrutiny present a list of grievances to the governor.

Dick gave his blessing to leaving my Rapid City post, and paid my expenses to travel to and from the Winnebago Indian Reservation. On the appointed day, we marched through downtown Omaha to the state capitol and governor’s office. There were over a hundred tribal members and supporters in the march. Except for some jeering and racist name-calling from bystanders, things went surprising well without any violent or other incidents.

Things abruptly changed when the march arrived at the governor’s office. When tribal members attempted to deliver their written grievances to the governor, he refused to meet with them. He retreated to his office and asked security to remove us from the office anteroom, where we were all jammed in shoulder to shoulder—men, women, elders and children. This final snub and dismissal of the tribe and its legitimate grievances after decades of racist and discriminatory action and non-action by the state of Nebraska was the final insult to the tribe, especially some of the young warriors who were present that day.

The room exploded into action. Furniture and bodies from inside the office barricaded doors. Tribal members (along with one wide-eyed young RFK lawyer) and the governor’s staff were now herded together into one large yet now very crowded room. The governor quickly exited the scene from a private office door. Once he safely exited, state troopers began demanding we leave immediately, threatening the group with mass arrest and possible violence. The young tribal members refused to budge until the governor would meet with them.

I quickly decided that this would be a good time to call Dick for help. I gained access to a phone and called the Memorial in D.C. Dick and Ralph Caprio immediately responded. I explained the tense situation we were facing. Without hesitation, Dick said he would call Senator Edward Kennedy for assistance. He also told me to hold the line and not surrender to an insensitive governor.

As the troopers were giving us a final warning to leave and preparing to gas us out of the office, and some of the elder Winnebago began singing their death songs, help arrived. Within thirty minutes of my call to Dick, Senator Kennedy had called the governor and explained why it would be best to personally meet with tribal representatives and their lawyer and peacefully end the siege. My mentor and supporter had literally saved what could have been another slaughter of indigenous people, not to mention my idealistic butt.

The second phone call to Dick occurred in late 1980, and was much more personal. My family and I had just moved from Santa Barbara to Evansville, Indiana. I was pursuing a position as the director of the Legal Services program in Bloomington. The position never materialized. I was flat broke with a wife and child, and things looked grim. I was able to secure a position representing miners in Black Lung cases as an independent legal contractor with a highly financially successful former judge and now law practitioner in order to financially survive. The relationship lasted a very short period of time. My position dissolved over our differences regarding my pro bono work for a local environmental group, with my employer representing the polluting coal company my clients opposed.

Once again, on the cusp of disaster, I called Dick. He immediately responded with an offer of help. Within a couple of days of my call, he offered me a job working as an investigative lawyer for a youth employment organization, which was funded by the Field Foundation. Dick was the Foundation’s director. Within days we were in Washington, D.C., where Dick arranged assistance for us from his son, Wade (thanks, Wade), who we lived with temporarily, and Dave Hackett of the Memorial. Dick’s unwavering support for a friend made all the difference in my life path at the time. We have been on a roll ever since.

Like all of us humans, Dick was far from perfect. He often struggled with showing emotion, and could be quite cold and distant at times. Hugging others was not a natural talent for him. However he was a good and decent man. When he observed discrimination, injustice and inequality he reacted with all the power and energy his disciplined intellect and body could muster. He could soar in the realm of the idealistic yet never lose contact with the reality of doing something real and lasting; as in, “Tom, that’s a great idea but is it replicable elsewhere without you?”

He will be remembered. He will be missed.

Go easily into the night, old friend. Congratulations on a life well lived…

In great respect, affection and love,

Tom DiGrazia & Family
326 Lala Place
Kailua, HI 96734
May 3rd, 2014
Beginning in 1963, Dick "recruited" me for the Juvenile Justice initiative of Robert Kennedy, first as staff, then as speechwriter. Then at OEO, when I was Sargent Shriver's special assistant and speechwriter, Dick continued to be my mentor. Dick brought my wife, Jean Camper Cahn, over to the Commuity Action Program to launch what became the national legal service program. At his request, my wife and I wrote the piece he wanted on the dimensions of maximum feasible participation After leaving government, he recruited me to draft Hunger USA -- and later at the Field Foundation helped me launch TimeBanking. In recent months, in phone conversations he shared with me that, when we at the Justice Department were drafting the OEO legislation, he was the author of the phrase "maximum feasible participation." This country owes Dick so much for what he did and what he set in motion. I cannot begin to express my debt, passed and continuing, to his visionary leadership.
Edgar Cahn (Mentee and colleague)
March 23rd, 2014
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"Mr. Boone, Thank you for inducting me into the professional world, for remaining a steadfast friend to my father since Chicago days, for your honest intellect and courage, for your commitment to family love, and for your laugh. My best to Dad;}"
Liz Ramage
March 9th, 2014
"There has never been a greater fighter for social and economic justice than Dick. He was the heart of the Johnson anti-poverty programs. They reflected his vision, values and commitment. We have lost a great man. He will be missed Pablo Eisenberg"
Pablo Eisenberg
March 8th, 2014
"Dick was a firm believer in fundamental social change, an immensely creative actor on social justice issues, a steadfast champion of people our society too often leaves behind. And he helped so many young people like me devote our careers to change"
Andy Mott
March 7th, 2014
"I first met Dick in 1977 when he was at the Field Foundation and I was hired to open the Appalachian office of the Youth Project, another organization imbued with Dick’s vision and genius. The man asked such piercing and to-the-point questions. O"
Chuck Shuford
March 6th, 2014
"Dick played a crucial role while at the Field Foundation supporting SANE and the movement against nuclear weapons during the 1980s. He was a mentor whose wisdom profoundly shaped my life."
David Cortright
March 6th, 2014
"I worked with Dick on the effort to end nuclear weapons production and testing, starting 25 years ago, and he became a favorite friend and mentor. Among many projects that he took little credit for, that one made the world a better and safer place."
Peter Gray
March 3rd, 2014
"I was a colleague at OEO at the beginning of the War on Poverty. There are 10s of 1000s of Americans whose lives were profoundly enhanced as a result of Dick's efforts. They never knew him or his name. So we must speak for them. THANK YOU!!"
Lewis Eigen
March 1st, 2014
"We worked together for Robert Kennedy and the War on Poverty and I will always remember his quiet voice and wry smile. With one look you that he knew everything. His footprints marked pathways that many of us still follow today"
stan salett
March 1st, 2014
"Dick was one of those singular people who sees who you are and thereby changes your life forever. What an honor to have known and loved such an extraordinary yet down-to-earth guy. I will miss him...the planet will miss him."
Ann Brode
February 28th, 2014
"Thank you for the gift of life; mine and yours . . . and especially that you leave a beautiful legacy that I am part of . . . one that puts justice at the forefront."
Steven Boone
February 26th, 2014


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