By What Authority
Reflections on Ward Morehouse
By Members of POCLAD
Ward Morehouse, co-founder of POCLAD, died suddenly on June 30 swimming laps, one of his favorite activities. He was 83. His death comes less than nine months after POCLAD's other co-founder, Richard Grossman, passed away.
Below are reflections from Ward's present and past POCLAD colleagues — who Ward called "POCLADistas."
Ward's activist life as I knew him is symbolized by meeting him at the gate of a flight to Oakland Airport, from which we drove to a POCLAD retreat at the extraordinary Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. Ward was one of the last to deplane, and just as I was getting nervous he emerged from the ramp, the ever-present bulging canvas bag over his shoulder. Oh, that bag! Its contents spoke a great deal about Ward's many concerns, values and projects. Once in our circle in the OAEC meeting room, he would partially unpack it, and during the meeting rummage for the relevant papers: the latest effort to redress "the greatest industrial disaster in history," Bhopal; union-related documents; and perhaps a citation for trespassing in "the Battle for Seattle" or blocking the gate at Westover military base in western Massachusetts. Ward Morehouse has built houses, coalitions, friendships, his work and his life inseparable. He tookgreat pride in the POCLADISTAS as he called us. But for all his principled activism and accomplishments, my most enduring memory is watching Ward with his beloved dog Buster.
I first met Ward Morehouse in 1991. It was at a meeting in New York City of activists organizing a National People's Forum to contest the U.S. policies (under George Bush I) in advance of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Ward had stood at the meeting to speak, and I marveled at both his words and his demeanor. The room of activists had gathered to consider non-violent directaction — a large blockade — to disrupt on an upcoming "Preparatory Meeting" in NYC of the 190 or so governments, and dozens of CEOs of major corporation, who were planning to ensure a "business-as-usual" outcome in Rio the following year. Ward rose from his seat and said something more elegant, but quite close to this: 'Should this esteemed body of grassroots organizers gathered here today deem it necessary to make an intervention to disrupt this UN sanctioned gathering of tyrants, elites and profiteers, I for one will be at the ramparts to defend human rights and dignity, and am prepared for arrest and jail'. I have been a student of Ward Morehouse every since.
As one of the "principles" in a the small core collective from the beginning months of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) — which Ward co-founded with Richard Grossman — I was privileged to hear Ward speak passionately on matters large and small dozens of times over the past two decades. Each time — honestly — I was moved by his passion, conviction, integrity and common sense. At any meeting, Ward was both the elder statesman and the disheveled agitator. He was at once shockingly radical and incredibly reasonable. I loved to be with Ward.
Back at OAEC, my home community and organization in Northern California, Ward has long been a local hero. He had been out many times. He came for POCLAD gatherings. He came to co-lead "Rethinking the Corporation, Rethinking Democracy" workshops. He flew from Croton-on-Hudson, NY to attend my wedding to Kendall Dunnigan in 2001, and he said loving, private words to me that I value to this day. I have delighted my local comrades for many years with impressions of Ward delivering one of his passionate declarations. The secret to doing an impression of Ward Morehouse giving animpromptu speech is to wait until there is some space in the action to makeyour move, then rise slowly from your chair, then gently close your eyes and let them flutter for a bit as you begin. Now everyone is listening. You speak slowly — never flustered. Your voice is solid and you use pause (although unconsciously) for emphasis, and you always make your case, whatever the subject, based in solid moral principles — human rights for every human being, justice for the poor and powerless, an end to the tyranny of moneyedelites and exploiting corporations, the rights of nature. You muster calm wisdom and common sense, make your point, then you stop, letting your eyes flutter again, and you take your time regaining your seat. To do an impression of Ward is really to practice being a better speaker, a better person.
I also got to know Ward as a family man who told loving stories of his kids and grandchildren, a builder who always was on aproject, a lover of his dogs, and a man who could tuck into multiple slices of bread with jam with a gusto that you don't often see in five year olds.
To catalogue the campaigns, travels, speeches, organizations, arrests, publications, teachings, and passions of Ward Morehouse would — and I very seriously hope will — be a substantial project for a few fortunate graduate students. This century needs Ward's wisdom.
My family cried when we heard Ward had passed. Let us all honor his life and memory by working even harder for justice, peace and a restored biosphere — and by really enjoying life. That's what Ward did.
I recall the first time I met Ward. It was at an early Bailey Farms gathering of Rethinkers (Rethinking the Corporation, Rethinking Democracy weekend seminars) north of New York City. This world-wise, thoughtful fellow knew so much about the deeper (and darker) workings of the corporation and its political allies in high office, the workings I was just beginning to unravel. He sat calmly in this largecircle of smart and probing minds, occasionally offering counsel or clarification or questions, always listening respectfully to new, sometimeswild, always earnest entries into the conversation.
This early impression was true to the man. Ward was laid back and unflappable, an intriguing contrast, I thought, to his clear and deep abhorrence of injustice and his creative drive to organize against it, go to the barricades to fight it, sit in a jail to defy it. His incarceration during the Seattle WTO protests of 1999 was my introduction to his history of testing armed powers with body, mind and soul. That he almost single-handedly established and sustained a public voice against thecrimes of Union Carbide Corporation in Bhopal is additional testament to his compassion and tenacity.
We were fortunate to have Ward, with his international and national savvy, laboring with us in the early days of POCLAD's work. And he always looked the laborer, by the way, in his red and black plaid flannel shirt and hefty, seldom tied forest boots. He often arrived for our POCLAD retreats on Cape Cod wielding his burly truck and toting a briefcase overflowing with papers, books and scribbled messages needing hisresponse. The truck was usually carrying all manner of tools and equipment that revealed Ward's skills in house construction and forest management. A versatile man was he! And then there was his facility with writing and publishing. How could POCLAD have spread its word so far and wide without the presses of Apex, which he founded and shepherded thosemany years?
Ward's warmth and caring was always evident in his personal life and relations. He spoke so often of his sons and of all those special granddaughters that took high priority in his life. Andthere dear stories about Buster the dog, too!
I am so happy to have known and learned from Ward's courage and vast experience. My warmest thoughts go to Carolyn and to his extended, loving family
Ward Morehouse was a prophet who co-founded the Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy (POCLAD), educating people about the need to abolish "corporate personhood" before it was popularly understood in the U.S. culture. He was a leader in thenational and international democracy movement, standing with the victims atBhopal and elsewhere, and holding Union Carbide and other polluting corporations to task for their crimes in the workplace and in communities they exploited. Ward was a researcher, a scholar, an author, and a book publisher of Apex Press, providing tools for people to understand the causes of oppression of the economically and politically weak by the wealthy and powerful, and how to empower themselves to change the paradigm. Ward was a truth teller about corporate greed and the growing economicdivide long before there was contemporary organizing for the 99 percent.
On a more personal level, Ward was nothing less than an inspiration to me. He lived his life to the fullest, working relentlessly for democracy for "We the People". Ward didn't just talk about democracy and justice, he lived those principles through his actions every day. He was a mentor to me, a friend with whom I shared numerous inspiring and fun experiences. I will always remember Ward as a bright, stimulating, strong, thoughtful, compassionate, and kind friend. Ward will be lovingly remembered by those of us who walked with him and by many others who benefited from his walk.
Ward was a personal mentor to me, and one of the founders of the modern anti-corporate personhood movement.
He was gentle, patient and kind to people, and a fierce and tireless warrior for peace, justice, ecology and democracy.
I feel honored to have known him as a colleague, and lucky to have known him as a friend.
Of all the people we've known and worked with, few indeed have had the compassion for humanity or the passion for justice that Ward Morehouse exhibited by how he lived his life. He will be missed.
Though Ward was a co-founder of POCLAD, I always felt he was the "grandfather" among us — wise, supportive, gentle, and humble. He contributed to our POCLAD collective a unique and diverse political perspective born from his direct experiences with people and conditions outside the U.S. His discussion of corporate rule and strategies to create genuine democracy through the lens of the Bhopal tragedy humanized my understanding of the global reach of corporate power and the need for fundamental change. It also helped me realize our kinship with others suffering harms from corporate rule as well as the various forms of resistance and movements for real democracy taking place globally.
I knew very little of Ward's immense knowledge and experiences until spending time driving him around Ohio on a speaking tour about a dozen years ago. He was as humorous as he was intelligent, interested in me personally as he was in conditions of the world. Ward was never afraid to show his emotions -- whether it was the love of his family (including his dog Buster), of us fellow "POCLADistas" (his word) or those in his many other circles. I will always cherish his insights and opportunity to support him as he supported me through some mutually trying times.
Ward was not the boastful sort. His disarming manner, firm convictions, and vast and diverse knowledge made him a compelling orator. His "communication" skills had another dimension — APEX Press— which he founded. Along with our newsletter, By What Authority, several of POCLAD's most important resources that were produced by APEX were the central vehicles for sharing outward the ideas and strategies generated by our small little collective which have ended up having a disproportionate influence in our nation.
Ward sometimes looked more than slightly disheveled, as his shirts were often untucked, shoes untied, shirt pocket overflowing with pens, and papers and folders on multiple issues and projects stashed into bags of all sorts. Yet his mind and body were always focused on kindness, service and fundamental social change.