1010 N Tennessee St
Remembering a Shining Light for Liberty
George Schwappach passed away in early May 2011. I have lost a friend and colleague, the Advocates has lost one of our "founding fathers," and the liberty movement has lost a great champion.
I first met George by telephone just over 25 years ago. He organized a driving tour for me during the spring of 1986; I met with libertarians in various localities to help them organize "Seminar 1" groups for the Advocates. I drove from Evanston, Illinois to Vancouver, BC, and back, meeting with libertarians in Omaha (NE), Casper (WY), Boise (ID), Eugene (OR), Beaverton (OR), Vancouver (BC), Seattle (WA), Tacoma (WA), Missoula (MT), and Crooks (SD). Given the meeting dates he established and the distances between localities, I jokingly congratulated him on his ability to organize the tour without ever consulting a map.
As I learned more about George, I found him to be a man of intelligence and wit, passion and compassion, with a devotion to the cause of liberty. He had an abiding zeal to promote the principles of liberty and responsibility, and he always sought ways to help people understand the essence of the libertarian perspective.
It wasn't until I joined the Board of Directors of the Advocates in 2003 that I began to work closely with George on a routine basis. While I had thought well of him prior to that time, it was through our work together on the Board that I saw what a truly fine fellow he was. He worked hard and well to help the Advocates pursue our mission, bringing a keen analytical mind (as well as humor and humility) to bear upon the problems we faced. When I had the honor to be elected chairman of the Board in 2009, George stepped up to the plate to serve as vice chair; he performed his duties with his usual competence, enthusiasm, and good humor.
As with his good friend and fellow Christian Marshall Fritz (founder of the Advocates), George treated people with courtesy and respect, always looking for ways to turn strangers into friends. As with Marshall, he was remarkably creative in finding opportunities to share libertarian ideas with others. As with Marshall, he faced a deadly enemy (cancer) with tremendous courage, grace, and humor. As with Marshall, he departed from us much too soon and much too young.
Many years ago Lyndon Johnson (someone I don't remember fondly) supposedly observed that usually one should not pass up a free meal or a chance to go to the bathroom. Allow me to suggest that one should not pass up the opportunity to say "Thank you". Fortunately, I said "Thank you" to George several times; unfortunately, I doubt I said it enough.
George, on behalf of the Board: Thank you. May God bless you and keep you.
- Dr. James W. Lark, III, Advocates Chairman of the Board
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George was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Advocates I ever met. He worked very closely with Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz in the early days of the organization, testing and refining the products and programs the Advocates created to help libertarians become successful communicators of the ideas of liberty. George was one of the first users of the World's Smallest Political Quiz and of our Operation Politically Homeless outreach kit.
He was an indefatigable worker for liberty, with an infectious energy and enthusiasm. He loved to take the message of freedom to audiences anywhere and everywhere, and he used Advocates tools and techniques to do so.
George especially loved the Quiz. In fact, he used the Quiz to screen prospective dates! That's how he met his wife, Debbie. Debbie passed away a few years ago. And at Debbie's funeral, George spoke about how he had used the Quiz to get to know her better. And then - yes, right there at the funeral service -- he gave the Quiz to attendees! That might sound rather shocking... but knowing George, it was done in a charming and winning way.
George's car tags in Texas and Florida sported the phrase SELF GOV.
To the best of my knowledge, George was on the Advocates Board of Directors every year, from the very first year of the organization's existence.
He was passionate about the Advocates, about liberty, and about family. Even as he struggled with a life-threatening illness the past few years, he remained on the Advocates Board -- and continued to use the Quiz and OPH to find new libertarians.
After his death, his daughter wrote me these moving words:
"I know my father's greatest joy in this life (outside of loved ones) was being a libertarian and spreading the hope for a better future. Thank you guys for all the impact you had on his life. I still remember him speaking at your event in Las Vegas last summer... and seeing this tiny frail man become suddenly alive with energy. I can not describe how thankful I am for those memories."
George was a devout Christian. I am sure that, when he reached the Pearly Gates, he refused to enter unless St. Peter first took the Quiz.
And I think I know how St. Peter scored.
George, you were a character! You made our world a freer, and more colorful, place. And you will be deeply missed.
- Sharon Harris, Advocates President
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I want to tell you this story again - how you changed my life.
Not only in large and obvious ways such as starting the Advocates chapter and thereby sending Linda Comstock to find me - the sender of libertarian sounding letters to the Columbus Dispatch.
But this specific story - that I so love to tell. Especially on this very day, as I have TODAY completed a long project that you started.
You and I travelled together to Chicago from Columbus to attend the Libertarian Party convention. I believe it was 1991.
Back then, I still had long hair and an earring and honestly believed I was going to be a rock musician!
We were driving back, very late, and I asked you what I, personally, could really do to help the movement.
You sort of looked over at me and said I should work on improving myself. That I needed to think about how ideas sounded when they came from a guy that looked like me. That if I wished to be really effective, I needed to be able to communicate to the majority of people - and that how I was at the time was not going to do that.
I needed to hear it.
I started life as an innocent, nerdy, Boy Scout... decent manners, good behavior, etc. But hanging out with musicians was screwing me up.
Anyway, not long after, I got a haircut. Started a business fixing office machines and installing A/V systems. I took your advice and attended Toastmasters. I started to get serious about myself.
Then, when Mandy decided to go to medical school, I decided to go back and get my undergraduate degree--I had to work hard at Cleveland State University to prove to Case Western Reserve that I was deserving of a transfer. I worked hard at school, and overcame my one-point-whatever GPA that I earned at the Ohio State University of Beer Drinking. Case Western accepted me the next year.
I became a branch banker during college--working weekends and through the summer breaks.
I became an Economics Research Assistant--leading to a published Urban Economics paper.
I formed the Case Western Reserve University College Libertarians, and hosted Harry Browne during his first Presidential campaign.
I attended one of the incredible IHS seminars. I attended the Austrian seminar at NYU.
Finally, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with Departmental Honors in Poli-Sci and in Econ.
After college, I worked in New York as a banker, then returned to Cleveland... more banking. I then left banking to work in the non-profit, economic development sector. Got to know the community. Kinda like Obama??
Mandy and I had two sons... the biggest, best change in my life.
Then I started law school.
Well, I finished law school at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. I took the bar exam in July, and recently learned that I passed.
AND TODAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2008, I WAS SWORN IN AS A LAWYER!!!!
Not one week of my life since 1991 passed without thinking about the mission I was on:
To become a good man. To become a respected member of the working world, of my community, of my neighborhood. To put myself in a position where I can be of benefit to the movement... and as it happens, to myself, my family, my world.
And it all started... precisely... because you had the wisdom to offer an honest appraisal of me at that time.
And because with your character and your spectacular depth and breadth of knowledge about libertarian philosophy and just because I admired you so much... I listened to you.
And it worked.
Recently, my neighbor Barry said to me, over beers, that I was "the most moral person he had ever met".
I can kinda see that... but I hadn't realized I had come so far to deserve such a compliment.
Well... if Barry had only been able to meet YOU!!!! I would be second place!
I have the good fortune to have a father who loves me and who has taught me many good things. But though he has great instincts in matters of philosophy and morals and politics and character, he has a limited intellectual vocabulary.
I hope you take it well that I consider you to be a great father figure to me. You taught when teaching was needed, you listened with listening was needed, you scolded a few times when that was really needed. And I really felt that your allowing me - the punk kid - to hang out with the little gang of 39-year-olds at Max and Erma's in Dublin... was a show of love, which I really needed.
And when you and Carole Ann and Ken Rand brought me along for wine and cheese in the big park in Chicago... a blues show, I believe... I felt so great (and you tricked me once - in Chicago, you showed me what a real chili pepper could hurt like - I was used to the stale peppers from Mark Pi's in Columbus... man that thing was hot!!).
You trusted me to house-sit the house you renovated. Where you and Kirk Applegate were drywalling - and where I learned to do it, too! My first good beer, a Guinness - poured with the bottle inside the glass, if I recall?
Oh... and so many LIBERTARIAN things, too!!!
It was so much more than politics, and I am forever, and always, in your debt.
I could go on and on. Great memories.
I can't imagine what you're going through right now. I trust, I hope you are full of the same faith as ever - and that you can receive comfort from that and from those around you. And I hope my story above is taken as intended. To thank you - for changing the world, one Bill Ferry at a time.
And I hope I can return the favor - perhaps by standing on the steps of the Capitol or the Statehouse and trying to reason with the mob - to get them to not storm the building and harm the politicians therein!
Respectfully, and very truly yours,
- William C. Ferry, Attorney
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I was familiar with George's activism and dedication to the cause of liberty long before I met him; his reputation - and it was a remarkable one - definitely preceded him. It has been an honor and a pleasure, too brief to be sure, to serve on The Advocates board with him.
- Diane Bast, Advocates Board Member and Executive Editor at the Heartland Institute
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George was an extrovert extraordinaire. During our 26 year friendship, our temperament type differences gave us many hearty laughs, something I will cherish forever.
- Ken Bisson, M.D. (Introvert), Secretary, Advocates Board
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By far George was one of the best advocates for and successful givers of the Quiz to the public that I have ever observed. His reputation for this long preceded the recently short time in which I got to know him. He had a knack for making everyone feel special about taking the Quiz, even if they identified themselves with a position contrary to George’s beliefs.
He was a good teacher, in words and by example, for how one should give the Quiz -- without judgment and with kindness. His goal was to identify libertarians, but more importantly, to make everyone feel good about taking the Quiz, no matter one’s beliefs. His efforts thus helped to expand the reach of the Quiz and to give libertarian beliefs a good name.
George will be sorely missed.
- Mark W. Rutherford, Attorney, Advocates Board Member, and Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party