A legacy of fighting for justice
The Lakeville Journal Editorial
The loss of Lakeville’s Donald K. Ross this week has touched many lives in the Northwest Corner, including those who served with him on the boards of the Salisbury Association and the Salisbury Forum (see appreciations this week.) But none valued his support and dedication to shared ideals more than we at The Lakeville Journal.
In 2019, when we at The Journal were trying to find an alternative model for local journalism that could work in this region, Cynthia Hochswender and Janet Manko took on the project of interviewing community leaders and general readers to try to collect as many independent thoughts on the subject as possible. Many of those good people shared ideas for more coverage we could offer to better serve our readers, or thoughts on bringing in more revenue, but beyond that certainly didn’t offer time to help implement any such initiatives.
But toward the end of those interviews, the time we shared with Helen Klein Ross and Donald K. Ross had a different tone. While we updated both on the dire situation the Journal was in, fighting for survival, Helen asked questions and offered thoughts while Donald listened ... and thought. At the end of that interview, he offered his ideas for solutions that would need to culminate in our applying for nonprofit status.
Then, he worked with us to enlarge our circle of support and to find alternative ways of cooperating with area nonprofits to the benefit of all: them, us, our readers and the community at large. We may have been ready to think outside the norm for community weekly newspapers, but Donald gave us concrete steps we could take to follow a different path, and he made it all seem so very possible. He worked with us for months on his own time, connecting us with Ralph Nader and his staff as well as local nonprofit leaders.
As it turned out, Donald was right. It was possible for this small community news source to achieve nonprofit status and find different and better ways of serving our communities. We could only at that time express deep gratitude to Donald for his enthusiasm and relentless focus on this goal. It seems likely he internalized such thinking during his time as a Nader Raider. Nader called this newspaper to inform us of Donald’s death on May 14, saying he was “truly a great civic leader and organizer, unparalleled, and we are going to miss him terribly.”
Below, see an excerpt from a column Nader wrote and shared with this newspaper last Thanksgiving, in which he gave credit to Donald for the work he did there, and paid tribute to many others who worked with them during that time. It describes the theories and methods for change that Donald shared with us so many years later.
Thanksgiving Thanks for the Early “Nader Raiders”
They didn’t pontificate or boast. They just improved the health, safety, and economic conditions for the American people. The Washington Post called them Nader’s Raiders — law, medical, graduate, undergraduate, and even high school students came to Washington between 1969 and 1973 to join with me in important drives for justice.
The first group came in 1969 to expose and reform the moribund Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that had turned its back on consumers. The Nader Report on the Federal Trade Commission, by Edward F. Cox, Robert C. Fellmeth, and John E. Schulz (Grove Press), prodded the Nixon Administration to invite the American Bar Association (ABA) to examine its findings. The ABA report agreed with them. The FTC was awakened from its slumber with new leadership.
Then came about a dozen law students for what turned out to be an orientation meeting in the summer of 1970 in a spare suite of offices across from the bustling Washington Post headquarters. They sat around me as I offered one subject of injustice after another for their choosing. Some who selected their work that summer and the following summer, stayed at it for 40 to 50 years!
... Institutions were also established by these young people around the country. The superb organizer Donald K. Ross helped organize student PIRGs [Public Interest Research Groups] nationwide and then went on to head The New York PIRG....
—Ralph Nader, November 2021
Donald Ross was one of those who continued the work of justice for the next decades, to the benefit of so many.
Deepest condolences to the Ross family in their loss of Donald. And gratitude to them for sharing him with The Lakeville Journal during that time of transition and upheaval.