Thomas Richards Jr. was born in Kotzebue, Alaska on September 27, 1949, the oldest son of Thomas Richards Sr. and Dorothy Reich Richards. After a long illness, he left this world peacefully on Monday, March 31, 2014.
Tom graduated from Lathrop High School in Fairbanks. His education includes the University of Denver, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the Armed Forces Air Intelligence Training Center.
During the Vietnam War
, Tom served in the United States Navy
, and was stationed in the Philippines and in Washington, D.C.
In D.C., as a staff writer for the Tundra Times, Tom covered the action in Congress that led to the passage of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). He later edited the Tundra Times, which was founded by his friend and mentor, Howard Rock, and gave visibility and voice to Alaska Natives.
Tom was a community advocate. He was present at the early years of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, writing formative proposals that launched the organization. In Bethel, he worked for the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Authority. He worked in the Alaska Area of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and wrote grants for the Economic Development Administration.
Tom was a founding director of the Institute of Alaska Native Arts, a member of Inuit Circumpolar Conference Communications & Broadcasting Commission, and a member of the Alaska Federation of Natives. He chaired the first Eskimo Olympics Committee and received the Howard Rock Award for Native Community Service.
Tom contributed to history texts on ANCSA, and moderated a lecture series on ANSCA for UAA's Department of Alaska Native Studies. He corresponded with anthropologists, geographers and historians around the world, and accumulated many friends.
Tom is survived by his sister, Barbara Richards; his brother, John Richards and John's wife, Arlene; sisters, Marilyn and Carol Richards; nephews, Christopher and Jared Richards; and nieces, Dawn Kimberlin, Janelle Towarak and Jaclynne Oyoumick; and many cousins.
The family is thankful to Tom's doctors and care providers. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (www.fhcrc.org
) or the Southcentral Foundation (www.scf.cc).
(Photo by Bill Hess)
Arrangements are with Janssen's Funeral Homes.