Late Ashland resident Temple’s memoirs recall ACLU battles

Johnny Temple always admired his dad’s writing, so when he had the opportunity to publish selected excerpts three years ago, he jumped at it.
The memoirs of former Ashland resident Ralph Temple, who rose to become one of the country’s top civil rights lawyers of the last century with the American Civil Liberties Union, are due to hit shelves for the first time in paperback Oct. 1.
“He was a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised … he approached issues of social justice and treated them as if they were life or death battles,” said Johnny Temple, known best for his work as a bass guitarist with Washington D.C.-based bands Soulside and Girls Against Boys.
Johnny Temple founded Brooklyn-based Akashic Books in 1996, and published the first hardcover copies of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: The Memoirs of Ralph J. Temple” in 2011. following his father’s death.
“He always had the intention of writing a book, it was something we talked about a lot together,” Johnny Temple said. “I was always interested in his writing, primarily as his son and an admirer and secondarily as a book publisher.”
An Army veteran and graduate of Harvard Law School, Ralph Temple served as legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., working closely with Martin Luther King Jr., Bella Abzug and other luminaries of civil rights before his retirement in Ashland in 1996.
He was known as a tireless champion of civil liberties and worked on local cases involving homelessness, police use-of-force, nudity, panhandling and the right of assembly. He also helped initiate an ongoing lawsuit surrounding the rights of protesters during a 2004 former campaign visit by President George W. Bush.
Born in London in 1932, where his parents had come to escape persecution of Jews on the continent, Ralph Temple came to America with his mother in 1940 to escape Nazi attacks on England. His father served in the British Army. Ralph Temple became a U.S. citizen while a teenager and graduated from Miami Beach High School in 1951. In addition to his Jewish faith, he was a devotee of the Self-Realization Fellowship of Paramahansa Yogananda and meditated daily.
He died in Ashland at the age of 78 on Aug. 27, 2011.
“He is one of my heros, not that he was a perfect guy, he was as flawed as anyone else … but he definitely has had a huge impact on me” Johnny Temple said.
He said his father’s essay titled “The Sorrow of Racial Profiling” is “the clearest and most lucid argument against racial profiling anywhere.”
Other of Johnny Temple’s favorite portions of the publication include “St. Augustine 1964” and “Letter to Congressman Richard Gephardt.”
“‘St. Augustine 1964’ is a phenomenal account of the perilous work he did in the South in the middle of the civil rights struggles. It showed that he was not afraid to put his life in danger,” Johnny Temple said.
About two-thirds of Ralph Temple’s personal writings are included in the book, Johnny Temple said.
“I know my dad would be super proud of the book, but I know his edit of the book would be different that mine,” Johnny Temple said.
In particular, he said, his father was far more spiritual than the book lets on.
“There are people in Oregon who understand him to be an aggressive person … I assure you any aggression anyone witnesses after 1990 was nothing like his aggression before then,” Johnny Temple said. “His belief in the American dream was intensely powerful, probably more powerful than most people what were born in America.”

Morning Brief Newsletter
Sign up today for our daily newsletter, a quick overview of top local stories and Oregon breaking news delivered directly to your inbox
You can unsubscribe at any time

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.