RIGHTER, Richard

RIGHTER, Rev. Richard L.

RIGHTER, The Reverend Richard Lutes Servant of the Lord: Richard Lutes Righter (Dick) - Born 4/10/32, Stockton, California - Died 11/14/20, Dayton, Ohio – Righter, 88, suffered complications after brain surgery. He was ill for five weeks before he died.

Dick grew up in a suburb of San Francisco, the son of a piano teacher and a high school history teacher and coach. He lettered in three sports at Burlingame High School and later earned his B.S. in Business from the University of California at Berkeley. In college, he was a nationally ranked javelin thrower, rush chairman of his fraternity, and involved in the Student Senate. Righter's life embodies the words repent and reconciliation in a profound way. While earning his MBA, the handsome, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Righter attended a Christian retreat without an intent to encounter God. He left intending to think seriously about the experience and the message of Jesus.

The roots of the word repent are to return. The return to God that the young Righter made changed the trajectory of his life. As a graduate student at the University of California, he met his wife, Wilma (Willie). They were married until her death, nearly 57 years.

Dick attended San Francisco Theological Seminary, earning his Masters of Divinity. There he honed skills in Greek and Hebrew that were reflected in his lifelong respect for the authority of scripture. As a seminary student, he went on a mission trip among the Inuit in Barrow, Alaska, and served as an initial contact to assist people who had made a choice for Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade. He then interned in inner-city San Francisco. Dick and Willie were attracted to the mission field wanting to go to Brazil, but instead the call came to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The time was the early 60's, and the Presbytery owned a grand church with an exclusively white membership in African-American, West Philadelphia. Righter was being born into reconciliation – the acts that bring people into right relationship with God. He was tasked with integrating the church. His first step was to knock on doors and offer a place at the table. In a Presbyterian Church the table includes equal governance, in addition to Communion.

In 1968, Righter was invited to found one of three Congregations in Ohio with a social action mandate. Dick, Willie and their small daughters, Lisa and Karen, moved to Dayton, Ohio. The Congregation for Reconciliation with its open and democratic form, was able to make gains for justice on diverse economic, environmental and racial issues. The Congregation spearheaded an international boycott of Gulf Oil after a National United Church of Christ Resolution called for one. Without Gulf Oil's money, Portugal was forced to end its colonial control of Angola, one of the last countries in Africa to gain independence.

Righter's church granted him a sabbatical, and he completed his doctorate in Economics and Theology from Antioch's University Without Walls. Spending a year in England, he studied the translation and implications of every economic word in the bible. Righter was a first Co-President of Leaders for Equality in Dayton (LEAD) a grass-roots, faith-based community organization. LEAD members sought redress for many cases of economic racism during the life of the organization. In addition, as a member of Christians in Support of Community Organizing (CISCO), Righter sought to provide a resource for justice involvement to the growing evangelical community. Righter helped sponsor legislation in the state of Ohio enabling workers to form employee-owned cooperatives. He labored for the living wage.

Dick's family lived in Dayton for fifty-two years. At 85, he was still an All-American javelin thrower. He was on the coaching roster of Northwest Track Club. Nevertheless, Dick's heart and comfort were restored in the trout streams of the west's high country. Every summer he would take his family to meet up with his only brother, Bob. The two men maintained a lifetime of fishing, backpacking trips and love.

Dick spent his life striving to bring the systems he encountered into reconciliation with the Word of God that he loved. He spent his life loving people whom he believed were capable of tremendous transformation.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Wilma (Wuthrich) Righter, his father, C.E. "Swede" Righter and mother, Margo (Willms) Righter. He is survived by his brother, Robert W. Righter, PhD and sister-in-law, Sherry L. Smith, PhD of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He is survived by his daughter, Elisabeth L. Righter (Lisa), son-in-law, Stephen T. Kramer and grandson, Benjamin T. Kramer, his daughter, Karen Righter Geiger and son-in-law, Raymond F. Geiger; and his partner, Paula Ewers, all of Dayton, Ohio, his cousin Bob Merrill and wife, Marsha Merrill, his cousin Laurie Merrill all of California, his cousin Naomijean 'Sandy' Williams of Hawaii, his niece, Trisha (Righter) Lack and husband Rev. Loy Lack, his great nephew, Benjamin Lack and wife, Gracia (Maurer) Lack, his great nephew, Dylan Lack and wife, Katie (Alashari) Lack, all of Michigan, his niece, Bonnie (Righter) Sanders and husband Rev. Ron Sanders, his great-nephew, Zachary Sanders, and his great-niece, Sarah Sanders all of California.

A celebration of his life will be planned after the Pandemic.

If friends wish to honor Dick in some way, the family prefers a memorial contribution to ABLE – Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, The Dayton Art Institute, Monthly Review Foundation, College Hill Presbyterian Church, or a cause of your choice. Further information is available at


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