Charlie Harper on Jon Richards: 61 Years Young
Tuesday, March 28th, 2017
While the state legislature is scheduled to wrap up the 2017 session on Thursday, my thoughts for the last week have been elsewhere. My Editor In Chief at GeorgiaPol.com entered hospice care last Monday. He passed away late Sunday morning. While many important things will be decided this week at the capitol, I would like to spend this week telling you a bit about the man that has helped me assimilate and report the minutia of Georgia politics for the last several years. He was an important person in the Georgia press corps, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.
Jonathan Blair Richards, (November 27th, 1955-March 26, 2017) died Sunday after a brief battle with cancer. In this overview of his life I ask that you not focus on the years cut short, but the fact that Jon made the most of the years he had with us.
Jon was born the son of the late Glenn Richards and Caroline Richards, now of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the brother of Amy Richards of Pasadena, California and Anne (Andrew) McFall of Sarasota, Florida. He was most proud of being the uncle of Cal, Matthew, and Stuart McFall, for whom he was often the designated pumpkin carver and the official distributor of presents found under the tree on Christmas morning.
Jon graduated from Indian Hill High School in Cincinnati, OH and then went on to Allegheny College in Allegheny, PA where he graduated in 1977 with a degree in Communications. Shortly thereafter, he followed a friend who had advised him Atlanta was the place to be, and he eventually settled in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He had the good fortune to move next door to Pat and Danny Dobbs. They began Jon’s long history of amassing Georgia friends and planting roots now firmly entrenched in Gwinnett and Georgia civic and political circles.
Jon’s career began with Samna, which eventually became LOTUS, which eventually became part of IBM. Somewhere along the way he got ahead of the tech bubble and began creating web-based businesses which he grew and eventually sold. He operated one of the first online weather services, Lawrencevilleweather.com. By all tangible measures, Jon was a successful independent and self-made businessman.
Jon was an active member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Republican Party, and various other civic, social, and political organizations. He wasn’t “active” in the “member in good standing” meaning of the term. Jon was active in that he was always moving, always doing, always contributing. There was a constant theme in everything Jon did: Always helping.
Jon had a love of photography and was the semi-official photographer of many Georgia civic and political groups. His ubiquitous presence at Georgia GOP events and subsequent photo albums landed him an invitation to contribute to the Georgia-focused political website PeachPundit, where he quickly became the Front Page Editor. When his contributors reorganized into GeorgiaPol.com, Jon led the new publication as Editor-in-Chief.
Jon was a bit of a contrarian in political circles, as he was someone that eschewed the limelight, but instead preferred to remain behind the scenes. He strove to ensure that events were well planned and professionally executed. While having strong beliefs of his own, his overall goal was that the political processes and systems he participated in to be fair, transparent, and productive.
Perhaps Jon’s most lasting achievement was his mentorship of dozens of teen and college age students interested in politics. Jon devoted countless hours developing meaningful relationships with those desiring to be future leaders, helping them understand the current role of politics and politicians. He, in turn, spent as much time listening as he did teaching. As such, he learned about them, and is one of the state’s foremost experts on millennial trends affecting Georgia Republican politics today.
Jon has passed at the all too young age of 61. While many of us will experience a great void created by our loss, we are grateful for the quiet and steady leadership of Jon Richards who made the most of his time and talents to make Georgia a better place to be.
Commentary and opinion by Charlie Harper, Executive Director of PolicyBEST, a public policy think tank focused on issues of Business & Economic Development, Education, Science & Medicine, and Transportation. He’s also the publisher of GeorgiaPol.com, a website dedicated to State & Local politics of Georgia.