Deceased August 21, 2020

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In Memory

Rick Haynes told a civil rights panel at our 40th reunion that he had a Yale law degree and a distinguished career, including a U.S. ambassadorship, “but I can’t get a taxi in New York.” I remember it well. Some said he should have been more grateful for opportunities and achievements. I thought otherwise and still do.

Attention must be paid, even at this late date. Rick died Aug. 21 at 89. 

Rick’s parents came from Barbados and settled first in Brooklyn’s not-yet-segregated Bed-Stuy neighborhood. His father clerked for Socony oil, run then by Amherst’s Pratt family. Fred Pratt ’30, learning that Rick was finishing high school, determined that he must attend Amherst, where he won a full scholarship.

Shunned by fraternities, he shunned them back and joined Lord Jeff. His roommate was the other member of the racial quota of two, Ken Brown ’52. When a white classmate wanted to room with them, the dean required written permission from his parents. “Ironically,” Rick later noted, “no one in the Amherst administration felt it was necessary to contact my parents for permission to room with a white student.” Ken soon was yanked to service by his uncharitable home draft board but was able to return and complete his pre-med studies. 

Rick sang in the glee club, played Hamlet’s ghostly father as a Masquer, fenced, was class choregus. After Yale Law School, he was politely rejected by dozens of leading law firms but managed to get an executive post with New York Governor Averill Harriman, who later boosted his major diplomatic mission, ambassador to Algeria from 1977-81. There, his experience and French fluency were instrumental to the team that negotiated the release of American hostages in Iran. 

Racial slights and insults punctuated his professional successes, which included service on LBJ’s National Security Council staff; the Ford Foundation; posts in Nigeria, Tunisia, Iran and in U.S. corporate positions. He taught law and commerce, was dean of Hofstra University’s business school, settled in Florida and taught at three colleges there. 

So, Rick had many victories against racial headwinds, all too plentiful for this space. Amherst awarded him an honorary degree in 2012, one of only four 1952’s so honored. His wife, Yolande; his daughter, Alexandra, and son Gregory survive him. He was bitter, charming and able. 

Rest well, Rick.

Jack MacKenzie ’52