In Memoriam… Al Mangan
by Rusty and Nancy Nelson
In the development of PJALS, the contributions of Al Mangan are unlikely to be matched. We who treasure his friendship and example are saddened by his death and inspired to be more proactive in the promotion of justice.
Remembering Al, we are first tempted to try to list the times he was arrested for disturbing the war or following the demands of the Nuremberg Principles, the times we were arrested with him, and his example of knowing and upholding the law in spite of distortions and evasions by the courts. His rap sheet, impressive as it was, shows little of his depth. His courage and convictions were bolstered by his faith and a relentless self-education.
Al came to Spokane on his way to the woods, retired, divorced, and radicalized by his reflections upon military service in two wars, dependence upon the postal workers union for workplace justice, and direct action in the popular uprisings against California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear facility. He never made it to his peaceful retirement in the woods because he found a need and community in Spokane. Besides becoming our friend and mentor in nonviolent action, Al found a way to pursue his favorite discipline, international law, becoming a fixture at the Gonzaga law library.
Some of his favorite projects were his, alone, but he was a vital part of PJALS and the primary energy behind COHO (Coalition Organizing Hanford Opposition), especially relevant as recent news reports seem to find it surprising that high-rolling activities at Hanford might be placing us at risk. An enduring image of Al is the man in the hard-hat bicycle helmet pedaling his ten-speed bike to PJALS or the law library or a tennis match, wearing his white COHO t-shirt, designed by his friend and fellow-activist, Lourdes Fuentes. Largely because of Al’s work in the Tri-Cities area, that t-shirt can be found on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Al always worked to bring people-power to bear upon the issues, not to shine any kind of light upon himself, and he didn’t think of himself as a leader. In fact, after a brief stint on the PJALS steering committee when standards were more stringent, he was dismissed for missing two meetings in a row. He had more pressing matters of peace and justice, and it was those matters that drove him to excel at peacemaking.
We remember Al, most fondly, as a friend who was consistent in his loyalty and his values, speaking truth to power or caring about our family. He was fun to be with, socially or in the docket. To potlucks, he brought apple pie because, in Washington, we should be enjoying apples, or beer that was “union made, no additives.”
Before Al almost died of kidney failure, he stopped attending meetings and planning sessions because he couldn’t hear. His hearing aids didn’t do the job in any kind of crowd, and he refused to ask for special consideration. He never stopped studying, though, and his reading list remained impressive.
Al Mangan should be remembered in Spokane, not just for risking arrest to defend First Amendment rights, or for holding signs at the Federal Court House or presenting the case for impeachment of George W. Bush. He should be remembered for understanding and upholding laws that could ultimately rescue humanity from our self-imposed tyranny of violence.
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