Richard Greene, Quirky Campaigner -- Colorful Candidate Was Perfect For His Time - 1968

Richard A.C. Greene, one of Washington state's most colorful political candidates, was perfect for his time - 1968 - when he waged a mock campaign for land commissioner.

In an era of intellectual unrest, he scheduled news conferences complete with hired hecklers at the Blue Moon Tavern in the University District; then he didn't show up.

He pledged to "make the world safe for hypocrisy" and to "actively commission the land."

And he ran his entire campaign from Hawaii, where he was a visiting professor of Latin and Greek.

"He had been a teaching assistant at the University of Washington after earning his master's in classical studies," said his brother, Stuart Greene, of Hoffman Estates, Ill. "But he took a sabbatical in Hawaii."

After the election, press photos show the mustachioed Mr. Greene floating on an air mattress off Honolulu and conceding his loss to incumbent Bert Cole.

Nonetheless, he earned about 88,000 votes without campaigning.

Mr. Greene died of heart failure Friday, Nov. 22, in Hoffman Estates. He was 58.

Born in Evanston, Ill., he became fascinated with Latin and Greek in high school. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois, then came to the UW in the mid-1960s.

He signed on as a candidate for land commissioner as a joke at the urging of friends. But he went to Hawaii to teach before the election. From there he fired off policy statements on topics such as:

-- Land use: "Land should be used gently but firmly."

-- State parks: "I envision a wilderness area on the site of The Boeing Co."

He beat three other candidates to earn the Republican nomination. He lost the general election but won a place in the hearts of local wags.

Mr. Greene left academia after returning to Seattle about 1972 and landing a job as a freight-train engineer for Union Pacific. He drove trains between Seattle and Portland.

He came into the spotlight again in 1980 for suing the railroad for $75,000, saying it had discriminated against him because of his weight, which he called a disability. One newspaper report pegged him at 5 feet 8 and 250 pounds.

He lost the lawsuit.

In 1991, Mr. Greene moved to Omaha in connection with his railroad work, then retired last year and returned to his native Illinois.

"He loved to cook, and he loved to eat," said a friend, Bill York. "He was big enough to blot out the sun, but he was intellectual, very well read and could talk about anything."

Other survivors include his brother, Carson Greene, and sister, Elizabeth Rodosky, of Barrington Hills, Ill. Services have been held. Memorials may be sent to St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 647 Dundee Ave., Barrington, IL 60010.