Our dear friend Larry Sechrest, professor of economics at Sul Ross University, and a long-time writer and speaker for economic liberty, died this morning (October 30, 2008). He was born in 1946. The cause was heart failure, and he died with his wife Molly by his side.
She says that it meant so much to him that only recently the Mises Institute was able to bring back his marvelous book Free Banking into print. Of course this book, which is a prophetic attack on the dangers of the central bank, is a gift he has given the ages. In addition, here is his scholarly article archive on MIses.org.
This past year, he delivered the Mises Memorial Lecture, which was widely read and commented on: The Anti-Capitalists: Barbarians at the Gate.
Larry earned his PhD late in life from the University of Texas, Arlington, and immediately went to work teaching. He was person of great charity and optimism, but also courage, as was shown a few years ago when a controversy arose about some of his writing. He had written a hilarious and wonderful essay about the trouble with today’s students, singling out his own students as examples. The essay appeared in Liberty Magazine and is online here.
What followed was an amazing spectacle. The locals were very upset. The mayor of Alpine, Texas, got involved and denounced him, as did many others. There was even a “support Sul Ross” parade right there in town, with floats and posters, all to protest the words of Sechrest. The students, the professors, the merchants, everyone, was against Sechrest – except that in private everyone knew he was right and let him know, again privately. It was a sight that H.L. Mencken would have adored.
Then the New York Times got involved (article here) with a huge feature, with interviews with townspeople and many others. Rarely does Alpine make the national news but this one time, all thanks to Larry, who was just one man of integrity who dared tell the truth.
Throughout the ordeal, he showed what he was really made of. He was light and funny and charming, making jokes and tossing off wry one-liners. He didn’t have a heavy heart about it at all. On the contrary, he seemed completely calm and entirely amused by it all. Not once did he back down or back-pedel. He stuck by every word in the piece, and used the occasion to explain ever more.
Behind this sweet and dear exterior, then, what we saw at work here was something very rare: moral courage. He didn’t buckle even in the face of widespread denunciation and pressure. In the end, of course, he came out on top. The parades died down and people calmed down, and then everyone began to take notice: this man is completely devoted to teaching and completely dedicated to his vocation and to his students. His writing was not motivated by spite, but by love and his profound desire for students to take their jobs as seriously as he takes his.
On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Larry for the friendship he had with my own father, who taught at Sul Ross before he died. Larry spent many hours with my father, talking to him about politics and economics. They were both of a type: independent intellectuals and pioneers, men who would never give up their personal freedom or integrity at any price. They enjoyed their time together, and Larry was heartbroken when he died.
We are all similarly and deeply saddened to hear of his passing now. But we are grateful that his intellectual gifts to the world will last and last.
He is survived by Molly (Mary Ann) Sechrest who has been Larry’s great champion. She
attended the Scholar’s Conference this past year to provide support for his lecture. She asks that gifts in his memory go to the Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama.