TABLE OF CONTENTS
Rick Piltz Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Frederick Steven “Rick” Piltz was born on July 29, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. Piltz received his undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and was a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After receiving his master’s degree, he taught political science at the University of Texas at Austin and Austin Community College, then turned to an interest in environmental and energy policy issues in the late 1970’s.
Piltz was a founding member of Texas Mobilization for Survival, the Texas branch of an anti-nuclear organization that raised awareness of the threats posed by nuclear weapons and energy nationally. Beginning in early 1980, Piltz established the Alternatives to War Project as a spiritual successor to Texas Mobilization for Survival; it focused primarily on the dangers of nuclear weapons. Additionally, he helped to create the Nuclear Weapons Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded to educate citizens on the dangers of nuclear weapons as a companion organization to the Alternatives to War Project.
From 1982 through 1984, Rick Piltz ran a phone bank from the office of Peck Young, a political campaign strategist who worked for every mayor of Austin from 1975 to 1997, in support of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. The campaign in Austin was part of a national movement to secure an agreement between the U.S. and Soviet governments to halt the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. The Texas branch of the campaign was organized by fellow activist and Alternatives to War Project co-founder Tony Switzer, and after the Austin City Council refused to put the measure on the ballot alongside a bond election, Texas Mobilization for Survival held an ‘alternative election’ by setting up voting tables 100 feet outside every voting station. Almost half of all voters voted for the freeze. In his role as an activist, Piltz was involved in extensive lobbying against the South Texas Nuclear Project, a local nuclear power project supported by the Public Utilities Commission that is still in effect to this day.
Piltz was also involved other activist organizations such as Citizens Against the Death Penalty and worked on the unsuccessful election campaign of Lloyd Doggett to the United States Senate. He additionally served as a founding member of the cooperative Split Rail music venue.
In 1989, Piltz married Karen Metchis. After leaving Texas, Piltz continued his advocacy work in Washington, D.C. as a Senior Associate to the United States Climate Change Science Program. He took the position in 1995 and resigned in 2005 to protest what he viewed as systemic distortions of the Program’s findings by the government. He subsequently released Program documents edited by Bush administration officials to prove their desire to downplay the scientific community’s findings on climate change. In 2005, Piltz founded Climate Science Watch to continue his advocacy work. Piltz died on October 18, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
Martin, Douglas, "Rick Piltz Dies at 71; Quit Bush White House Over Climate Policy", The New York Times, 23 October 2014.
The materials in this collection consist primarily of documents relating to Rick Piltz’s membership and leadership in a number of anti-nuclear activist organizations in Austin, Texas from the late 1970’s to the mid-1980’s, including Texas Mobilization for Survival, the Alternatives to War Project, and the Nuclear Freeze Campaign. These groups advocated on issues including nuclear disarmament and opposition to nuclear power plants.
The Texas Mobilization for Survival subseries documents Piltz’s involvement in the anti-nuclear activist group from 1977 through the 1980s. The bulk of this series relates to the work of the organization to raise awareness within the Austin community to the threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. The series contains publications, notes from presentations Piltz attended, buttons, information on the national organization, financial information, correspondence from members, and information on presenters the organization invited to educate activists.
The Alternatives to War Project subseries chronicles the establishment of that organization by Piltz separate from Texas Mobilization for Survival and its subsequent activities throughout the late 1970’s into the 1980’s. It contains reports, materials from events held to raise awareness in the community, mailing lists, financial records, and correspondence Piltz had with other members of the organization, as well as Articles of Incorporation which established the organization as a non-profit with the State of Texas.
The Nuclear Weapons Education Fund subseries documents Piltz’s engagement in efforts to educate people in the Austin area about the risks associated with nuclear weapons. This series contains notes Piltz used to give presentations along with those he wrote while attending presentations, and internal documentation of the fund. These internal documents include financial summaries, meeting minutes, and agendas.
The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign subseries documents the proposed ballot measure calling for a freeze on the manufacturing of new nuclear weapons organized by Tony Switzer. This series includes mailers from the national freeze campaign and documents created in the process of organizing a voter brunch and newspaper clippings regarding the Austin freeze vote.
The South Texas Nuclear Project subseries chronicles the interactions of Piltz and the activist groups to which he belonged with the nuclear power project supported by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas. It includes notes from a meeting with the Public Utilities Commission, documentation of a demonstration Piltz helped organize in Matagorda, as well as newspaper clippings on the death of Michael Eakin, a journalist who was murdered while investigating the South Texas Nuclear Project.
The Research Files suberies mainly demonstrates Piltz’s role as part of a larger activist community during the 1970s and 1980s. Included are published articles from fellow activists Michael Klare, an advocate against “extreme energy” procurement techniques such as deepwater drilling and fracking, and Tony Switzer, who organized the nuclear weapons freeze vote in 1984.
The Other Community Activism series documents a handful of causes and events that Piltz was involved in that did not focus on anti-nuclear policies. These causes include Citizens Against the Death Penalty, the Committee for artistic and intellectual freedom in Iran, and the Texas Humanist Water Policy. This series also contains a file detailing Piltz’s involvement with the election campaign of Lloyd Doggett to the United States Senate.
The Personal Materials series consists of biographies Piltz prepared for various publications, postcards from locations outside of Texas and newspaper clippings of older, unrelated events such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Additionally, there are two subject files which concern individuals seemingly unrelated to Piltz’s activist associates; Betty Ann Duke and John Blum. Duke was a communist extremist accused of bombing the United States capitol building, while Blum was a local artist. Also included is a Creative Opportunity Orchestra etching by Patrick Wadley; Piltz was an admirer of Tina Marsh and her band. Lastly, there is a collection of political buttons - some supporting George Humphrey for City Council and Ferraro/Mondale; others opposing Reagan, intervention in El Salvador, South Texas Nuclear Project and the arms race.
Finally, the Split Rail file details the cooperative establishment of the Split Rail bar and country music venue, of which Piltz was a founding member. It includes letters, news clippings, posters, and meeting minutes which describe the rapid demise of the cooperative soon after its opening, in which two members seized control and had all other members arrested. Also included in this series are publications which detail the outrage experienced by the communist community within Austin at this turn of events.
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The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
The Rick Piltz Papers were donated by a family member in 2017.
Rick Piltz Papers (AR.2017.035). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2017/077
Donation Date: 09/06/2017
Original folder headings were preserved when they existed, except in the case of acronyms. Loose materials were arranged by subject.
Final Processing and Finding Aid By/Date: Catherine Whited and Rachel Walfoort/2019. Encoded by Catherine Whited and Rachel Walfoort/2019.