A beloved Schenectady activist died over the weekend.
Ralph Boyd Sr. was a World War II veteran who co-founded the Electric City's NAACP chapter. He died Saturday at age 99. Boyd was born in Norfolk, Virginia and arrived in Schenectady after the war. He struck a bond with another community activist, Walter Simpkins. "I met Ralph when I was originally the hospitality coordinator for Bethesda House and Ralph and his wife were volunteers that used to come in there and service the population. We just had an automatic linkup and we stayed connected over the years. Ralph was a member of my Community Fathers program. We meet every Thursday, and Ralph never missed a Thursday unless he was out of town until just recently when his health started to take a turn. But Ralph was an inspiration to us all. Ralph would talk to us about life as men, as being African-Americans, about family, about community. He was a inspiration to many of the young fathers, because a lot of people had never met somebody that old and they were just in awe of how articulate and how well Ralph expressed himself."
Local historian Marsha Mortimore counted Boyd as a good friend. She says he loved serving people; he helped establish the Baptist Center in Scotia. He and James Stamper started the NAACP chapter in Schenectady. "That was the one thing, because of race relations. He got people of color involved. He was also instrumental with the Human Rights Commission. He 'd go out and volunteer in the community. There was never a time he wasn't volunteering for one thing or another."
Boyd also was a familiar face among volunteers at WAMC Fund Drives.
Former Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, now with the Canal Corporation, has fond memories of Boyd, whom he became acquainted with while serving as a city councilman. "He was a great civil rights leader, a great representative of our community and he will be sorely missed. He was one of several people that I had the honor of naming a Schenectady patroon when I was mayor, I think that happened in 2008."
Stratton says Boyd was vibrant, driven by passion, outspoken on many issues. "His son, Ralph Boyd Jr., had a senior position within the regional FBI office, and that was ongoing during the bureau's investigation of the police department in the late 90s and the early 2000s, but Ralph Boyd's son Ralph Jr. recused himself for obvious reasons through that, but I think his father spoke about that and certainly we went through many years where reform in the police department and police-citizen relationships were always paramount on the agenda and a very pertinent topic, and Ralph Boyd Sr. was outspoken about that."
Simpkins says people who met Boyd were impressed by his openness and willingness to communicate. He says Boyd often said, "Life is a mirror to the way you thought about life." "On many levels Ralph was a man who was able to take us to understandings, and especially as men and fathers, that we might not have never gotten. You know he showed us how to connect the generations. With Ralph, there was no generational gap."
Boyd's funeral is set for Saturday 3 p.m. at Emmanuel Friedens Church, 218 Nott Terrace, Schenectady, followed by burial at Saratoga National Cemetery.