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Friday, January 14, 2011

Murdered Congressman's daughter recalls father's chess anecdote from 1978

Chess blog for latest news and trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Erin Ryan, daughter of the late Rep. Leo Ryan, spoke with StoryCorps at NPR's Washington headquarters this week. She had dinner with her father the night before he left for Jonestown.

Hi Everybody,

This is a touching story.

The effects of the recent attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords are being felt far beyond Arizona. For Erin Ryan, the attack brought a flood of memories from another national tragedy. Her father, Rep. Leo Ryan, was killed in Guyana in 1978.

The California congressman had traveled to the Jonestown compound of the Peoples Temple cult to investigate Jim Jones' religious settlement. But his group was attacked as they attempted to leave. Ryan and several others were killed.

When it came to his work, Rep. Ryan was no stranger to risk, as Erin tells StoryCorps. For instance, his work on prison reform inspired him to spend a week on death row in the maximum-security Folsom State Prison. "My dad had a fair amount of self-confidence and bravado," she says.

As Erin recalls, her father came away from Folsom with an unusual souvenir: a reminder of the prisoners' affection for chess.

Isolated from one another, they would call out moves. As Erin recalls, the prisoners used "a chess board they had made out of toothpaste and toilet paper, with a cardboard board. When he left, they presented the chess set to him. It became his prized possession."

Read and hear the rest of the article here.

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