Athens - Richard Briggs, the live-in House Manager of the John W. Clem House, died May 23. He was born July 22, 1939, in Paterson, NJ. He was the first of 11 children born to Richard Briggs Sr. and Louise Alexander. He was proceeded in death by his parents and 10 siblings.
His father worked in a textile factory and he never learned to read. His mother was a homemaker. Both parents were third-generation descendants of slaves, and both were alcoholics. All of their children would follow in those footsteps. Richard dropped out of school after the eighth grade and chopped wood, sold coal, and shined shoes to help with the family finances, but eventually, he began running numbers. He was arrested his first time for auto theft, which landed him in the Annandale Reformatory, his first of several stints in prison where he spent nearly 40 years.
Richard was an imposing figure, standing six-plus feet who, as a young man, thought the boxing ring was his escape from poverty. In fact, while at the New Jersey State Penitentiary in Rahway he was a sparring partner for Ruben 'Hurricane' Carter. He ended up in Rahway in his early twenties. After his release, he moved around the country winding up in Phoenix where a barroom brawl resulted in the death of a man, and he was sentenced to the Arizona State Prison in Florence. Once released, he began to drink again and was charged with parole violations, receiving an additional 18 years.
One day, he stood in his cell at the Arizona State Penitentiary during his second incarceration, staring at desert and cactus through the four-inch-wide slot that was his window. Lost in regret, he had a sudden revelation, "The only reason I'm standing here, is because I'm a drunk." And from that simple statement, spun a life of salvation for him and hundreds of men and women.
While in prison, Richard began corresponding with Brad and Barb Holt in Ohio through a prison-sponsored pen pal program. They supported him when he was released from prison, which eventually brought him to southeastern Ohio. The Holt family and Alcoholics Anonymous became the driving forces in helping him develop a lifestyle that focused on sobriety, staying in the moment, and, most especially, helping others.
In 2006 Richard became the live-in House Manager at the John W. Clem Recovery House, a post he held until his death. In that capacity he helped hundreds of men in their struggle with substance use disorders, and spoke frequently around Ohio, sharing his story.
While not well known to most people, in many circles he was famous: the Athens area Recovery Community; Alcoholics Anonymous groups throughout Ohio; the judicial, law enforcement, and corrections systems in southeastern Ohio; the Athens County Alcohol, Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board; mental health and physician providers in Athens; and countless men and women who struggle with substance use disorders in Ohio, and who benefited from his role modeling of how to salvage a life once ravaged by drugs and alcohol.
Richard is fondly remembered by many including a nephew, Sherman Briggs; a cousin, Johnny Briggs; friends, Lilly Thomas, Theresa Holt Larson, Fred Burney, Cassandra Rufat, Arne Brogger, Steve Holtel, Chelsea Hackney, Steve Carruthers, Reggie Robinson, Anthony Thompkins, Jane Darling, Ron Luce, Chris Meyer, Earl Cecil, Peggy Gish; members of the Clem House Board; multiple cousins, nieces and nephews, and all those working Recovery programs in Athens county.
A memorial service will be held at a date and place to be announced and donations may be made to the John W. Clem Recovery House in lieu of flowers. Details for a memorial will be posted on the Clem House website: https:clemhouse.org. Please share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register at www.jagersfuneralhome.com. Richard Briggs