Ray Abernathy died September 12 of complications of brain cancer. An advertising, public relations, political and labor consultant for more than 40 years, his work specialized in strategic communications for advocacy campaigns and crisis management, with extensive experience in framing and creating messages. Radicalized by the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he got involved in the civil rights movement, handled media strategy for Atlanta’s striking sanitation workers, and became a PR consultant to Mrs. King, helping her organize a succession of MLK birthday celebrations. In the 1980s, Abernathy founded a boutique communications firm in Washington D.C. to exclusively serve labor unions and left of center nonprofits. Abernathy’s strategic approach to communications played a vital role in many labor movement victories, including the successful airline strike of American Airlines flight attendants in 1993, the 1996 Bridgestone-Firestone rubberworkers strike and many more. In recent years he wittily held forth on a wide range of subject on his blog From the Left Bank of the Potomac. A memorial service is being planned for later this fall; condolences can be shared on his Facebook page or mailed to Denise Mitchell (3207 Morrison Street NW, Washington, DC 20015). In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to one of the organizations that reflect Ray Abernathy’s passions: An Open Book Foundation; CURE or Working America.
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