I recently learned of the death of Fran Striker, Jr. – a true friend who reflected the kind of character represented in his dad as well as the western hero made famous on radio and film. After the release of his dad’s final western “One More River,” Fran wrote, “To my good friend, Jim Lichtman – like my Dad and his Lone Ranger, a man of good values.” What follows is a tribute commentary from last year.
In 1995, while doing research on the creation of The Lone Ranger, I spent four days with Fran Striker, Jr., the son of the creator. Fran shared many stories about his dad, most if not all, reflecting his loyalty to friends, his compassion toward others and his integrity as a human being. Striker, Jr’s own writings are reflective of his dad’s deeply felt patriotism.
“I’ve always been a thinker of sorts,” Fran Jr. writes, “and pondered many solutions to the problems that we’ve experienced as a nation over the latter half of the 1900s. I tried to read the thoughts and opinions of others and listen carefully to the various sides of the issues, and finally came to a few basic realizations.
“This Nation is truly unique among all the nations of this earth, both now and historically. It’s because the founders that crafted our government focused on one, wondrous, almost magical ingredient. The primary focus of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution is that magical ingredient.
“From our very beginning, that ingredient was the fiber that nurtured our growth to greatness. The world has simply not been the same since our forefathers realized the value of that ingredient and took the steps necessary to ensure it would be the basis for our government. Throughout most of our Nation’s history, we applied that ingredient – cherished, fought and died for that ingredient. No it’s not simply freedom, or liberty, or democracy, or the common good, or the welfare of the public, or the recognition of rights.
“That lone ingredient which the founding fathers added is the single word ‘individual.’ Individual freedoms, individual liberty, individual rights! And they are given in our Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…’
“From U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis I learned that, ‘The most important public official in this country is the voter.’ In other words we, the individual, can direct or re-direct the course of this nation but we – each of us – you and I, really have to get busy and keep working at it.
“And I learned from 19th century novelist Everett Hale that ‘I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do I should do and, with the help of God, I will do.’
“My dad’s beliefs (aka The Lone Ranger’s Creed) became core principles for me to build upon from my childhood… just because they made so darn much sense to me. Figuring out how to apply them in my daily life is quite another thing.
“But I was fortunate again, as I could turn to Dad’s writing.
“In 1948 there was a special 15th anniversary broadcast of theLone Ranger radio program. At the end of the story the Ranger finds his long lost nephew, Dan Reid. Dan asks about his ownfather – another Texas Ranger killed in the line of duty. The thoughts offered to Dan at the close of that program seemed to exemplify some ways to apply those core beliefs. What Dad wrote and the Ranger recited, went on to be called The American Heritage:
“ ‘Many of our ancestors were men among whom uncommon valor was a common virtue. Those men have handed down to us a great heritage, which we and others like us must protect and preserve. It is the heritage of every American.
“ ‘The right to live as free people in a land where there is true equality of opportunity. It is our duty to be eternally vigilant and prepared at all times to fight those who dare to challenge our way of life.
“ ‘We must build, as it is our duty to make of this an even greater nation. Property is the fruit of labor. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich and hence, is encouragement to industry and enterprise.
“ ‘Abraham Lincoln once said, Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.
“ ‘We have for our own a great nation and with the will, the heart, and the courage we can make it even greater. This is our heritage. This is the heritage of every American.’ ”