Asheville – Patric Mullen, age 75, died in the early morning hours of May 26, 2016 in his home in downtown Asheville
Patric, his brother and two sisters, were born and raised in central Iowa singlehandedly by a strong mother, Margaret Mullen, who instilled in them the importance of education, integrity, and fair treatment for all persons. Because of his interest in history, Patrick pursued advanced studies in history at the University of Northern Iowa. As part of his studies in the 1960s, he followed intently the years of John Kennedy’s administration, which he said, “nurtured his belief that a strong activist government can solve problems.” For Patric, the power of the government could and should be used to help all Americans, but particularly for the most vulnerable in the society.
Upon finishing his graduate degree, he first worked with migrant workers in western Iowa for a short time trying to improve their housing and protecting them from predatory practices of crew bosses. When the federal government began to implement President Johnson’s war on poverty legislation, Patric became a director of one of the first community action programs, which LBJ described as “the front line troops in his war on poverty.” Patric’s agency serving a number of rural counties in south-eastern Iowa established head start programs, hired and supervised young people serving in the Neighborhood Youth Corps and had outreach workers assigned, he said, “to press health departments, welfare offices and employment offices to get off their asses to start focusing on helping people.” After two years, the beneficial effects of these outreach efforts became apparent but in the process, he had managed to “piss off” a number the administrators of these county offices. It was only later in his life that he learned that charm may be more effective than force is trying to change hearts and minds.
In 1968, Patric was recruited to go to the Marshall Islands for two years to help the region move from being essentially a military installation to a civil society with the assistance provided by the war on poverty funding. Upon arriving there, Patric quickly learned that the same contractors from California and Hawaii, who had operated the islands as a military installation, controlled the war on poverty funding. Rather than invest the funds in the needs of the native Marshall islanders, they simply spent the money to maintain their already rich style of living while leaving the native Marshall island people to live in slum like conditions on other islands. It was not until native Marshall Island activists, with the support of Patric and Peace Corps volunteers, formed the Congress of Micronesia, which in turn created a political status commission to define a new political relationship between Micronesia and the United States, that progress for the native people began.
In 1970, Patric returned to the US and joined the Migrant Legal Action program in the District of Columbia. His primary focus was to lobby Congress and Executive departments for laws and appropriations to benefit migrants throughout the United States. One of the projects he undertook was to update the New Deal legislation, which provided crop subsidies for sugar producers while giving some protections for workers on the plantations. Because Patric felt the existing Act gave sugar producers enormous benefits, while providing workers minimal benefits plantation workers, he asked his sister, Kathleen, who was a law student at the time, to go down to Louisiana and interview the workers to find out what changes in the Act they wanted to protect them and their families. Based upon those discussions with the workers, Patric redrafted the Sugar Act and spent a lot time convincing labor unions to support the plantation workers. At the first reading of the bill, the union lobbyists supported the bill and it passed. At the second reading of the bill, the union lobbyists didn’t show up and the redrafted sugar act went down in defeat – a defeat that Patric never forgot.
In the late 19700s, Patric moved to North Carolina and began representing a variety of educational organizations including rural schools as well as urban Boards of education, the North Carolina Associated of Special Education Executives, the North Carolina Psychological Association, and the City School Consortium among others. With the organization of the Small Rural Schools Consortium in July 1989, the equity movement to improve educational opportunities for children in poor counties began in North Carolina. With the help of Patric’s advocacy on behalf of the Consortium, small poor rural counties secured $11 million worth of educational opportunities never seen before by these schools over a four-year period. According to Frederick I. Denning, Ed.D, Co-chair of the Small Schools Consortium, “Patric represented us because he believed with all his heart that we were right.”
Legislators not only respected him, they liked him; they trusted him.
The Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1990, described Patric as “a straight forward, honest man with integrity and high principles…He wins more than his share fairly, loses a few graciously, and keeps coming up as one of the most respected of our hundreds of registered lobbyists.”
In the ups and downs of life, Patric’s love of art sustained him. He collected and cherished art from artists all over the world and displayed them in his home. He was also a talented painter, who commemorated important events in his life with a painting, including the birth of his first daughter, Erin, and the death of Winston Churchill, who he admired as an important leader of the world.
Patric’s passion for his work and art was exceeded only by his love for his wife, Trina, who died two years ago, and for his children, Erin Mullen, Aden Mullen, Katharine Davis and Warren Gentry, and his grandchildren Ronan Brumfield, Emily Davis and Gunner Gentry. While they, his sisters and many friends will miss Patric, they will remember him as an elegant, charming and kind man with a delightful sense of humor, who treated people with an uncommon graciousness.
When Patric and Trina moved to Asheville sixteen years ago, they became active in the downtown Asheville community. Patric was a founding member of the Downtown Asheville Residential Neighbors (DARN). He drafted DARN’s original proposal requesting the City Council to ban smoking in Pritchard Park. The city not only adopted that resolution, but also took it further by banning smoking in all City Parks. Trina and her friend, Mary Ann West undertook the revitalization of Pritchard Park and maintained it for years until her death.
Upon Trina’s death, Mary Ann and Patrick created the Trina Mullen Fund for Pritchard Park administered by The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Inc. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Trina Mullen Fund for Pritchard Park, CFWNC, 4 Vanderbilt Park Drive, Asheville, 28803 or www.c/wcn.org.