Orland T. Outland: A man to match our mountains
Expanded from the 7-16-00 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

There is a road,
no simple highway,
between the dawn
and the dark of night.
And if you go,
no one may follow.
That path is for
your steps alone.

Because Orland T. Outland had the courage to stand alone on so many occasions, you don't have to. We live enriched because he passed this way. Last Wednesday, he passed away at age 77.

From tweedy sportcoat to thick glasses, OTO looked the perfect professor. Not exactly Indiana Jones or James Bond.

In fact, he was a highly decorated war veteran, intelligence officer and very probably a spymaster. He never said much about that.

Maj. Orland T. Outland, 1923-2000
(Photo © 2000 Debra Reid, Sparks Tribune)

OTO personified the one quality I respect above all: personal integrity worthy of the mountains of the moon.

When Orland Outland took a stand, he stayed there, defiantly solid granite.

Moving targets avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, often winning accolades for their ability to bend.

OTO was no such ballerina. The old soldier stood his ground and took the hits, an immovable object daring anyone to put up an irresistible force.

His life stands as a monument to principle, a textbook to teach our children well.

If my words did glow
with the gold of sunshine
and my tunes were played
on the harp upstrung,
would you hear my voice
come through the music?
Would you hold it near
as it were your own?

He once lamented in frustration that he would speak in public forums, presenting well-written research, "but nobody reads it."

I told him to persevere, that today's great dissents become tomorrow's majority opinions. Perhaps his proudest moment came when he learned that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and probably some of his colleagues, had read in full a layman's "friend of the court" brief he submitted in a landmark case.

Reach out your hand
if your cup be empty.
If your cup is full,
may it be again.
Let it be known
there is a fountain
that was not made
by the hands of men.

This kind and generous man affected the lives of every Nevadan. Long before this state had a consumer advocate's office fighting for small utility ratepayers, the people had Orland Outland, standing alone.

He became such a factor in rate cases that power company executives and their government regulator buddies both dubbed him "Orland Outlaw." He wore the title like another combat medal. Eventually, they grudgingly complimented him on the quality of his presentations. Eventually, Nevada made what he began into a state institution which has saved consumers untold millions.

Pick your favorite issue (sweep for "Orland" at the search engine of this website and see what you get), Orland Outland was there first: Opposing corrupt politicians who gave away our county hospital to profiteers. Advocating a hike in room taxes to fund affordable housing for low paid casino workers. Proposing that new hotels be required to pay living wages. Criticizing casino corporate welfare programs and the hidden taxes they foist on homeowners and renters. Screaming to high heaven for reform of public records and open meeting laws. Warning of the vulnerability of elections to fraud by computer. (OTO was one totally wired, web-hip senior citizen. When Jerry Garcia died, I printed the lyrics to "Ripple." Orland called me, asking which Grateful Dead album to order.)

He sat on boards and commissions too numerous to list. His innovative ideas on campaign finance reform will one day become law. Late in life, he became Nevada's Claude Pepper, our foremost advocate for the elderly.

He was no radical, but a true Republican who lamented the conversion of his party from Goldwater conservative to Ayatollah Dixiecrat. He led Congressman John Anderson's, R-Ill., successful petition drive to get on the Nevada presidential ballot as an independent in 1980.

"I want my party back," he wrote Anderson in 1981, eventually re-registering as a Democrat.

He paid the price of principle many times. That's why his Tribune column recounting the harsh fates which befell most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence will reside at the front page of this website until the day I see him again.

In 1995, he won a Reno Gazette-Journal Silver Pen Award for a letter recounting his past as an abused child. He composed a moving defense of children against those who favor keeping families together at any cost.

That took guts, but courage was never his problem. He joined the U.S. Army as a skinny teenager less than a year before the start of WWII. He never talked much about war, once writing that it held no glory.

I glory in having known a people's champion and true hero named Orland T. Outland. I will miss his wisdom every day.

Ripple in still water,
when there is no pebble tossed
nor wind to blow.
You who choose
to lead must follow,
but if you fall,
you fall alone.
If you should stand,
then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way,
I would take you home.

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Copyright © 2000, 2005, 2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988. A memorial service for Mr. Outland will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Walton's Reno Chapel, 875 W. Second at Vine. "Ripple" copyright © 1974 Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia.

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