Pictured: Ed Brayton working the registration table for FBB's 2014 Humanism at Work conference he spearheaded
Ed, I hope you get to read this while it’s still a “news of my death has been greatly exaggerated” situation. (I can say that to a comedian, right?) Being flooded with the love, respect, and gratitude folks feel for you is a fine way to leave this world. I’m going to tell all your fans a little about what you’ve meant to me and Foundation Beyond Belief.
Good people, Ed and FBB go way back. But first, a bit of prehistory. It’ll make sense shortly.
I first met Ed in 2008 when I was the Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry, Austin. He was a speaker for an event spotlighting the religious agenda of the Texas State Board of Education. This was the first big event CFI Austin and Texas Citizens for Science had put together. It was a little hectic, as these things can be, so I was a bit on edge. I have a clear picture of Ed standing in the lecture hall, calmly watching the chaos around him, the eye of the storm, unflapped. Ed was not easily flapped, you see. He had Resting Poker Face. I later found out he was an expert poker player.
After his talk at the aforementioned event, we went to a famous BBQ place in Austin and I bought his meal as a thank you for being our speaker. He insisted that it wasn’t necessary and that he would pay me back by getting me a BBQ dinner sometime.
Six years later, Ed was the organizer for Foundation Beyond Belief’s first and only (so far!) conference. The theme was “Humanism at Work.” FBB’s founder and first Executive Director Dale McGowan, told me, “Ed pretty much ran the conference. He did most of the planning, the preparatory legwork, venue selection, scheduling, and media releases, then kept the trains running during the event. It was a lot.” Here’s how good Ed’s Poker Face is: at the time, I didn’t know that he was the one running the show.
The photo above shows you exactly what I mean: while sitting at the registration table for the "Humanism at Work" conference, Zach Moore was talking to Ed about how much work it was to put on a conference. In jest, Zach asked Ed to look overwhelmed. This is Ed's overwhelmed face. See? Unflappable, even when he's trying to look overwhelmed.
The conference was inspiring and exhausting in that good way that conferences should be. And Ed bought me that BBQ dinner.
Ed was FBB’s Media Relations Coordinator from 2013-2015. According to Dale, Ed “always had his hand in the air when we needed something done.”
Ed’s avowed greatest passions were BBQ and humanism. A few years ago, he proposed a union of the two to FBB.
What I want to do is go around the country giving this [“Why Atheism Is Not Enough”] talk, but also putting it into action on the spot. I would bring a smoker on a trailer with me and, planned long in advance, have the group I’m talking to set up an event where we would cook BBQ and feed the homeless and other people who are food-insecure.
There’s a whole lot of who Ed Brayton is in that paragraph. Sadly, at that time FBB didn’t have the bandwidth to help Ed make “BBQ Beyond Belief” a reality. I really regret that.
Ed is one of the good ones who fights the good fight on so many issues. Unfortunately, for the last couple of years, a lot of that fight has been expended on maintaining his health as best he could. From what I gathered on social media, the battle has been relentlessly difficult. But, no more. Ed has had enough of that and has entered Hospice care. I have nothing but the utmost respect for his decision.
So, Ed, thank you from all of us at FBB, past, present, and future. You have worked tirelessly to make the world a better place. We have benefited from your brilliance, your compassion, and your dedication. All generously peppered with your wit. Your work has helped make FBB what it is, a resource for humanists who choose to live their values. Your mark will be there long after you and the rest of us are gone. We wish for you peace.