By Doug Ford
Leo J. Ryan is most remembered now because of his tragic death on November 18, 1978. He was known for his earnestness in getting to the root of any issue about which he felt obligated to do something about. As a Bay Area assemblyman during the Watts Riots of 1965, he traveled to Watts to get a temporary job as a substitute teacher in order to learn and report on what led to the tragedy.
In 1970, when he was chairman of the Assembly committee on prison reform, he arranged to be arrested under a pseudonym and placed in Folsom Prison as an inmate so that he could learn first-hand what conditions were like in California’s prisons.
Elected to Congress in 1972, he gained fame for his demands for better Congressional oversight of the CIA’s covert operations which led to the Hughes-Ryan Amendment of 1974.