Today is Earth Day and both NBC and Gizmodo.com have posts up noting one of the more unsavory figures involved in the event’s creation: Ira Einhorn. A prominent liberal activist back in the day, Einhorn spoke at length during the first event in Philadelphia in 1970.
Einhorn was later convicted of murdering his girlfriend. As NBC notes:
When his girlfriend of five years, Helen “Holly” Maddux, moved to New York and broke up with him, Einhorn threatened that he would throw her left-behind personal belongings onto the street if she didn’t come back to pick them up.
And so on Sept. 9, 1977, Maddux went back to the apartment that she and Einhorn had shared in Philadelphia to collect her things, and was never seen again. When Philadelphia police questioned Einhorn about her mysterious disappearance several weeks later, he claimed that she had gone out to the neighborhood co-op to buy some tofu and sprouts and never returned.
It wasn’t until 18 months later that investigators searched Einhorn’s apartment after one of his neighbors complained that a reddish-brown, foul-smelling liquid was leaking from the ceiling directly below Einhorn’s bedroom closet. Inside the closet, police found Maddux’s beaten and partially mummified body stuffed into a trunk that had also been packed with Styrofoam, air fresheners and newspapers.
After his arrest, Einhorn jumped bail and spent decades evading authorities by hiding out in Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and France. After 23 years, he was finally extradited to the United States from France and put on trial. Taking the stand in his own defense, Einhorn claimed that his ex-girlfriend had been killed by CIA agents who framed him for the crime because he knew too much about the agency’s paranormal military research. He was convicted of murdering Maddux and is currently serving a life sentence. (Emphasis added)
The headlines for the NBC and Gizmodo stories both identify Einhorn as a “co-founder” of Earth Day. Others involved in the creation have disputed this, claiming that Einhorn vastly exaggerated his role at the event.
In a 1998 letter of the Philadelphia Inquirer, nine activists involved in the event’s creation wrote:
Much to our dismay, we now find that the self-styled hippie guru and alleged murderer of Holly Maddux, Ira Einhorn, has been taking credit for initiating and/or organizing Earth Day. He is not telling the truth. A group of very dedicated young people worked very hard to organize Earth Day, but Einhorn was not one of them. In fact, Einhorn was asked to leave several meetings of the organizing committee which he attempted to disrupt. He was not welcome there, nor did he contribute in any material way to the committee’s activities. Einhorn, given a small role on the stage at Earth Day, grabbed the microphone and refused to give up the podium for thirty minutes, thinking he would get some free television publicity. We just waited until he had completed his “act” and then got on to the serious business at hand, the keynote speech of U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie, author of the landmark U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970.