S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Honoring a North Dakota Leader and Friend
On May 3, 1998, Reverend Clinton E. Birst died of an apparent heart attack at his home in Bismarck, North Dakota. Clinton was 52 years old.
Clinton Birst served the North Dakota Home School Association from 1983 until 1997, first as President and then as Executive Director.
We at Home School Legal Defense Association first began our partnership with Clinton during the dark years of home education in North Dakota, when the teacher certification requirement forced most home school families into hiding. In a state nicknamed Siberia due to its status as the number-one oppressor of home school families, Clinton Birst represented one of the few friends these families had. He appeared in court on numerous occasions to testify on behalf of HSLDA members being persecuted for their faith.
Clintons particular battle, however, was in
the state legislature. Year after year, in the face of one discouraging defeat after another, he worked tirelessly to get home school legislation introduced. His perseverance finally paid off. The North Dakota legislature passed home school legislation in 1989, and home schoolers in North Dakota are now free from the fear of one decade ago. Commenting later on his years of fighting for a home school law, Clinton said, I wouldnt stop pushing for legislation until the opposition finally gave up.
Those of us at HSLDA who spent countless hours working with Clinton will always remember his example of courage and perseverance, and we count it a privilege to have known and served with him.
Please pray for Clinton Birsts family. He leaves behind his beloved wife Judi and four children: Jason, Lorissa, LaDonna, and Jonathan.
To the family of Clinton Birst
Clinton Birst was a friend of mine. A real friend. I loved Clinton because he loved freedom and he fought for it when lesser men would have given up in discouragement. I loved Clinton because while fighting for freedom he never lost sight of the fact that he was interacting with people in such battles and that he needed to treat both his allies and his opponents with grace, dignity, and charity.
It was not just Clintons persistence; it was the quality of his character that ultimately led to home school freedom for a state that had been without a doubt the most difficult in the nation.
Clinton was extraordinarily kind and gentle. But he was uncompromising on points of conviction. Clinton had many important tasks and we had many urgent conversations. But he was never in too much of a hurry to ask thoughtful questions about my family, my health, or my spiritual well-being. And as much as he cared about others, he always cared about his family even more.
I only wish I could play back tapes of my many conversations with Clinton where he told me of his children and their accomplishments, their hopes and their dreams. Or the conversations where he praised his wife for her influence on his life and the lives of their children. He glowed when he talked of his family, because he loved them so deeply.
I could not fail to mention that my heart was strongly inclined toward Clinton because he so clearly loved me.
What can you say about a man who was both strong and kind, loved friends and family as well as political opponents?
You can say that Clinton Birst knew the Lord Jesus Christ in a deep and profound way and that he was a mature man of God. He was a great man not because of his political work, but because he excelled in the things that truly matter.
In love, sorrow, and hope,
May 5, 1998