Outspoken blogger and journalist dies in car crash
Citizen journalist Larry Kelley covered the more controversial issues in Amherst and let his own voice be heard through his well-traveled blog “Only in the Republic of Amherst.”
His reports on college parties, drunk drivers, and school politics were especially controversial, daring to go farther than mainstream news in the reporting of details.
Mr. Kelley died in a car crash on Route 9 in Belchertown on February 17, 2017.
An 18 year old driver from Belchertown and two other passengers were in the other car and all three survived.
As an Amherst resident, Larry Kelley loved covering town affairs.
“Kelley would show up to local government meetings and report on them,” said Amherst School Committee member Vira Douangmany Cage. “I was really impressed he would step up to the game.”
She said that “Kelley added his own commentary” and “took attacks” in stride. “Larry Kelley was a man of his own convictions. He was praised and condemned for his work,” she added.
Mr. Kelley was vocal about many issues in Amherst, including its public schools.
Long- time resident and ARHS English teacher Mark Moriarty said, “Kelley thought our district spent far more than it needed to on the cost per pupil.”
In 2015 Amherst was spending 20,000 dollars per pupil, well over the state average of 15,000 dollars.
“From my perspective, he could not see past this issue,” said Mr. Moriarty. “I think [Amherst] schools are a feather in the community’s cap.”
Mr. Kelley also had problems with social justice educator Calvin Terrell’s appearances at ARHS and ARMS.
He disagreed with paying him 38,000 dollars per visit and took issue with the traumatic experience some children reported with the material.
When the public had access to Calvin Terrell’s event, Mr. Kelley attempted to record the event despite being advised not to.
During the event, Mr. Kelley had his phone taken from him by a citizen behind him and was upset he couldn’t record a public event in a public place.
He said his first amendment right was being violated.
Mr. Kelley also spoke out about former math teacher Carolyn Gardner’s allegations of racism at ARHS and criticized her lawsuit against the district, which he claimed would take away “taxpayer money.”
English and Journalistic Writing teacher Tina Browne said she believed that Mr. Kelley was “a good journalist” but “had a bone to pick with our school.”
“Kelley created a lot of negativity around the schools,” said Ms. Browne. “I [didn’t always find his comments] constructive or helpful.”
Could Mr. Kelly’s legacy be carried on? Most said no.
Ms. Douangmany Cage said “No one is quite like Larry Kelley; no one could come close to what he did.”