Replacing a terminal built in 1942, the new 72,000-square-foot facility has five boarding gates and more amenities for travelers, including food, restrooms and free WiFi. It opened last August, and the City Council has been contemplating naming the building or leaving it as the Santa Barbara Airport Terminal. The name of the airport itself will never change, council members noted.
“I’m just glad he got the notice, the acclaim and the thank-you he deserved,” said Rickard’s son Tom after Tuesday’s 5-2 City Council vote.
Airport Director Karen Ramsdell said most people who provided input — and the Airport Commission — wanted to refrain from naming the terminal after a person, but the City Council was convinced otherwise. Many people suggested that Goleta or Goleta Valley be incorporated into the new title.
The old, historic terminal was dedicated in 1969 to Earle Ovington, an aviation pioneer who flew the first airmail flight in 1911.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, like the previous one in July, the loudest voices were friends, family and fans of Rickard. He served as city attorney and mayor in the 1950s and then returned to his work as an attorney until he was appointed to the Superior Court, where he served as a judge for 14 years.
He is credited with figuring out a way to get the airport annexed to Santa Barbara and having major roles in a revamped sign ordinance, putting in harbor slips and parking, revitalizing Old Spanish Days after World War II, and convincing property owners not to develop what is now Shoreline Park so the city could buy it, according to Tony Guntermann, who served as a councilman with Rickard in the 1950s.
He said Rickard also spearheaded an initiative that helped pave streets and sidewalks on Santa Barbara’s Eastside.
Santa Barbara Independent editor and co-founder Marianne Partridge has been advocating for Rickard and told the council that it is everyone’s civic duty to pass on the city’s history.
She said one way to do that is to name buildings, streets and parks after important figures, and adding Rickard’s name and accomplishments to the airport terminal would help teach more people about his work.
Mack Staton, president of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association, said Rickard’s contributions to the city weren’t limited to his time on the dais, either. He helped the city as city attorney and in private practice with a lot of pro bono work, including with the Spanish-speaking minority population.
Historian Erin Graffy said Rickard’s accomplishments haven’t been honored in the way others have — his name graces no street sign, building or park.
“We haven’t done justice to the judge,” she said. “The new terminal kind of looks to the future, and that was exactly, of course, what Rickard had done.”
She said Rickard looked at where the population was shifting, what infrastructure was needed, how to support the tourism economy by taking care of the tide lands, and promoting so-called smokeless industry in the greater South Coast area.
While other historical figures nominated for consideration — such as Thomas Storke and Dwight Murphy — are important, they aren’t as well known for their contributions to the airport, while Rickard is, she added.
Former Assemblyman Pedro Nava also supported naming the terminal for Rickard. The mayor’s efforts to get a no-drilling sanctuary off the coast protected the beach areas and the local tourism economy, Nava said. The sanctuary is three miles wide and 16 miles long — from Sheffield Drive to UCSB — and that the sanctuary was the leverage needed to annex the airport, since the coastal piece made airport land contiguous with the city limits, he said.
Edward Hartfeld advocated for the terminal to be named for Murphy.
“I defy anyone to document any greater accomplishments which have had more impact — lasting impact, to today — on Santa Barbara than Dwight Murphy,” he said.
He said Murphy was a behind the scenes, unsung hero of the city and was involved in founding the Fiesta equestrian parade, public parks, East Beach, Stearns Wharf, the municipal golf course and much more. He was also well-known for breeding palominos and serving on the Chamber of Commerce and Parks Commission.
Dwight Murphy Park, near East Beach and the Santa Barbara Zoo, is named for him.
“If you compare his record to that piece of ground out there, it’s almost a shame,” Hartfeld said.
The majority of council members were persuaded to name the terminal for Rickard. Mayor Helene Schneider said she hoped the naming could be subtle and not something “garish” that would make Rickard himself turn over in his grave. Councilwoman Cathy Murillo admired Rickard’s work and said the idea to annex the airport was “genius” albeit “a little big sneaky,” so she understands why some people in the Goleta Valley would be sensitive.
Tom and Bob Rickard, two of Rickard’s five sons, said they weren’t sure how their father would feel about the dedication, but they were glad he got some credit for his accomplishments.
“My father probably wouldn’t like it … Dwight Murphy was kind of my father’s mentor,” Tom said. “Honor and duty was what his family raised him to do. He did what had to be done.”
Rickard saw that Santa Barbara needed leadership and stepped up, but people in his generation didn’t toot their own horns, he added.
Graffy, who grew up on the same street as the Rickards, and Partridge really pushed for the naming and helped a lot, Bob Rickard said.
Both brothers hope the dedication of the terminal will include the name John T. Rickard in letters somewhere, in addition to a plaque, to honor their father.