Think of presidential candidate assassinations, and you think of Bobby Kennedy, not Ralph Dean Templeton. A native of Flint, Michigan, Templeton ran twice for the presidency in the 1970s. He was assassinated during the 1976 campaign and his death remains unsolved.

Dianna Stampfler, of Promote Michigan, joined the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show with Tim Collins to share Templeton's story.    “I love delving into cold cases and kind of what we call 'dark tourism''”, said Stampfler. “Now, clearly my book about haunted lighthouses touches that area as well, but last spring I stumbled upon a very intriguing story about Flint-area native Dean Templeton, whose gravestone near Lapeer says he was assassinated while campaigning to be America’s 39th President."

Dean Templeton headstone-Find a Grave photo
Dean Templeton headstone-Find a Grave photo

In the 1970s, after a tumultuous childhood and two failed marriages, Ralph Dean Templeton decided to run for President of the United States.  He even spoke at the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami, where beat poet Alan Ginsburg held court, and George McGovern ended up as the nominee.  Stampfler says Templeton was back four years later to run as a write-in candidate.

“Templeton wrote a platform and set out to visit each state,” said Stampfler.  “He took this hitchhiking trip from coast to coast working in restaurants or lumber yards. He'd work for a few days here or there to get a little bit of money to pay his way on his campaign tour.”

What few accounts we have indicate that Templeton was penniless, and a little unstable, but he had a platform. “He wanted to build a bridge so you could drive from Alaska to Russia. He wanted to reopen the investigation into the killing of JFK, tax churches, get a new monetary system and move the nation’s capital to the middle of the country.”

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At some point, Templeton made his way to the Pacific Northwest and was living in between Oregon and Washington where he met up with Patrick and Marion Feeney. “They became his campaign treasurer and campaign manager.   And while he's on the job there, he's working in a restaurant and it doesn't quite work out. He walks out with his last check for three days’ worth of work for $19, and he's never seen again.”

Nearly six weeks after Templeton was last seen leaving the Sunset Cafe in Cle Elum, his body was discovered by a telephone worker, face down in a mud-and-snow-covered ditch, along Thorp Prairie Road. The date was March 4, 1975. He was shot twice in the back of the head.  Now, some 45 years later, his death remains a mystery with no motive, no suspects, and no leads.  There are theories. Templeton wrote letters to his family claiming the CIA and the FBI are investigating him.

Stampfler said her curiosity led her to dig into his family life, which she describes as quite bizarre.  Marion Feeney wrote a 400-page book in the eighties after Templeton’s death.  Stampfler says she has suspicions that the Feeneys may have been responsible for his death.  Feeney passed away recently without ever revealing what happened.

Here’s a video that gives a flavor of what the 1972 Democratic Convention was like.

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