Ronald Edward Mattson was born on May 1, 1936, in Princeton, Minnesota, to Jennie L. Orrock and E. Lloyd Mattson. Along with Terry and Thomas, he was one of three sons in the family. Ron earned a bachelor's degree from Berea College in 1966, a master's from Arizona State University in 1974 and a doctor of ministry from the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in 1980.
He joined the Minneapolis Friends Meeting during the 1960s and from 1968 to 1973 was the ministering secretary, a staff position that had evolved from the previous pastor position. He also served as chef for the Minneapolis Clubhouse of the American Association of University Women and for the Plymouth Congregational Church.
Ron came out as a gay man during his time with the Minneapolis Meeting. In 1970 a Friend in Chicago (Jim Osgood) wrote to the Friends Journal about what it was like to be gay and Quaker. He signed his letter under the pseudonym, ”Jim Bradford.” His story motivated others to begin to come out. Geoffrey Kaiser wrote a response letter and signed it under another pseudonym “A. Bradford II.” Ron and Jim Osgood contacted Geoffrey suggesting they get together while in Philadelphia for an AFSC meeting to begin to look for leading. Ron, Gerald Turnbull, Geoffrey Kaiser and Kim Palmer (Geoffrey's partner at that time) met in Larry Butler's living room. They agreed to place ads in the New Republic (which was a liberal rag back then), the Friends Journal, Quaker Life and the Evangelical Friend. Quaker Life and Evangelical Friend refused the ads. They agreed to meet next at Race Street Meetinghouse, where Larry was a member. When Larry requested the meeting space, he was asked the name of the committee. Larry stuttered a little, and out came the closeted name “Committee of Concern.” The group had not thought about what to call themselves.
At that meeting Ron and the others discussed ways to get interested persons from around the country together to begin to chart a direction for this new organization. Geoffrey had been on the Friends General Conference (FGC) planning committee and knew that housing for the 1972 FGC Gathering was being assigned by groups. So word was spread to contacts to contacts to sign up for the "elderly" housing, so as to keep us distant enough from families with children than there would be no fears of children being "tainted" by our presence. The FGC offices knew the group of single, young guys and assigned them all to the same hall that summer. Daily worship was in that hall, as it was that year in each of the other halls. The difference when the group gathered in silence was that they were an almost entirely gay group, except for a Canadian Catholic priest who listened silently with intense intrest. They began to dream there about what an inclusive Society of Friends and world might be like. Ron took the group “to the mountaintop, and together we saw the Promised Land.”
Word got around that anumber of homosexual persons were meeting together in this hall. So a special public meeting was called by the FGC Gathering overseers--open to all Friends--to talk about homosexual concerns. Ron, who was “out” then, agreed to speak for the group and was well-received. The events of this week established a pattern for Friends of Lesbian & Gay Concerns to center in its meetings for worship and to be part of FGC.
Ron began publishing a newsletter for the group out of the Minneapolis Meeting offices. The group took on the name “Friends for Gay Concerns”; later, "Lesbian" was added. Even later the group became Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns. Ron retired from publishing the FLGC newsletter around 1976 and Bruce Grimes took over as editor.
Ron became alienated from the Minneapolis Monthly Meeting because he thought they hadn't fully supported him at the Iowa Yearly Meeting (FUM). In 1979 Ron joined Central City (Nebraska) Meeting, where his membership remained for the rest of his life. In the 1990s he attended Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, where he served in a staff position as general secretary. He was also recording clerk of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting from 1998 to 2003.
Ron was active in several organizations of Friends, particularly the Friends World Commitee for Consultation (FWCC)--Section on the Americas and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). At AFSC he contributed significantly to the Community Relations Committee, served several terms on the board of directors, and was for several years assistant clerk and recording clerk of the Board and Corporation.
Ron retired in 2002 and moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota. He commuted to Central City (Nebraska) two weeks each month to serve as ministering secretary at the meeting there and to research and write the history of the Nebraska Yearly Meeting. Ron served on the executive committee of FWCC and was recording clerk of the Nebraska Yearly Meeting.
Ron faced health challenges at different times in his life and died of cancer on June 2, 2012.
(Information for this biographical statement taken from an obituary in the Friends Journal October 2012 and recollections written by Bruce Grimes.)
Biography Date: January 2013
Friends/Quakers | Butler, Larry | Kaiser, Geoffrey | Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns | Activist (religious institutions) | Mattson, Ron