Former religion professor, activist John Raines dies at 84

The professor emeritus served as a religion professor for nearly 50 years and was most known for breaking into an FBI field office in 1971.

John Raines, a professor emeritus of religion, died in his Philadelphia home on Sunday from congestive heart failure, the Inquirer reported.

Raines taught at Temple for nearly 50 years, but his impact on the United States would remain a secret until 2014 when Raines admitted to his involvement in one of the most prominent information leaks in American history.

Raines and other political activists — including his wife Bonnie Raines — broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971. The group, which named itself the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, stole documents that would expose the abuse within J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI administration, and John Raines drove the getaway car, The Temple News reported in 2014.

The stolen documents included information about COINTELPRO, the FBI’s domestic surveillance operation to spy on prominent political organizers and sabotage any “anti-government” movements, The Temple News reported in 2014.

“We did what had to be done,” John Raines told The Temple News in 2014. “It’s pretty hard for people today to realize how powerful J. Edgar Hoover was. … He was untouchable in Washington. Congressmen, even presidents, were intimidated by him.”

Read more about John Raines’ involvement in the 1971 FBI burglary

John Raines was honored by the Department of Religion in an e-festschrift on its website, with nearly 20 essays by his students and colleagues. A festschrift is a collection of writings to honor a scholar, and the department honored John Raines for making his students “more rigorous scholars and more courageous activists,” according to the department’s site.

In an essay by John Raines’ former student and visiting professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Kiyul Chung wrote that John Raines had not only aided his academic training, but also “humbly counseled” him in “unforgettable ways.”

“Dr. Raines is one of the most influential professors who has made indispensable and irreplaceable impacts upon my life and work,” Chung wrote. “He is also one of the most ‘appreciated’ teachers whom I am deeply indebted to in many aspects, particularly in the sense of his extraordinarily ‘humble’ spirit.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Dec. 2 at Christ Church Philadelphia. Memorial donations can be sent to the Southern Law Poverty Center or the American Civil Liberties Union.

Kelly Brennan

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