It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the shocking news that Montana FIJA state contact Mike Fellows was killed in a car collision Monday night.
Despite health problems that had recently seen him hospitalized, Mike had driven up to Seeley Lake from his home in Missoula to participate in a candidate forum. On his way home, his vehicle reportedly crossed the line on highway 200 and he collided with an oncoming vehicle. Mike did not survive the accident. The driver of the other vehicle was hospitalized with injuries.
There have been a couple of articles that I thought expressed particularly well Mike’s legacy here in Montana, and I won’t get into too much detail that they’ve already covered:
Instead, I will add to them a bit about what Mike meant to FIJA-especially FIJA’s Montana contingent.
“I was saddened to hear of the death of Mike Fellows. Mike had been around forever, it seems,” says FIJA president and co-founder Don Doig. Mike had been volunteering with FIJA at least as far back as 1998, and possibly longer, Don tells me. “I worked with him in Libertarian Party politics even before that, the late ’70’s, early 80’s. His death is a loss for the cause of freedom,” says Don.
“Any time Mike had an opportunity to raise any issues, jury nullification was always among them,” says FIJA Board of Advisors member and state contact Roger Roots.
Indeed, as Roger pointed out, Mike made jury nullification a prominent issue in his record-setting 2012 campaign for Montana Supreme Court Clerk. Mike is known for this race in particular, as he set a nationwide record for a Libertarian candidate, by earning 43% of the popular vote and carrying 27 out of Montana’s 56 counties. “My main issue was always the fully-informed jury,” Mike told the Libertarian Party in a 2013 interview about that race.
If one thing can be said of Mike Fellows, it is that for decades now, he has showed up for liberty and for those who loved liberty.
With few exceptions, if there was a liberty-related event of any sort in Montana (and even many out of state), Mike showed up. He consistently promoted liberty, with special emphasis on jury rights, through his political campaigns and support of others’, by marching in parades, tabling at hempfests, gun shows, county fairs, and other events complete with FIJA literature and posters, writing letters to the editor, and through his work with Montana Community Access TV, where he featured jury nullification as a topic more than once.
Early on in my time with FIJA, I met Mike when I gave a talk on jury nullification at the University of Montana. Mike showed up.
One year when I was promoting jury nullification at the Ravalli County Fair with Dave and Leona Merrick, sure enough, Mike showed up and stopped by the table to chat.
Many a time I’ve gotten a call from Roger Roots that started with Roger mentioning, “Hey, guess who showed up at…”. I could hardly ever go wrong if I guessed Mike Fellows.
Just a week before Mike’s death, Roger, Roger’s dad, FIJA state contact Ted Dunlap, and I all met up in Missoula for dinner. I had called a gathering of FIJA’s Montana state contacts so we could all meet one another, and also so we could check up on Mike.
Roger had mentioned to me that Mike had been in ill health lately. Since Roger had a lecture on campaign finance scheduled in Missoula where Mike lived, it seemed like a good time to get the FIJA state contacts together in one place.
I had emailed the invitation to all our Montana state contacts, but Mike did not reply, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Nonetheless, not long after Ted, Roger and his dad, and I were all at the table, sure enough, Mike showed up.
This was the one and only time I and all the Montana FIJA state contacts have been in one place at the same time. I am so grateful that we all made it there, despite it being considerable effort for all of us to gather in one place from our many corners of Montana.
Mike stood up several times during dinner last week, explaining that it was painful for him to stay seated for very long. Nonetheless, he followed up dinner with us by attending Roger’s talk down the street at the library afterward. Not only did he show up, but he made sure someone came to video record the talk, even though he was not able to do so himself as he often did at these sorts of shindigs.
In an attention deficit-ridden era in which many find it challenging to do much more than click Like or Share, Mike gave us the rare gifts of his time, effort, and sincere attention. Whenever he had the opportunity to support or advance liberty, Mike’s butt was in the seat, his boots were on the pavement, he was speaking at the mic or podium, he was greeting people at the information table, or his hands were on the wheel traveling to where he could do any of the preceding or support others doing so.
Most folks probably do not realize how much he sacrificed in this regard. I had heard from Roger that Mike was having severe kidney problems, but was avoiding getting started on dialysis that would be necessary to keep him alive. This year Mike was running as the Libertarian candidate for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was invited to debate along with the Republican and Democratic candidates, and he wanted very much to participate.
It seems as though Mike was trying to hold off on dialysis until after a debate in Billings because once he began dialysis, it would not be possible for him to travel that distance. There was some question whether Mike would even live through the election. His health situation was that serious. Before that debate, as it turned out, he ended up in the hospital. With treatment, we hoped that he was on the road to recovery.
Everyone at our dinner that night urged him to take it easy, but I guess Mike had different ideas. Despite his health setback, he was back out on Monday this week traveling from Missoula up to Seeley Lake to participate in a candidate forum.
Of all the candidates vying to be Montana Congressional Representative, only Mike showed up. And he showed up despite Dave Merrick, another member of the Montana FIJA family, having tried to talk him out of it.
Mike Fellows lived and breathed liberty, and set the bar high for those of us still here carrying the torch in Montana. He brought his passion and dedication to liberty everywhere he traveled, and if he had any ego, he must have left that at home, because I never saw it.
It is hard to imagine a Montana in which we will never again run into him at a debate, a fair, a lecture, or a parade. But if anyone can find a way to show up from the hereafter, Mike’s the guy.