In memoriam: Bobbie Kirkhart was a longtime atheist leader

Atheist activist and FFRF Lifetime Member Bobbie Kirkhart, 78, died on Oct. 31 in her home in Los Angeles. 

“Bobbie was a joyful, generous, courageous and fearless trailblazer for freethought and humanism,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “She was also a faithful faithless friend. She will be deeply missed.”

Bobbie was born April 16, 1943, in Enid, Oklahoma. She earned a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma in 1965 before moving to Los Angeles that same year.

Bobbie’s first job was as a social worker for the Department of Children and Family Services, where she participated in one of the first public employee strikes in the country. She completed some graduate-level coursework in linguistics before divorce sent her back into the workforce. She taught in private business colleges for a few years before becoming a teacher with Los Angeles Unified School District’s Adult Division, teaching Individualized Instruction Labs. She retired from LAUSD when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. After she recovered, she poured her energy into the freethought movement. 

For nearly four decades, Bobbie was a fixture in the atheist movement. She served as president of both Atheist Alliance International and Atheists United, served on the board of Camp Quest and the advisory board for Humanist Association of Nepal, helped form the Secular Coalition for America, and was an informal advisor and mentor to dozens of freethought leaders. Bobbie had spoken to freethought groups throughout the United States, and had addressed atheists and humanists in Canada, Germany, France, India, Ireland, Nigeria and Cameroon. She also was a platform speaker at the first of its kind Godless Americans March in Washington, D.C., in 2002 and accepted the Freethought Backbone Award from the Secular Student Alliance in 2013. 

In 2009, she purchased and opened up her century-old Victorian home (known as Heretic House) to speakers and local groups, giving atheists and progressive organizers a dependable and rent-free meeting space. Hundreds of fundraisers, parties, choir rehearsals, jam-sessions, board retreats, recovery meetings, and volunteer events have called Heretic House home over the last decade, while dozens of well-known speakers and activists have crashed for a few nights at a time. 

Bobbie was first married in 1969 to William Mason, and then divorced in 1982. She remarried in 1997 to Harvey Tippit, whom she met through Atheists United. She became a widow in 2006. Bobbie continued to travel and took her daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons on an adventure to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Antarctic Peninsula in 2019, which would be her last major trip.