In Memory of Dr. Randy Felton 1946 - 2016

To View Pictures of Randy with Family and Friends Click Here, then Click View Photo Gallery on Left Hand Side

To View a Video Memorial to Randy Click Here

Tributes by:                    Dr. Theron Trimble                      Sally Day                         Fred Dorsett

Randy was the epitome of the "Southern gentleman."  Always courteous and mindful of the needs of others, he invariably placed the welfare of both friends and strangers before his own well-being.  His was a true "Renaissance spirit" and his sharp wit won the admiration of friends and foes alike.  Never content to see an injustice not corrected, he devoted his entire life toward the betterment of everything around him.  What I remember most of Randy was how he relished the “good fight in the ring.”  Randy--more than anyone I ever knew--lived up to the old TR adage about the "man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood .... and who spends himself for a worthy cause.”   He was never content to sit on the sidelines and Randy really didn't care about who was on the other side or what the odds were.   In TR’s words, he could be depended upon to “dare greatly” in the cause of what he thought was right and there was never a doubt where he stood on issues.        

Randy also had this wonderfully persuasive gift of oratory in debate while at the same time exhibiting an almost jovial nature toward those whose positions he’d just eviscerated with razor-sharp logic.  Yet amazingly, despite the scars of many battles over quite a few decades, I never knew Randy to ever hold a grudge or to have even a single detractor.  In the 35 years I knew Randy, I can’t recall a single harmful “sling or arrow” that was ever sent his way.  He won the respect of all and would, whether his view prevailed or not, engage his opponents with friendly banter afterward. More importantly, he could be counted on to help all sides move forward following whatever decision was made.  A leader by example, he was tireless in his efforts to make the both Florida and the world a better place.  

                                   

No one except possibly Abe Lincoln more enjoyed sharing yarns and funny stories from the past.   Lincoln-like, Randy could always be counted on to join in the ensuing laughter along with his listeners.  His stories of dealing with Panhandle Superintendents and football-coach high school principals in the decades of the 1970s and 80s is the stuff of legends.  [Three decades later, lacking Randy’s courage, I’m still hesitant to relate some of those stories.]  That he was a wonderful motivator of others was one of his great personal strengths.  I recall a time in the 1980s when the Language Arts forces in D.O.E. transferred their “Bible Literature” courses to the Social Studies section of the Florida Course Code Directory.   Randy was directed by the Commissioner to lead a group of Social Studies Supervisors in developing new Course Frameworks for these courses. Knowing full well the intent of the DOE and his Language Arts colleagues to saddle social studies with—what were then the most contentious courses in the state curriculum—then FASSS members were almost ready to storm both Randy and Tallahassee.  Randy quickly got control of the group with a military bearing, saying “orders are orders” and the new frameworks would have to be written.  Moreover, if we didn’t like it or do the work then we’d be leaving it up to him to do what he alone thought best!  How would we like that?  Then, with that twinkle in his eye and a slight curved smile on his lips, he slowly remarked, “besides . . .  I’ve the idea that we should put these courses in the “history section” of curriculum and write the new frameworks in such a way that the "literature” can be left out.  Everyone quickly understood the advantage of this approach and his proposal was heartily approved.  Without doubt, Randy’s extensive work with the “Pork-Chop gang” of Panhandle politicians had taught him there “was more than one way to skin a cat.”      

Randy’s decades-long service as FCSS Conference Coordinator and his intense competitive spirit meant he could always be depended upon to deliver busloads of conferees to the old-time FCSS conferences.  Everyone knew when “Randy’s troops” arrived.  His teachers and FSU grad and undergrad students would just be gathering steam from their celebratory ride of recalling recent FSU gridiron victories, partaking of “FSU refreshments” all along the way.  Despite their opposing football loyalties, South Florida conferees almost wanted to drive north--bypassing the regular Orlando conference sites—all the way to Tallahassee just to join his buses which could then take them back to International Drive!     

  

In the mold of our sixth President, Randy was known to all as a passionate man.  He was passionate about his country, his family, FSU, the Navy, his faith, FCSS, what the social studies curriculum could do for public education, and about living in the Panhandle—and these were onlysome of his loves.  Perhaps because of these emotive feelings, few individuals commanded the respect he earned from others--whether these were D.O.E. bureaucrats, Florida Superintendents and politicians, other social studies colleagues, district principals and administrators, textbook C.E.O.s  and authors, nationally recognized historians or--most importantly for him–students. Everyone knew and respected Randy as the “genuine deal.”  Those who worked with him never forgot him.     

It’s sad Randy’s death was so sudden and unexpected.  Many of his admirers were not able to tell him how much he meant to them or how his life had influenced both us and our state.  That he was a role model for countless others is an understatement.  His like will not be soon seen again in our profession and I seriously doubt there is anyone today who can easily step into his shoes.  His passing marks the end of era and is a great loss.  But as Randy would likely say in his naturally optimistic manner, “leadership abhors a vacuum” and “there’s nothing like a crisis to bring forth the best in people.”      

It will be interesting to see who in the future will step forward to continue his legacy.   Randy’s example will certainly make their paths easier than his own. 

Written by Jack Bovee, FCSS Director Emeritus