By Dr. Marion Williams
On Friday, October 6, 2013, at 5:30 p.m., Booker T. Washington High School held it annual Homecoming Tailgate festivities on the basketball courts of the school. Shortly thereafter, a reception was held for the “Two New Wildcats of Distinction” in the school’s atrium. These two outstanding honorees were alumni of the old BT WHS on “A” and Strong St. The two men have so much in common. Their photos will be added to the Wall of Distinction for Outstanding Wildcats in the school’s atrium.
The first honoree was the Honorable Ronald P. Townsend, retired City Councilman of District 7, a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, and a B.T. Washington High School Graduate of the Class of 1951.
Mr. Townsend or Mr. T as his often called, has an outstanding resume of a lifetime of service to his community and mankind. He has won numerous awards for service both at work and in the community for his leadership and compassion.
Ronald served as a Pensacola City Councilman for 10 years and served on numerous boards in the city. Among these were the Zoning Board, Florida Human Relation Commission, The Board of Directors of United Way, Sacred Heart Health System, the Board of Directors of the Lakeview Center and the Community Investment, Inc., to mention a few.
On the city council, Ronald championed many citizen causes, though many of the people he helped were not in his district. He favored total community involvement in such things as fair minority participation in governmental contracts, the rights of women in government, redevelopment of downtown Pensacola, the rights of senior citizens, etc. For his efforts, Ron has a city low-income housing project complex named in his honor – The Townsend Towers.
Because of his leadership, Ron helped the city establish the new Sanders Beach-Corrine Jones Community Center, redeveloped Belmont-DeVilliers Historical District, Maritime Park and the first West Side Branch Library since the Alice S. Williams Branch Library resided on North “E” St. in the 1950s. This project was co-sponsored with former Councilman John Jerralds.
Ron has been a very successful councilman due to his calm voice, great political skills and engaging personality. He is well respected by his peers and the community.
For Ron’s efforts in his church, Pope John II presented him with the coveted “Lay Citizen of the Year Award, 2000.” Ron is also the president of the St. Joseph Booster Club and has assisted his church raise over $500,000 for church improvement projects. It is said that Ron has a “golden voice” and as senior choir director, has raise funds for the church’s Free Clinic and Sharing and Caring Ministries, to serve the homeless, poor and elderly.
Ron is married to the lovely Lily Townsend and has three surviving children and several grandchildren.
Ron and Lily were presented to the Homecoming Game crowd prior to the game at 7:00 p.m.
The second Wild Cat of Distinct honored, is another Outstanding Catholic man and B.T. Washington High School Graduate of the Class of 1947, Mr. Walter H. Richardson.
Deacon Walter Richardson is a beloved and revered alumnus. He is an ordained permanent deacon in the Catholic Church in Fort Walton Beach, Fl., outstanding vocalist, Tuskegee Airman, former U.S.A.F. Airman of the Year, successful businessman (subcontractor of the V.A. Hospital in the Ft. Walton Bch. area), author, motivational speaker, community volunteer and civil rights worker and a Pensacola native.
Walter personifies “wildcat distinction.” He has spent his life serving others and God. Walter has received the Congressional Gold Medal as a former Tuskegee Airman, and was among the first to integrate the United States Air Force, formerly the U.S. Army Air Corp.
As a distinguished veteran, Walter saw front-line action in Vietnam and has traveled all over the world as a U.S.A.F. Chief Master Sergeant repairing aircraft, while supervising and mentoring young airmen – both men and women.
Deacon Richardson as he is known to his friends and family is a soft spoken yet elegant giant of a B.T. Washington High School Graduate. His is a loving husband, father and role model for all of us.
Walter is the co-founder of the Okaloosa County African American Cultural Group which established a Black History Month Celebration Mass for the past 33 years at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola.
Deacon Richardson leadership helped bring Black Bishops from around the country to celebrate this liturgical Mass. Walter, too has received many awards over his lifetime of service.
Deacon Richardson and Ronald Townsend are friends and great vocalists. Both men are B.T. Washington High School Alumni and Pensacola natives while both men are great family men and servants to their communities. Most important, both men have survived racism, hardships, achieved and have persevered to become beloved leaders and successful businessmen.
Walter H. Richardson is married to his lovely partner, Helen with grown children. Helen and Walter Richardson along with Ron and Lily Townsend were presented by Principal, Dr. Michael Roberts prior to Homecoming Football Game Friday night as the “New Wildcats of Distinction” 2013.