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Lennard: With Randall's Death, Hillsborough Loses 'Another Legacy'

Earl Lennard, Hillsborough County's supervisor of elections and former school superintendent, remembers James D. Randall Jr., who will be laid to rest July 17 at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens after funeral services at Southside Baptist Church.

 

Earl Lennard remembers well the man for whom the middle school in FishHawk is named, a dedication that took place while Lennard, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, was then the superintendent of schools. But it's his time as a student at Brandon High that Lennard first remembers Randall as "a great leader."

"I met him in 1959 when he came to Brandon High School as assistant principal and dean of boys, replacing Guy O. Burns," Lennard said, noting Burns is the the namesake of Burns Middle School in Valrico. "We all met Mr. Randall because Mr. Randall made his presence known on the campus very quickly. I would say that he was an astute disciplinarian because he knew most of the tricks that a lot of high school kids would play."

Later in life Lennard would work for and with Randall as the two men advanced their way through the ranks of school district administration. Lennard retired as superintendent of schools in 2005. Randall retired as deputy superintendent in 1991.

As the assistant supervisor, and then the supervisor, for vocational, technical and adult education, Lennard said he, along with the other superintendent staff members, marched under the orders of Randall, a Korean War veteran.

"When I say people feared the wrath of Mr. Randall they also knew that underneath the hard, crusty exterior he had a great heart," Lennard said. "He would give you the shirt off his back and then give you the money to get it dry cleaned."

Randall also had high expecations, Lennard said. "No one wanted to disappoint Mr. Randall," he added, "because I guarantee you, he would let you know if he was disappointed in you."

Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1952, Randall served in Germany in the Army of Occupation. After active duty, he remained in the U.S. Army Reserve for 38 years, retiring as a Brigadier General.

  • Read more about Randall's life in

The secret to Randall's leadership, Lennard noted, was his attention to detail.

"He didn't just assume someone else would do the job, he knew how to do the job himself," Lennard said. "He knew every school and layout of that school, from the grounds up, and he stayed on top of them. I know for a fact that he loved the school district of Hillsborough County, he said that before to me."

In time for the start of the 2000-01 school year, the middle school on FishHawk Boulevard, adjacent to Joe E. Newsome High School, was named in honor of Randall.

"I was very pleased that the board saw fit to honor General Randall, and particularly while he was alive to see it," Lennard said. "The board members resepected Mr. Randall a great deal and he developed a special friendship with the board as he earned their respect. They knew he only wanted what was best for the students and the school district."

With the relationship came some ribbing.

"He used to like to tease me about putting the board on me when I was the superintendent," Lennard said, noting as well the discipline Randall would dole out to him at Brandon High.

"I had a minor infraction when I was in high school and I decided rather than disrupting my education [with a suspension] I would take my licks from Mr. Randall," Lennard said. "And he liked to remind me of that from time to time, and sometimes he would say it in public."

Back in the day, corporal punishment was allowed, and students had the choice of getting their licks or having their parents called.

"It was just wiser to take three licks than it was to have Mr. Randall call my parents, or to call my dad in particular, or to take a day or two off from school," Lennard said. "Back in the day when you went to see Mr. Randall? You better have some fear in you or he'd put the fear in you."

In his post-retirement years, and then as his health was failing, Randall often would receive visits from his former charges and colleagues.

"Joe Newsome and I would try to stay up with Mr. Randall and have lunch with him every chance we could, just to see how he was doing and to relive some of the old stories," Lennard said. "We'd go over the issues of the day and just enjoy each other's company. I continued to learn from him even after he retired. I learned a great deal from him and I consider him to be one of my mentors, someone I looked up to. I was one of those people who did not want to disappoint him."

In the end, and throughout his life, Randall made his presence known, Lennard said.

"I'm telling you, it's another legacy that's gone," he said. "Mr. Randall was tall timber."

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