Lance Richbourg, A Guiding Force

Adapted from an article by Jim Chitwood, NWF State College Foundation Executive Director,
written for the OWCC 25th anniversary commemorative booklet.

Lance Richbourg was a quiet, organized man who had a way of getting people to work together. It was probably these qualities that allowed Richbourg, the late superintendent of the Okaloosa County School System, to patiently steer the creation of such a novel notion as a junior college past the pitfalls of parochialism and overcome human obstacles that might otherwise have blocked the building of Okaloosa-Walton Junior College.

Those who recall the era more than 40 years ago remember Lance Richbourg as being the right man in the right place at the right time to make things happen.

Addie R. Lewis, of Valparaiso, remembers. She worked with Richbourg at the time when the school system gave birth to what would become the junior college.

Richbourg's enthusiasm, recalls Lewis, was not immediate. "It took him a little while to go along with the movement," she recollected. "When he realized the need, he was very much interested and did everything possible to bring it about."

Lewis says it did take "some persuading" on Richbourg's part to get others to warm up to the notion of a junior college. Lewis ought to know. Richbourg was her boss, and early in 1963 sent Lewis to California to examine first hand how the junior college system was functioning there.

"I worked closely with him on the junior college at that time," said Lewis, who later became assistant superintendent, and she herself would play an integral role in shaping the county's education system. "The state was promoting the idea (of building junior colleges) within 50 miles of everybody."

Lewis believes it was Richbourg's reputation as a quiet, behind-the-scenes type that served him well in gaining support for the creation of the college.

"Mr. Richbourg had a way of speaking that didn't antagonize people," said Lewis. "He was hesitant (about funding for the junior college) because of the school system's own financial problems at the time. That's because this area didn't have nearly the resources it does now. He was careful. He wasn't a spendthrift. It had to be justified that this was the place for it."

Looking back on the groundwork Richbourg laid for the junior college, Lewis recalled, "When he was convinced the college was the right thing to do, he did everything he could for it."

It was during this time that Richbourg sent Lewis to confer with John Baldwin, superintendent of the Walton County School System who also played a role in the junior college's coming into being.

Baldwin remembers Richbourg as being "very eager" to see the junior college project happen but at the same time realized Richbourg would move patiently. "He and I both saw it as a means of furthering educational commitment in the two counties."

As Baldwin recalls, Richbourg "wasn't the real dramatic sort, but he was real dedicated. He got things done in a quiet way. He was well organized. He brought people together and found a consensus."

"There was a lot of tugging and pulling going on the whole time, especially about where the junior college would be located," said Baldwin. "He was the one who kept trying to pull it all together and satisfy all parties. He was an excellent mediator, a master at that. And he didn't do it to get personal credit. He was committed to it."

Baldwin also remembers the "strong will" exhibited by Richbourg. "There were a lot of aspects about establishing the junior college that were sensitive," Baldwin said. "He motivated people to cooperate."

And what would Lance Richbourg think about Okaloosa-Walton Community College now? Said Lewis in 1989, "He was very proud of it then and would be today."

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