I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday morning on Jan. 20, 2002, and I was at my college apartment in Athens. Around 8 a.m., I woke up to the sound of my pager vibrating on the nightstand next to my bed. It was my mom's number followed by "911." I knew something must be terribly wrong because the only other time she'd ever added those three extra digits to her home phone number was the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Unfortunately, I was right.
I immediately turned on my cellphone and called her back. She somberly told me, "Randy's gone." Just like that, her brother, my uncle -- our family's energetic, loving Randy -- was gone. Heartbroken, I hung up the phone and thought of my two cousins who lost their father, my aunt who lost her husband, my grandparents who lost their son, my mom and two other aunts who lost their brother, my siblings and cousins who lost their uncle. How did this happen? Why? That drive back to Conyers was the longest of my life.
Long before Randy entered politics in 1988, his legacy was already being written. My brother and I spent what seemed like half of our childhoods at Randy's house playing with our cousins -- and the same with them at our house. As a kid and later an adult, I always enjoyed going over there, even if it meant Randy might try to embarrass me about something or make me say the blessing. He showed us how to be gentlemen and how to live our lives with integrity. To this day, I try to live by his example of doing things the "right way."
I don't have enough room to pen all of the great stories I've witnessed or heard about my dear uncle. However, the overriding theme in most of them is this: Randy cared and made folks smile. The fact that Randy was an extraordinary person was never more evident than in 1970, when as a teenager, he jumped into the Yellow River to save a woman from drowning. Her car had plunged 30 feet over the side of a bridge on a cold, rainy night. Randy didn't hesitate to take action and even went back into the water to retrieve her belongings. A local publication wrote at the time, "We're very proud of Randy's courage, this world needs a lot more of his concern for his fellow man."
Randy took that courage and concern for his fellow citizens to government. At only 34 years old, Randy won the first of his three successful elections as chairman of the Rockdale County Commission. He was a gifted politician whose main goal was to make life better for future generations. He loved Rockdale County and worked tirelessly for his hometown. He felt that good government was best if kept small and local. However, his vision was large and he clearly saw the big picture. His visionary efforts led to Rockdale County's water independence with its 650-acre water supply reservoir, which now bears his name.
In order to get things accomplished, he used his natural ability to connect with folks. Randy possessed a rare combination of likability, humor and intellect. He believed in planning for growth and building coalitions to make things happen. In 1996, a national magazine called him "Mister Consensus" and in that same year, he won his third term as chairman in Rockdale County with more than 70 percent of the vote. His open-minded style of governing extended beyond county lines. Randy was one of the first people to serve in the chief leadership roles for both the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia at the same time. In 1998, the rising young Republican even ran for lieutenant governor of Georgia. His time spent in politics will forever leave an indelible mark on our state and its people.
Our family will never be the same without Randy. That said, neither will this world. There are many times that I wish I could ask my uncle what he thought of certain things going on nowadays -- sports, politics or whatever. But I can't. However, I am quite certain that he's watching over us with a smile, knowing that we'll all meet again. That winter day 10 years ago the world lost a wonderful man, but heaven gained an angel.
-- Brian Lunsford