Randall Lester James, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and uncle passed away peacefully from complications of leukemia on August 29, 2018. Randall was born to John Powell and Evelyn Wilson James on November 2, 1946 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He graduated from Rocky Mount Senior High in 1965, serving as the yearbook editor-in-chief while there. Randall continued his education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later also completed studies through the University of Louisville and Rollins College.
Randall worked in his family-owned business, Coastal Texaco and Wrecker, served in the United States Air Force, and was a member of the Rocky Mount Police Department. On June 25, 1967, he married Irma Rowe, and they were joyously married for 51 years. Randall and Irma adopted their only child, Lori Ann James (Shipley) in 1970. The family moved to Orlando in May of 1974, and he began his career with the Orlando Police Department. Randall eventually retired with the rank of Lieutenant after earning numerous department citations and awards with OPD including the Award of Merit for saving a baby’s life.
Beginning in 1977, Randall accepted an additional role with the City of Orlando in the Mayor’s Office where he served as administrative aide and later chief of staff to Mayor Carl T. Langford, Mayor Bill Frederick, and Mayor Glenda Hood. At his retirement in 1997, the Orlando City Council voted him as Orlando’s first Chief of Staff Emeritus.
In addition to his service to the City of Orlando, Randall also served on the Board of Directors for the TriCounty League of Cities and was later given a lifetime membership in that organization. He was also an alumnus of Leadership Orlando, Leadership Central Florida, and Leadership Florida. He served on numerous boards, commissions, and committees including the boards of Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, the Christian Endowment Committee, the Orlando Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast Committee, the Volunteer Center of Central Florida, the Central Florida Board of Reference for Belhaven College, the Sea World Sunrise Service Committee, and the Orlando Police Pension Board where he served as a trustee for 24 years. In recent years, he was also a member of the Committee of One Hundred of Orange County.
Since 1987, Randall was deeply devoted to service at First Baptist Church or Orlando (FBC/O) where he taught Sunday School, Discipleship classes, and Spiritual Maturity Class. He also served as an usher, a deacon, chairman of the Personnel Committee, a member of the Deacon Selection Committee, and as an elder. In 1997, God called Randall into full-time Christian service as President of the First Orlando Foundation and as an ordained pastor at FBC/O. He was the 1st Vice Chairman of FamilyNet Television, a ministry of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2003, Randall was elected by the 16.5 million-member Southern Baptist Convention to its Executive Committee where he chaired the by-laws workgroup.
In 2001 as an Executive on Loan from First Baptist of Orlando, Randall served as the first Chief of Staff for Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty. He would later write about his experiences as a public servant in Orlando in a book entitled Morphing Orlando into a World-Class City.
Randall received numerous awards and honors including the Orlando Jaycees Service in Government Award, the TriCounty League of Cities Service Award, the 1995 Orlando Community Leader of the Year Award as well as being listed as an Honored Professional in the Nationwide Register’s Who’s Who in Executives and Business.
But more than any area in his life of service, Randall’s primary ministry evolved from his experiences with cancer. He was diagnosed in 1988 with colon cancer and after surviving that, he later spent the next 30 years battling numerous cancers including lung cancer, skin cancer, and leukemia. He frequently spoke for the American Cancer Society and had numerous occasions to share his faith with cancer victims and family members who did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His own experiences with cancer prompted him to have a burden for the lost and to be an aggressive soul winner. His primary Spiritual gifts were Faith, Discernment, and Administration, and he worked hard at being an encourager. His goal was to leave a legacy of loving his wife “like Christ loved the church,” teaching his children and grandchildren to be more like Jesus every day (3 John 4), and completing his own journey on earth by finishing the race strong.
He is survived by his wife, Irma Rowe James, his daughter Lori James Shipley and his son-in-law C. Gene Shipley of Orlando, his grandchildren Chase Everett Shipley, 22, and Hayley Elizabeth Shipley, 20, his sister Sharon Jeffries of Red Oak, North Carolina, and his brother Brent James and his wife Vickie James of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, as well as many beloved nieces and nephews. He was a devoted parent to two Havanese dogs, Elvis and Coco, and he often referred to them as “the kids.”
Randall was loved by all who knew him, and with his Southern, genuine charm, many have said that he never met a stranger. He was a lifelong fan of NASCAR, especially of Richard Petty, as well as the New York Yankees, and 50s music. His love of watching the moon was well-known, and his family rejoices knowing he is now seeing that orb from a heavenly perspective.
His life will be celebrated with a memorial service on Saturday, September 15 at 11:00 am at First Baptist Church/Orlando located at 3000 S. John Young Parkway, Orlando, Florida 32805 with a reception at the church following the service.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the Randall James Scholarship Fund at The First Academy at 2667 Bruton Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32805.