Looking back at 100 years with Earl Randolph
DAYTON – Sitting down to visit with Earl Randolph recently, this reporter had no idea what a treat it would be to listen to him tell his story on the day he celebrated his 100th birthday.
What a story it was, as Randolph spoke about his experiences in life and a few of his philosophies, but most important was his belief in God and how that relationship was vital to the blessings he had received.
“To be a hundred, all I can say is Lord, I thank you, that’s all I can say. What else can I say? It wasn’t me. It was because of His grace and mercy that allowed me to make 100 years,” he proclaimed.
At a special birthday celebration earlier that day at First Liberty Bank in Dayton, he spoke of the importance of gratitude and how it directly correlated to attitude. His attitude was uplifting, positive, and infectious, to say the least.
Born Dec. 5, 1922, to Anderson and Rosie Randolph and raised in the Hardin area, Randolph has seen quite the journey as he continues to live life to the fullest daily.
He spoke about the world and how it had changed throughout his lifetime, a world he believes is better today than it once was.
“We’re living in a different time now,” he remarked.
During our meeting, I asked what it was like growing up, and he didn’t hold back anything, and we discussed some of the more challenging times for a black man in this country, a country he dearly loves.
“I know what I come up under; I don’t have to guess about it. I witnessed it,” said Randolph.
He went on to discuss some of the more harrowing experiences he had encountered, even dealing with prejudices upon finding out he was drafted into the service.
He was working around Livingston on a pipeline at the time and was due his paycheck, and the clerks at the office scolded him for coming in to collect his earnings with a hat on his head, which was most likely just the surface of something larger.
It was a moment that he could have handled badly, but instead of responding poorly, he decided to take the high road.
“That’s where attitude and gratitude come in,” Randolph said.
Randolph was stuck and had no way home, but he found a way and headed out to serve his country.
“I still was loyal to this country and still am, but here Hitler had already run over all of them little countries, and I was about to join the military, and I had to hitchhike from there in Livingston back home to Hardin,” he said.
The conversation was remarkable and eye-opening because he had seen things most couldn’t imagine today. Unfortunately, there was a time we may not have even sat down together, leaving me grateful to be there with him on his 100th birthday.
Eventually, the visit turned to his time in the military, where he served as a Steward 3c in the United States Coast Guard and Navy during World War II.
Randolph began his service in Curtis Bay, MD, in 1943, where he attended boot camp.
He shared a humorous story about his journey to reach his station on the USS Mintaka. After leaving Curtis Bay for San Francisco, he was set to join his ship, but it had already parted for Australia, so he joined another ship and headed out to join the Mintaka, but upon arrival down under, he learned the ship had set out again for San Francisco, so they set out again to join it back stateside, and you guessed it, the ship had once again left port before his arrival.
Eventually, he joined the crew of the Mintaka, and he saw the war up close and personal.
Randolph is a wealth of knowledge and insight regarding the devastation and reality of the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, where he earned a pair of Bronze Stars.
“The bombings were devastating by air, sea, and the invasion,” he said.
Randolph’s service will be forever remembered as a part of the Veteran’s History Project by the Library of Congress after telling his story in 2019.
When asked what he is most proud of in his life, he was very humble and made clear that his life and everything in it was only by the grace of God.
“I’m not lifted up in pride; I’m just thankful of our Lord and Savior,” said Randolph.
But when pressed to recall something special over the course of his life, he began to glow with happiness and fondness for his late wife Gracie, who sadly passed in 2011.
He gripped the arms of the chair where he was sitting and smiled because it was her chair, and he didn’t come into the formal living room much after her passing.
“She was magnificent as a person. It was glorifying just to be with her,” he said.
The couple married in 1967 and raised their family of nine children in Dayton.
“I can be driving any direction that I go. If it's east, south, west, or north, I think about her,” he said with a smile.
You can still find Randolph heading out in every which direction as he continues to visit family and friends and be a part of the community in Dayton, Hardin, and Liberty.
Visiting with Randolph was indeed a pleasure, and his stories offer a look back at the world and come with wisdom, love, and deep personal meaning.
He wrapped up his birthday this past weekend with a celebration attended by over 200 of his family, friends, and fellow veterans at the Dayton Community Center.
Randolph’s story truly is one of gratitude, and we could all learn something from his attitude.
“It’s more than a pleasure, it’s a privilege, and I thank God,” said Randolph on reaching the century marker.