JACKSONVILLE – The Florida A&M University (FAMU) community is mourning the loss of retired Lt. Col. Robert Eugene Porter, a FAMU National Alumni Association (NAA) Distinguished Alumni Awardee, decorated combat veteran and educator.
Porter died in Jacksonville on Aug. 27, 2020. He was 88.
In 1981, while serving as the president of the FAMU – State of Florida Alumni Organization, he established the NAA structure that included scheduled formal meetings, formed plans for organizational actions and activities.
Around 1984, recognizing that a number of states outside Florida had gained a large number of FAMU graduates, Porter was appointed by NAA 11th President Joseph Webster, Sr. to chair the reorganization of the Association to be divided into regions. He served as NAA vice president from 1986 to 1988. From 1989 to 1995, Porter served as then NAA Southeastern Region vice president. From 1998 to 2003, he served as the NAA first vice president under the NAA presidents Dr. Bernard W, Kinsey and Dr. Carolyn Hepburn Collins.
In 2001, the Southeastern Region officially was divided into two regions where the State of Florida became its own region and the remainder of the states of the original Southeastern Region became the Southern Region. Porter was very instrumental in that effort.
Porter was a FAMU NAA 1997 Distinguished Alumni Awardee (Military) and was among the alumni honored during the University’s Quasquicentennial Celebration in 2012. He was one of the 125 Outstanding FAMUANs honored for their outstanding achievements, financial support and service to the NAA.
Carmen Cummings, assistant vice president University Engagement/Alumni Affairs, said Porter combined a disciplined, distinguished bearing with a warmth and generosity that was greatly appreciated by everyone who met him.
“He was the kind of alumnus who planted seeds to his alma mater. He was also very nurturing and encouraging to students and young alumni,” Cumming said
“He truly believed in giving back. I am grateful to have benefitted from his well of wisdom. I learned so much from him in his work with the alumni association.”
Under the leadership of 17th NAA President Tommy Mitchell, Porter served as the NAA Sergeant-At-Arms from 2010-2015. He also served under current NAA President Col. Gregory Clark in the same capacity until his declining health curtailed his service. During NAA annual conventions, Porter was a dignified presence as he watched over the general proceedings.
“The FAMU National Alumni Association Family mourns the loss of former NAA Executive Board Member retired Lt. Col. Robert Porter,” Clark said. “He was a stabilizing force within the National Alumni Association for many. His leadership was exemplary and cannot be duplicated. He will truly be missed.”
While at FAMU, the Chicago native was a leading member of the Marching ‘100,’ a member of the Upsilon Psi chapter, of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., which he joined in 1951, and the University’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AROTC).
After graduation, Porter entered the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant, serving from 1954-1975. During his military career, Porter was a commanding officer in the renowned 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. In addition, he saw combat during the war in Vietnam for which he was awarded two Bronze Stars for his valor in service.
Following active duty, Porter began work for the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) where he trained generations of future soldiers. His stellar leadership qualities were on display as the senior army instructor at the historically Black William M. Raines High School from 1975 to 1998.
In 2015, William M. Raines High School named the JROTC building, the Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Porter JROTC Hall in his honor.
As a member of the Omega Psi Phil Fraternity, Inc., Porter served as the 10th State Representative of the Florida Statewide Organization and later became International “Omega Man of the Year.” In addition, Porter was the State of Florida’s Talent Hunt Chairman for over a decade.
He is survived by his wife, Josephine Fiveash Porter, a daughter, and three grandchildren.
Visitation will be held Thursday, September 3 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the T.S. Warden-Samuel C. Rogers Jr. Memorial Chapel, 4314 N. Main St., Jacksonville, Fla., 32206.
The interment is scheduled for Monday, September 7 at 9:30 a.m. at the Jacksonville National Cemetery, 4083 Lannie Road, Jacksonville, Fla., 32218.