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Randall C. Bacon, champion of the modern Kappa Alpha Psi, passes away

posted Nov 18, 2012, 2:45 AM by Ed Sanders   [ updated Nov 20, 2012, 5:41 AM ]
Randall C. Bacon, a public administrator who utilized his career experience to modernize the Fraternity, passed away on Monday, September 12th. Though gone, he will not be forgotten; Brother Bacon set the standard for how Kappa men should lead their lives.

Trained for Leadership
Initiated in 1958 at the Upsilon of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Bacon quickly established himself as a leader. He served as Keeper of Records of his chapter as a neophyte before being elected as the chapter's Polemarch in 1959. The same year, brothers elected him Western Province Vice Polemarch, where he served for two years (at the time, the Province did not have a Senior Province Vice Polemarch position).

At the 49th Grand Chapter meeting, Bacon was elected Grand Strategus--the second highest national undergraduate position at the time. It was the same year that another Upsilon initiate, future Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, was elected Senior Grand Vice Polemarch. Bacon established a close mentor/mentee relationship with Bradley, who would later become the fraternity's 18th Grand Polemarch.

Pioneer in Public Administration
While working full-time as a clerk for Los Angeles County, Bacon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from California State University, Los Angeles. He took advantage of the county's numerous promotional opportunities, serving as Chief Deputy Director of L.A. County's Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as Assistant Division Chief of the Chief Administrative Office.

After five years at the division chief level of the nation's largest county, in 1979 Bacon took an opportunity in San Diego County, where he served in several capacities, including Director of Social Services. Directing a newly-reorganized department of 2,300 employees with a budget of 375 million dollars, Bacon developed an innovative, war-on-poverty program that focused on employment and ending the cycle of welfare dependency. His work became widely recognized; in 1987, the program he developed became the reformation model for both the State of California and the United States' welfare programs. Bacon also tackled issues of inefficiency. He developed automation plans using new technologies to realize significant savings while simultaneously delivering higher quality service. Once again, his innovations were recognized; the State of California modeled its automated eligibility program after the one he established in San Diego County.

In 1987, Bacon was appointed to manage the Chief Administration Office's 12,000 employees and two billion dollar budget. A year later, he took an opportunity to return to Los Angeles, where he was the highest-ranked candidate in a nation-wide search to replace the head of the city's Department of General Services. As he did in his previous positions, he implemented policies to lower costs, increase efficiencies, facilitate transparency, and foster workplace equity. Brother Bacon served in this capacity for more than a decade before retiring.

Under Bacon's leadership, his San Diego County department staff members earned more National Association of Counties (NACO) awards than any other department in the United States. In 1986, the United States Social Security Administration presented the State of California its highest honor in recognition of Bacon's department's "contributions in demonstrating the effectiveness of work programs".

Bacon's achievements in public administration earned him numerous accolades. In 1987, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the National Academy of Public Administration jointly presented Bacon with their National Public Service Award for outstanding career achievement. In 1992, the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) presented him with its highest honor, the "Mark of Excellence" award for outstanding public service. Bacon subsequently served as NFBPA President for two terms.

National Fraternity Leadership
In 1970, Grand Polemarch Ernest Davenport appointed Bacon to become Western Province Polemarch, making him the youngest Province Polemarch in the Fraternity's modern history. After three years, Bacon was elected Senior Grand Vice Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi, again becoming the youngest brother to hold his position since the Fraternity's early years. Bacon served in that capacity for six years before looking to apply his wealth of knowledge and skills to higher office.

The Grand Polemarch Years: Improving Fraternity Operations
Influenced by his public administration experience, and mentored by Bradley, Bacon was destined to become a Grand Polemarch. When that opportunity came in 1985 at the 66th Grand Chapter Meeting, Bacon wasted no time in implementing a vision for a more efficient Kappa Alpha Psi.

He oversaw an increase to National Headquarters staff to provide better member services, hiring former Junior Grand Vice Polemarch Gary Gold (North Central Province) and future Executive Director W. Ted Smith (Northeastern Province) for their experience in accounting and public administration, respectively.

In 1986, Bacon appointed Dr. Oscar L. Mims (Eastern Province) as the fraternity's Executive Secretary. Bacon recognized Mims' administrative experience with major federal agencies--the U.S. Department of Health, Education & Welfare, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)--as invaluable assets for the modern Kappa Alpha Psi.

Bacon successfully convinced the Grand Board to move the Kappa Foundation from its original location--New Haven, Connecticut--to the fraternity's offices in Philadelphia. He also convinced the fraternity's Executive Committee to adopt his plan to replace the fraternity's information technology system, which had not been upgraded since the mid-1970s.

Other notable achievements under his leadership included: adoption of minimum standards for chapters, development of the Protocol Manual, implementation of a Chapter Advisors' training program, and a complete update of the Constitution & Statutes.

The International Headquarters building
A Modern International Headquarters
Due to his national leadership roles, Bacon was intimately aware that the fraternity's temporary national headquarters building in Philadelphia--originally a residential home--was not suitable for use as an office building.  Just six years after the structure was purchased, the city hosted the 49th Grand Chapter meeting, where Bacon was first elected to national office. He had many more occasions to visit the building between 1973 and 1979 while he served as Senior Grand Vice Polemarch.

Aware of previous, underfunded attempts to update the site, Bacon made it a personal objective to move the project forward. In his 1986 State of the Fraternity report, Grand Polemarch Bacon called the establishment of a new headquarters facility "a must". He developed a plan that directed the construction of an "International Headquarters" facility, and authorized the fraternity to levy a housing assessment fee to finance the project. The plan was adopted at the 68th Grand Chapter meeting. While the assessment was controversial, it proved to be the tool necessary to finance the building.

When Grand Polemarch Ulysses McBride succeeded Bacon as Grand Polemarch in 1988, McBride immediately appointed Bacon to a committee to oversee the construction of the new International Headquarters. The following year, Bacon participated in the ground-breaking ceremony for the new facility, and just two years later, the building was open for business. At the dedication ceremony, Bacon was visibly moved by the realization of his dream.

Kappa Foundation & Laurel Wreath
In 1991, Brother Bacon was elected to the Kappa Foundation's board of directors; he was elected President the following year. As always, he set and achieved some progressive goals, including the establishment of the Million Dollar Club endowment fund.

In 2001, Kappa Alpha Psi awarded Bacon its highest honor, the Laurel Wreath, for his outstanding achievements in public service and extra-meritorious contributions to the Fraternity.

Vision for the Future
While Bacon succeeded in many of his innovative goals for Kappa Alpha Psi, some of Brother Bacon's ideas for the fraternity's future remain to be seen. As he prepared to exit the office of Grand Polemarch, he championed two key improvements to the fraternity's organizational structure: first, greater access to national office; and second, election of Province Polemarchs. In his words:

"As the New Year approaches, it is also time we started to think about what we can do to strengthen our fraternity. I would like you to consider seriously two areas - expanding the size of our Grand Board of Directors and electing our Province Polemarchs. I am convinced that if we made these two fundamental changes, we would have a stronger organization.

First, a Grand Board of Directors of 10 men is much too small to represent our nationwide organization. It is much smaller than any organization similar to ours. We have talked a lot about equitable representation, regional representation and the need for less politicking in the fraternity. Well, it's going to take an expansion of our Grand Board to even come close to accomplishing these goals.

A Grand Board two or three times the size of ours would not be inconsistent with those other organizations of our size. We should not let arguments of size and costs deter us. If other organizations can do it, why can't we?

The second matter of electing our Province Polemarchs is something we should attend to as soon as possible at our next Grand Chapter meeting. As Grand Polemarch, I have had the occasion to both appoint and remove Province Polemarchs; it has convinced me that the function can be better administered at the Province level. The Province Polemarch is the only administrative position in the fraternity that is not elected, yet, it represents a whole region of brothers who elect all their other officials.

There are already provisions in our constitution and statues to prevent against a Province Polemarch who might not cooperate with the administration or properly carry out his administrative duties. Therefore, we would not be taking a great risk in electing our Province Polemarchs. The greatest advantage is that the brothers of each Province would have the opportunity of electing the Province Polemarch of their choosing. This is certainly consistent with a democratic and representative process."

Randall C. Bacon's life, the merging of public administration principles with fraternal ideals, shines as an example of all that can be achieved with vision, perseverance, and selfless work on behalf of one's constituents. For that, Kappa Alpha Psi was fortunate to call him "Brother".

  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. Centennial Historical Reference Book. (2011). Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
  • A History of the Washington (DC) Alumni Chapter: 1975-1999. (n/a). The Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
  • A History of the Washington (DC) Alumni Chapter: 1950-1974. (n/a). The Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
  • Laural Wreath Petition: Randall C. Bacon. (1999). Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
  • The Journal. (December 1987). Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.