Funeral services for retired Brig. Gen. Virgil Almos Richard will be at 11 a.m. today at Colonial Chapel of Cook-Walden Funeral Home in Austin with the Rev. Paul Dodd officiating.
Mr. Richard died Sept. 11, 2013. He was born in Anthony, Kan., near the farm in rural Wakita, Okla., on which his family lived and which his great-grandfather homesteaded in the Cherokee Strip Land Rush of Sept. 16, 1893. He was born to the marriage of Virgil E. Richard and Alma Henderson who preceded him in death.
He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Oklahoma State University and Master of Business Administration from George Washington University. He was a graduate of the Advanced Management Program of Columbia University, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. He was also an ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate.
Although an accomplished young pianist, he elected not to pursue a career in music and instead spent 32 years in the Army, 30 of which were in the Finance Corps and rose in position to the rank of brigadier general. He served two tours in Vietnam and retired in 1991, after Operation Desert Storm. His duty brought him and his family to Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Ind., and Fort Hood. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Army Distinguished Service Medal and was especially honored to receive the Legion of Merit given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.
After retiring at Fort Hood, he was appointed a municipal court judge for the city of Harker Heights until 1997. In 1998, he moved to Austin where he and David created their home and enjoyed countless hours entertaining friends, hosting club meetings and just relaxing.
One of Virgil’s strongest traits was his sense of fairness. As a captain, he hired the best qualified candidate for an accountant position, an African-American woman, at Fort Rucker, Ala., in 1965.
The women who worked for him were incensed, but he stood his ground.
He told the ladies if they did not wish to use the same restroom as their new co-worker, they were free to use the one in the next building.
Being a cold February, it only took a few freezing trips to the next building before seeing the wisdom of adapting to change in the workplace.
He since believed that she was the first African-American hired for a professional civilian position at Fort Rucker.
It was fairness that came into play as he joined ranks and became a leader in the effort to end the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. Armed Forces. He served on the honorary board of the service members’ Legal Defense Network, he lobbied Congress to repeal the policy, and later joined the effort to inform and educate the military chaplaincy of the injustice of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Fortunately, he lived to see its repeal.
Mr. Richard was also active in the Exchange Club of Austin, an organization with a focus on child abuse prevention, scholarship and patriotism. The Exchange Club produced the Zilker Kite Festival from its inception, and Mr. Richard played a key role as treasurer and was a board member for several years. He was a supporter of the Capital City Men’s Chorus, served on its board and, for a time, performed with the chorus as well.
He was also a longtime member of the Austin Prime Timers and enjoyed the many friendships he made.
Survivors include his three sons from his marriage to the late Bonnie Raylene Farrar. They are Phillip Richard, his wife, Jennifer, their daughters, Rachel and Rylie of Union, Ohio; Michael Richard, his wife, Frances, and their son, Joe of Indianapolis; and Trace Richard, his wife, Raylea, their children, Angela, Gabe and Olivia of Beaverton, Ore. He is also survived by his sister, Barbara and her husband, Loyd Cink of Wakita, Okla., and their children, Ashley and Bradley. He is also survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews throughout the country. Last but never least, his devoted partner of 16 years, David W. Potter of Austin, also survives him.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to OutServe/SLDN, P.O. Box 65301, Washington, D.C. 20035-5301, and please designate “Donation for programmatic work of the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy”; The Exchange Club of Austin CAF, c/o Ron Mueller, P.O. Box 41856, Austin, TX 78704; or the Capital City Men’s Chorus, P.O. Box 50082, Austin, TX 78763.
Visitation was from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, which is in charge of arrangements. Offer condolences at www.cookwaldenfuneralhome.com.