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Rayford S. Kissiah


1923 - 2010 Obituary Condolences
Rayford S. Kissiah
Rayford S. Kissiah, a former special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, professor at New Mexico State University and city of Alamogordo commissioner, passed away peacefully Monday, July 19, 2010, at his home in Alamogordo surrounded by many of his friends. He was 87 years of age.
Ray was born Jan. 4, 1923, in Charlotte, N.C. During his school years he was both a lifeguard and a boxer, and he was the Golden Gloves boxing champion for the state of North Carolina. After graduating from Central High School in Charlotte, Ray served his country by graduating from the U.S. Naval Pilot Training Program. He also became a staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps from 1943-1945 and received an honorable discharge. After his military service, he obtained a law degree from the Atlanta Law School.
Ray had a long and distinguished career in the FBI, including acting as a special liaison between the FBI and the office of the then president of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower. He received special training in the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., in the FBI Criminal Photography School and the Command School of Advanced Criminology. He used the experience he gained with the FBI to instruct FBI agents in police and crime scene photography. He also trained numerous police and sheriff's departments, as well as the New Mexico State Police Department, in photography.
After he retired from the FBI in 1976, Ray became an assistant professor at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo and he taught in the areas of photography and the criminal justice system. His classes at the university were very popular and he was much beloved by his students. He ultimately achieved a meritorious service award from NMSU for 15 years of service.
Ray lived in Alamogordo for over 50 years with his wife, Billie Agnes. He was married to his wife for over 60 years and she predeceased him three years ago. Ray was very active within the community. He was a president and a member of the board of directors of the Alamogordo Rotary Club, and a Paul Harris Fellow for Rotary International. He was a founder and former president of the Alamogordo Music Theatre, president of the Otero County Community Concert Association and a member of the city commission of the city of Alamogordo. He also was a municipal judge for the city of Alamogordo. He was an avid tennis player and could frequently be found on the weekends playing tennis with the Alamogordo Tennis Association. He very much enjoyed playing tennis against sister tennis clubs in Mexico.
He received many professional awards throughout his career, including the General Joseph J. Cappucci Department of the Air Force Special Investigations Award, and numerous FBI, New Mexico State Police and sheriffs' office commendations.
His professional affiliations included the New Mexico Sheriff's and Police Association, the 12th Judicial District Law Enforcement Association, the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (appointed by then Gov. Bruce King) and the Association of Retired Special Agents of the FBI.
All of us who knew Ray were well acquainted with his talents in photography. Ray was a professionally trained photographer through his experience with the FBI as well as by such schools as the Winona School of Professional Photography in Winona Lake, Ind., and the Asilomar Master Classes in Pacific Grove, Calif. He was a member of the Professional Photographers Association of the United States. He specialized in photographing glamorous women but he also liked to shoot travel scenes on his many international trips.
He received over 50 photography prizes in the Otero County and the New Mexico State Fairs, and numerous photographic awards by the FBI. He was particularly happy to have had his photographs of Wendell Chino, a Mescalero Apache tribal chairman, included within a book titled ""The Mescalero Apache People"" and of Lacy Simms in a book titled ""Lacy at Ninety"" written by his longstanding friend David Townsend.
At the end of his life he turned to painting and made many compelling paintings of religious scenes, landscapes from his photography and Native Americans.
In addition to his love of photography, Ray loved music and was well known for his powerful and expressive singing. He was one of the founders of the Alamogordo Music Theatre and played such roles as Emile de Becque in ""South Pacific,"" Frank Butler in ""Annie Get Your Gun,"" Billy Bigelow in ""Carousel"" and Curly McLain in ""Oklahoma."" He was given a lifetime achievement award for his service to AMT from 1958-2008.
He also frequently sang in the choir and as solo at Grace Methodist Church and served the church in several capacities over many years. His inspirational and heartfelt singing of ""The Lord's Prayer"" will always be remembered.
He is survived by his son Gary Kissiah; daughter-in-law Pamela Dilworth Kissiah; daughter Lacinda Kissiah; grandchildren Clark and Annie Kissiah; and nephew Herman Kissiah.
A memorial service will be conducted 10 a.m. Friday, July 23, 2010, at Grace United Methodist Church with the Rev. Mary Taken officiating.
The family will be happy to receive friends Friday, July 23, 2010, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in their home at 3113 Stonecliff.
The Kissiah family has entrusted the care of their loved one to Hamilton-O'Dell Funeral Home to direct the arrangements.
To sign the online register book, please visit www.hamiltonodell.com.
Published in Alamogordo Daily News on July 21, 2010
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