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Ray Claiborne Osborne

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RAY CLAIBORNE OSBORNE Ray Claiborne Osborne entered eternity on March 3, 2011, at peace in his home in Boca Raton concluding a blessed life surrounded by those he most cherished, his wife of forty-nine (49) years, Mary Thom Osborne, his daughter, Molly Payne Osborne, and his grandson, Nicholas Payne. A key figure in the foundation of Florida's modern political structure, R.C. was born on September 7, 1933 in Winston-Salem, NC, to Maggie Osborne and Rufus Charles Osborne, as the sixth (6th) of seven (7) children in the family. Both parents worked for Chatham Manufacturing Company, which relocated its plant to Elkin, NC, in 1939 causing the family to move to Elkin the same year. Notwithstanding the very modest circumstances in which he was raised which caused him to always be very focused, great joy was experienced in his youth as he was constantly engaged in a number of school and outdoor activities, particularly with his three (3) brothers. At a very early age, R.C. displayed the qualities that would be the hallmark of his life, vision, leadership, and service. In high school he served as both the President of the Senior Class and President of the Student Council. An outstanding athlete, R.C. played on the football, basketball, and baseball teams in high school, captaining the football team his senior year. The selection of captain of the basketball team was lost by one vote because he did not feel it appropriate to vote for himself - a hard-learned early political lesson he never forgot. Chatham Manufacturing Company, the dominant force in the area's economy, annually presented a full scholarship to the outstanding member of the Elkin Senior Class. As the recipient of this prestigious award, R.C. was able to attend North Carolina State University, majoring in Textile Management. During his undergraduate days, he was an active member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, serving as its President, a member of the Interfraternity Council, a member of Phi Psi Textile Fraternity, and was inducted into the Blue Key Men's Leadership Fraternity. Following graduation in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree, having been Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army through the R.O.T.C. Program, R.C. served on active duty from 1955 to 1957 with a tour of duty in Germany. Discharged from active duty as a First Lieutenant in 1957, one year was spent working with his older brother Brady in retail sales. During this time he committed himself to becoming a professional. After much thought and careful consideration, it was determined that the legal profession offered the greatest opportunity to utilize his talents and to be of service to others. An important factor for any young man paying for his own education was that Law School was one year shorter than Medical School, the other alternative. With the determination and focus that was always displayed, R.C. entered Law School at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1958. In the second year, he was selected as the Class President. In order to put himself through Law School, it was always necessary to work three and sometimes four jobs while carrying a full academic load. Housing needs were satisfied by serving as the Resident Assistant in the Law School Dorm and counseling fellow Law Students concerning the problems and issues they were facing. Notwithstanding the heavy burdens he had assumed, some small personal time was set aside which afforded the most serendipitous moment of his young life. During her first week on campus, Mary Thomas White, a recent transferee from Mary Washington College (at that time females were only allowed to attend the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for their junior and senior years) and R.C. met. R.C. and Mary Thom were never apart again. Following his graduation from Law School in 1961 and the securing of an associate position, they married on October 21, 1961. Displaying a prescience that, although always one of his strengths, was astounding in light of the times, R.C. advised Mary Thom that although he was very well established in North Carolina, the future was to the south. They would go to California, Arizona, or Florida. A job offer dictated that the decision would be "Florida". The honeymoon journey to Florida was devoted to establishing their new home in a garage apartment on Coffee Pot Bay in St. Petersburg, FL. The demands on a young associate in a law firm permitted little time outside of the office and family. R.C. limited these efforts to the Young Republican Club of Pinellas County which was the only source of Republican Party activity in virtually a one-party state. Soon R.C. was asked to serve as the President of the Young Republicans. Again showing the ability to peer beyond the horizon and see what others only see later, he indicated to Mary Thom that this event would forever change the course of their lives. Service in this position resulted in R.C. being asked to serve during the session as the General Counsel to the Pinellas County legislative delegation. This experience fueled the desire to be a member of the state legislature and actively participate in legislative affairs. In 1964, R.C. offered himself for public service. In a landslide victory in the first attempt at public office, he was sent to Tallahassee to represent the citizens of Pinellas County. Even though the Republican Party was still very much in the minority, R.C. was an influential legislator, held in high esteem by members in both parties and both houses, and greatly respected for his oratorical and debating skills. In his first term in office, he received the Clerk's Award for the Most Outstanding Freshman Legislator. This was also the most significant year of their lives as their daughter, Molly Payne, was born on September 30, 1965. In 1966 he was re-elected with little opposition and served as Minority Leader Pro Tem during the 1967 Session. In 1968 he concluded his legislative service in order to seek a seat on the Public Service Commission. The Democratic opponent in the general election was Jess Yarborough, the well known statewide former Head Football Coach at Miami Senior High School and member of the legislature. It was as of that date the best showing statewide by a Republican in the 20th century other than the election of Claude R. Kirk, Jr. to the governorship in 1966, yet, it still was not sufficient to overcome the Democratic strength throughout the state. Following this election, it was announced that R.C. had concluded his public service and was to return to St. Petersburg to concentrate on his law practice. The needs of the state caused the retirement to be short lived. During his first two years as Governor, Governor Kirk, having had no legislative experience preceding his election as Governor, generated great tension with both houses of the Florida legislature. In 1968, Floridians adopted a new Constitution which re-established the position of Lieutenant Governor that had been eliminated in the previous 1885 Constitution. In light of the conflicts that had existed, many significant individuals from both parties throughout the state, urged the Governor to select R.C. for this new position as he was universally liked, trusted by all, considered fair and open minded, and would greatly enhance the relationships between the Governor's Office and the legislature. On January 7, 1969, at the age of thirty-five (35), R.C. became the first Lieutenant Governor of the State of Florida in the 20th Century. During his term as Lieutenant Governor, R.C. served as Secretary of Commerce and legislative liaison doing much to repair the previous rupture and provide someone with whom the necessary frank and earnest discussions could take place. He was a key figure in the very delicate negotiation necessary to cause the much needed "Legislative Pay Raise" to be passed after an initial veto by the Governor. Although a period of great social upheaval, the Kirk Osborne administration caused the State of Florida to advance far beyond the choked political system that Florida previously suffered under while controlled by the "Pork Chop Gang", made up of a few rural North Florida legislators who controlled all aspects of State government. First and foremost, Florida became a true functioning two party state. As a result, many contracts and opportunities to do business with and for the State of Florida were opened to all Floridians. A lasting hallmark of the administration was the establishment of the first meaningful environmental regulations and the structure to enforce them. The Florida Clean Air Act and the Florida Clean Water Act that were passed at that time remain largely unchanged today and have served as models for similar legislation in many other jurisdictions. In 1970, R.C. sought the GOP nomination to the U.S. Senate seat which had been held by the retiring Spessard Holland since 1948. Reflecting his cooperative spirit, at the request of the Republican Party, he abandoned these efforts to run on the Republican ticket as Lieutenant Governor. Losing a bid for a second term to two seasoned Democratic politicians, in what was still largely a Democratic state, Ruben O'D'Askew and Tom Adams, R.C. again followed his vision. Eschewing offers from many large law firms in major metropolitan areas of the state, overtures from the Nixon administration for a federal position, and lobbying opportunities in Tallahassee, he agreed to come to Boca Raton, then a very small community comprised primarily of seasonal residents and a small number of local citizens, to represent the Boca Raton National Bank and serve on its Board of Directors. In response to the constant barrage of inquiries relative to his next foray into elective office, R.C.'s constant response was "I will no longer be a candidate for public office, all my efforts will be devoted to my family, my firm, my clients, and my community." For the remainder of his life, never once did R.C. ever succumb to the powerful pull of the exciting challenge of public office. In keeping with this commitment, he served on the Board of Directors of the Boca Raton National Bank, Citizens National Bank, Fidelity National Bank, and following the acquisition of Boca Raton National Bank, on the Board of First Union National Bank of Florida. In a life marked by service, he served on, inter alia, the Board of Trustees/Directors of the South Palm Beach County Bar Association, St. Andrews School, Lynn University, the Boca Raton Community Hospital, as Commodore of the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, and as Treasurer and Vestry member of St. Gregory's Episcopal Church. An accomplished and knowledgeable golfer, R.C. was Club Champion of the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club and a Founding Member of the Adios Golf Club. The game of many fellow golfers was greatly improved by the insights and techniques R.C. so willingly shared with them. His strong management, organizational skills, and concentration permitted his law firm to at one point become the largest in the south Palm Beach County area. R.C joined with Bill Shubin in the 1980's in the development of Via Mizner Financial Plaza, one of the first projects initiated in the downtown area following the formation of the CRA. With the extensive demands placed upon him and his commitment to responsibilities, the limited time he was able to spend with his wife, daughter, and later, his grandson, along with close friends, were his greatest pleasure. Along with a commanding presence and a seriousness of purpose, he possessed a keen wit that was enjoyed by those who shared time with R.C. Above all, he would want to be remembered as a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a reliable friend. He leaves an enduring legacy of visionary leadership and commitment to service that will continue to benefit the community well into the future. He is survived by his wife, Mary Thom Osborne, their daughter, Molly Payne Osborne, their grandson, Nicholas Payne, and his brother, R. Brady Osborne, along with many loving nieces and nephews. His brothers Brandon, and Reece, and sisters Gladys, Grace, and Gerty Mae, and his parents preceded him in death. The Funeral Service will be held at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Boca Raton, Florida, at 11:00 AM on Monday, March 7, 2011. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in his memory to the Osborne White Foundation, P.O. Drawer 40, Boca Raton, FL 33429, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, c/o Dr. Sagar Lonial, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Suite 4004, 1365 Clifton Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30322, or Hospice by the Sea of Boca Raton, FL. To express condolences and/or make donations Visit PalmBeachPost.com/obituaries
Published in The Palm Beach Post from Mar. 5 to Mar. 12, 2011
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