Oscar Smith High School Alumni

Chesapeake, Virginia (VA)

Alumni Stories

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Randolph L Copeland

Randolph L Copeland

Class of 1985

Growing up in Chesapeake, Virginia and graduating from Oscar F. Smith High School in 1985, was quite challenging for Randolph L. Copeland. He is affectionately known as (Randy or Walkie) by his high school classmates. Coming from a family background of people who cherished and adored the Arts and Science was very interesting and challenging. Being the nephew to a mathematician and professor at Norfolk State University, and the son to a mathematician in the Chesapeake Public School System had it advantages and disadvantages. One of those advantages was having a first-hand tutor who was always available to teach. Yet, on the other hand the tutors expected superior performance. Fortunately, Randolph excelled academically.
Benjamin and Mary Lou Copeland taught and provided discipline to their children at an early age. Yet, being the oldest child of two other siblings was not easy for him. His dreams and desires found him in a very complex situation while sometimes appearing distant with periods of isolation. His dreams and desires most often led him to appear selfish and mysterious.
Nevertheless, the Copeland children were all taught to be humble, obedient and well-mannered to parents, family, friends and to the community. Most of them were reared at New Mount Olive, African Methodist Episcopal Church, (A.M.E.) in the South Hill area of Chesapeake, VA under the discipline and the beliefs of the Methodist faith. They all grew up knowing the admiration of the Lord while seeking for truth in developing their success as trust-worthy and abiding citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
At age 16, Randy found himself in the Physics Department at Virginia State University with dreams of becoming a Black Scientist. He traveled extensively all around the world to obtain education and knowledge to prove his calling into the field of Science and Engineering. This led him to study at Hampton University, Old Dominion University and Alabama A&M.
While in school he conducted and participated in various scientific researches and traveled extensively to participant in Science Conferences. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity, Inc. pledging in 1995 in Alabama. Upholding the vision of his fraternity was not hard. Wearing the Black and Gold was an honor to him and understanding the significance of the organizations vision which is:
“To stimulate the ambition of its members; to prepare them for the greatest usefulness in the causes of humanity, freedom, and dignity of the individual; to encourage the highest and noblest form of manhood; and to aid down-trodden humanity in its efforts to achieve higher social, economic and intellectual status.”
But later, in life as he crossed lives treadmills, he found himself bouncing around and seeking for direction and focus.
At the age of 22, he begins to play the organ to develop his musical talent ay New Mount Olive A.M.E. Church for the Senior Choir.
“This was an experience for me, I really didn’t know what I was doing, but the church gave me a chance and I am most grateful,” said Copeland.
One year later, in 1992, he was provided an opportunity to serve as minister of music for Brown’s AM.E. Church, Smithfield, VA, under the pastoral leadership of Pastor Queen Esther Snell. There he received prayer and confirmation that he would be an anointed gospel musician. And the journey began. He has played for several denominations since then.
Unfortunately, the most thought-provoking entity that he had to embark upon after becoming a scientist, musician, and educator was having to carry a smile while playing for choir for the funeral services of his cheerleader, tutor and most of all mother’s funeral on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Suffolk, VA. The Eulogy was preached by Rev. Ira K. McMillan, Pastor, New Mount Olive, A.M.E.
His mother never got the chance to see him as a United States Army Captain, yet she instilled in him a sense of value that will live forever so that he could be all that he could be.
“Mother, always prayed and wanted her children to achieve at the highest level. But joining the Army wasn’t something that she would have preferred. So I kept it a secret,” said Copeland.
“Having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as a Captain do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which you have entered; So help you God.”
Captain Copeland never abandoned the faith of his family and of the A.M.E. church. His military dog tags reveal the faith of an A.M.E.
We salute you Captain Randolph Lee Copeland, U.S. Army for your ability to carry out the mission of the military oath in humility, truth, integrity, justice and our prayers and support are with you as well as keeping the faith. So help you God.

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