St. James' longest-serving Headmaster dies

Raymond Furlong
Raymond Furlong

MONTGOMERY, AL - Saint James School's longest serving Headmaster and former Commander of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base Lt. General Raymond B. Furlong died at his home in Montgomery on Monday. He was 83.

"Ray Furlong was central to two institutions that have been significant to Montgomery's growth over the last 35 years, as Commander of the Air University at Maxwell, and as Headmaster of Saint James School.  He oversaw the development of Saint James into the premiere Montgomery educational institution it is today," said current Head of School Melba Richardson. "Dr. Furlong encouraged administrators to take innovative steps that developed new initiatives, and promoted academic excellence at all levels. We'll miss both his presence and his involvement with faculty and students."

Furlong was Headmaster at Saint James for 15 years, from 1983 - 1998.  During that time he initiated and oversaw a building and renovation campaign that resulted in the expansion of the school to its current Vaughn Road location.

"He was most proud of this campus, and seeing it become a reality," Richardson said.  "To get here he had to buy and sell property, raise funds to build the facilities, and overcome some old mindsets that couldn't envision the importance of moving to the bustling East side of Montgomery on Vaughn Road.  Today we can readily see how obviously prescient his vision was."

Furlong was also instrumental in the development of Saint James' strong middle school program, endorsing changes that prompted the school to receive national attention as one of the four most outstanding middle school programs in the country. Furlong was also vital to the school's debate program and the establishment of an arts education curriculum, which were both initiated during his tenure as Headmaster.  The integrated arts curriculum serves as a model for Alabama schools.

Prior to his work at Saint James, Furlong served as Commander of the Air University at Maxwell, where he directed the Air Force professional military education program, the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps program, and graduate level programs for continuing education of Air Force personnel in military and civilian institutions.

Furlong's career in the military began in Oct. 1948, when he began flight training as an aviation cadet.  After receiving his commission as second lieutenant, Furlong was assigned as a jet fighter pilot with the 18th Fighter Group at Clark Air Base, the Philippines. During the Korean War, he was transferred to the 8th Fighter Bomber Group in Japan, as an F-80C pilot, and later squadron adjutant.  In Jan. 1952, Furlong returned to the U.S., serving as a personnel officer and exchange pilot before assignment with the U.S. Navy at Jacksonville, FL, where he received fighter-bomber, all-weather interceptor, reconnaissance, and carrier qualification training.  Afterwards, Furlong served in a variety of high-level administrative positions within the Air Force, ultimately leading to his final appointment as commander at Maxwell in Aug., 1975. He earned numerous decorations and service awards, including the Department of Defense and Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters.  He retired from the Air Force in 1979.

Furlong received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Ursinus College in 1946, a master's degree in business administration from Harvard Business School in 1957, and was a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Dorothy Louis Derr Furlong, as well as a sister, his children, grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

"Losing someone like Ray Furlong will definitely create a void," STJ Headmaster Richardson said. "His military legacy is significant, and so is the indelible mark he left on Montgomery and Saint James School."

Information and Photo Courtesy: Saint James