First-hand knowledge of how our Federal Prison Retirees (FPRA) came into being is growing a bit difficult to come by, so let’s reflect a bit upon that rather singular event. It is an interesting history.
Following my retirement in 1956, and during a visit to the Bureau, James V. Bennett, then Director, spoke enthusiastically of his plan for an organization of the Federal Bureau Prison Retirees. There followed in 1963, his asking three men, one a Warden, another a superintendent of Industries, and the other a Bureau Associate Director, all retired or soon to be, to establish such an organization. He envisioned it as basically social in nature, providing enjoyable, warm, social inter-relationships, and service to others. As work of the Organizational Committees progressed, developing guidelines and bylaws, Mr. Bennett persuaded three more persons to serve as a Nominating Committee of the Organizational Committee. Of the first four elected officers, only Alice Wilshire, then a Tallahassee staff member and serving as Secretary, survives.
The Committee members found discouraging reluctance among those viewed as potential nominees. Discussions and correspondence revealed differences over the level of formality within the organization, some feeling incompatible with Mr. Bennett’s objectives. With all due respect to the Organizational and Nominating Committees’ months of work, the conscientious efforts of those finally elected, and the widespread interest in such an organization, the effort "died on the vine" six months into its second year.
Five chapters had been established in the interim, three chapters surviving, and in current order of longevity, they are: Tallahassee, Florida Suncoast, and Atlanta. Two of the original five chapters folded but gained new life and names with the rebirth of the central organization on January 12, 1973. Through the efforts of the Tallahassee Chapter, Tallahassee President Grimsley appointed member Marshal Fausold as President Pro-tem of the National Association. Another motivator, member Jack Carroll, was elected President of the reborn National Association during the business meeting.
The Tallahassee Chapter moved forward with organizing and hosting the first meeting of our National Association on December 7, 1974, President Carroll presiding, with 55 attending. The second meeting, on April 9 and 10, 1975, followed, hosted by the Suncoast Chapter, President Carroll presiding, with 116 attending. As the President of the Florida Suncoast Chapter, I was privileged to have a hand in planning and expanding it to a two-day event. Then retired Director Bennett, obviously pleased that his dream had finally come true, was among those in attendance, some from as far west as Puget Sound, Washington, and as far north as Danbury, Connecticut. Thus was born the very heartbeat and soul of our existence - informal, warm, caring, inter-relationships - seeking to be of service and help to others, involving individuals of all administrative levels of all the various functions of institutional life.
Those meaningful relationships, developed and nurtured prior to retirement, grew the more meaningful in the aura of our FPRA. It is an atmosphere a bit difficult to describe. I have come to refer to it, though falling far short of the mark, as, "oneness in purpose and congeniality of spirit," where first names for the most part - AND NO LESS RESPECTFUL! - have come to prevail.
By: Wilby F. Anderson, Chaplain, April 1995