Col. Richard Singleton’s dedication to his country is evident from his 30 years of honorable service in the United States Army, but he realizes it’s not all about his service alone.
For him, it’s about being an example for others.
“It was always a pleasure working with soldiers. One thing that was drummed into our heads as officers is that you always put the welfare of your soldiers and their families first,” Singleton said. “You always look out for them and treat them as if they were your children.”
“When you get that esprit de corps going and they know they can depend on me as a leader, then they know I’m going to take care of them, and they’re going to take good care of me.”
Singleton has traveled over the world, including Germany, Korea and Vietnam, and has gained respect among his military comrades and community as an outstanding military police leader. It is his fulfillment of his duty to country and his commitment to honoring it that has earned Singleton recognition as the exemplification of patriotism as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
“I was pleasantly surprised, but words that come to my mind when I think about patriotism are duty, honor and service to your country. It’s going above and beyond the call of duty to do the best job you can and being a leader to get others to follow your example,” Singleton said. “It’s about insisting that they meet the high standards that are set, especially for soldiers.”
The Sumter native graduated from South Carolina State College in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in education and as a Distinguished Military Graduate in the ROTC program.
“South Carolina State has a great history of developing officers, especially black officers, to serve. I went into the Military Police Corps, my military speciality. Personnel was my secondary speciality. I went in with the idea of staying for two years and ended up finding a home and stayed 30,” Singleton said. “It seems like only yesterday that I went in there as a second lieutenant.”
Singleton retired from the U.S. Army as a full colonel in 1988, serving as an executive assistant in the Army Inspector General’s Office at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
It was there that he coordinated the efforts of 22 military and civilian personnel in responding to an average of 5,000 individual inquiries annually. He developed a computerized action plan for processing inquiries, reducing response time by 14 days.
“Upon my retirement, I had the pleasure to work for Gen. Hank Doctor, a graduate of South Carolina State. That was probably one of my best assignments,” Singleton said.
Today, he spends his time mentoring a 10-year-old fifth grader at Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg.
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He is no stranger to being a role model for youth, having served from 1993 to 1994 as executive director of the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Maryland.
“We had some tough kids, but you have to work with them. We had about 250 kids but I got to know all of them. My doors was always open for any problem they had. The volatility of that place went down to nothing because they knew somebody cared,” Singleton said.
He said patriotism is a trait he will work to instill in his mentee at Mellichamp Elementary School.
“It’s about just loving and appreciating your country. I’ve been all over the world in my 30 years of military service, and there’s no country as great as this country. There’s just no match,” Singleton said.
“That’s why you have so many people wanting to come here all the time. Hopefully, we’ll solve the immigration problem because this is the ... land of opportunity and the free and the brave,” he said, adding that patriotism is just one of many character traits he learned from his loving mother, Nancy. Singleton is the youngest of five siblings.
“My mother was a fine woman. She was something. She didn’t play, but she was a good mom. Character started in the home. I was the baby boy, so I would watch my older siblings and see how they were doing. Then ... we had to attend Sunday School and go to church. You just learn,” he said.
“And then, of course, you have school, where we had mentors. Half of our staff and faculty at my high school were men, and we were able to look up to them for leadership and guidance. When they saw we were getting out of line, they put us back in line. We knew they loved and really cared for us.”
Singleton also learned character in the world of sports.
“I played sports in high school and college, where you had guys teaching, coaching and training. You learn from them,” he said.
He said he is pleased with the Community of Character’s continued efforts to promote character within the entire community.
“Character is the core of your makeup. If you have good character, you can go anywhere because people will see that you are a solid citizen,” he said. “The initiative is a good thing. People read about ... loyalty, dedication and patriotism, and I think it makes for a better community.”
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