Ned H. “Buzzy” Ragland Jr. was a man of many talents and hobbies. From being a tennis and basketball star to being a deacon in his church, practicing law, serving in the Vietnam War, and so much more — he was a well-rounded, well-respected man in the Beckley community.
Ragland passed away Thursday, after fighting with a long illness. He was 78 years old.
A 1959 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School and a 1963 graduate of West Virginia University, Ragland received his law degree in 1966 and practiced law from then until 1983 with his father in the Ragland and Ragland Law Firm.
From 1966 to 2000, Ragland served as the president of the Raleigh County Bar Association.
A sports superstar in high school and college, Ragland was active in the military as well. After graduating from law school, he served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968, where he reached the rank of captain, serving as an advisor to the Vietnamese army until 1968, and went on to receive the Bronze Star and Vietnamese Service Medal.
He was honorably discharged in 1968.
Ragland was a former member of the Board of Directors and one-term president of what was then called Black Knight Country Club. He also served on the Raleigh County Board of Education for 13 years and was its president for five of those years.
He also served on the Board of Directors for the Salvation Army.
Charlie Pugh, who grew up in the Beckley area, said he was lucky enough to have grown up along Woodlawn Avenue with Ragland's sons, Chuck and Hutter. He told The Register-Herald Ragland was always there and always a form of support.
"Mr. Ragland was always a voice of reason, humor, and kindness," Pugh said. "He treated us like one of his own."
Going down the river, riding four-wheelers at Flat Top Lake, and trying to keep a bunch of waywardly boys in line was something Ragland did often, Pugh said, and more often than not he would shake his head as he looked at the group of boys, which he called "The Fab 5."
"He was probably wondering how we would make it in life," Pugh said, jokingly, "but I do know how proud he was of his boys and all his accomplishments. He truly was a tremendous man who led by example and gave back to his community."
Pugh said he is fortunate to have grown up with the Ragland family and, most especially, to know "Buzzy."
"He is one of those pillars in the community that will be missed," he said.
Ragland was also a member of the Beckley Presbyterian Church for more than 50 years, where he served as a deacon. The church was where he formed many of his close relationships.
Beckley Councilwoman Ann Worley (Ward II), also a member of Beckley Presbyterian Church, called Ragland a "pillar of the church" and said he attended all the way up until the time of his death.
"He really let God lead him in his life and his decisions, whether it was with the school board or anything else in life, he was just one of the most ethical, god-fearing men, and he wanted to do the right thing for the students in the county and the right thing for the parents," Worley said. "He took his roles very seriously. He really cared about the students and their education. He knew getting a good education is what gets you through life."
One thing Worley said she always admired about Ragland was his marriage with his wife, Judith. Judith still attends the church, and they both were strong pillars of it, Worley said.
"You could just tell they had so much respect for each other," she said. "They were such a loving couple, and I've always admired the two of them."
Worley's grandmother and Ragland's father were brother and sister. One thing Worley will always remember about Ragland's family was his father, Ragland Sr., introduced Worley's mother and father to each other, she said.
"So, he was a basically a cousin, and man, did he have a great sense of humor," Worley said.
Ragland would often tell jokes and tease, and you'd often know when he was getting ready to do so. There was always something that gave it away.
"He just would get this twinkle in his eye, and this big grin on his face," Worley recalled. "You always knew when he was going to tell a joke."
Worley's younger brother, Tyke Wilson, was one of Ragland's many teasing victims, Worley said, laughing. The nickname "Lard" came to mind.
Ragland was a talented tennis player; he often played with Wilson and nicknamed him "Lard."
"My brother would be out on the court and you'd just hear Buzzy laugh and say, 'Lard, move it," Worley said, laughing. "He just found a lot of things funny.
"He was an extremely honorable man, and any time there was a distressing moment in your life, you knew you could talk to him. He will be so missed."
— Email: email@example.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH