In Honor and Loving Memory of the Life of
Raymond Brandon
ASBOA President and Executive Secretary, Emeritus

In His Own Words… 

 “Some of the most appreciative students I ever had were not necessarily the best musicians by any means.  The important thing is that they loved music, and many times, they are the people who needed it the most.  It seemed to add so much pride and feeling of importance to their school life.  I could give many examples of what music has done for students who have gone through the band.  There was a closeness in those groups, like family.  It was “heart” that bound them together for the sheer love of music for what music is all about.  To me, there is no emotional feeling that can come close to matching that of a great performance of music by a band, orchestra, or choir that has performed better than it is possible to do.  You can feel the emotion spreading throughout the entire ensemble like a fire that consumes.  No one has to say anything, but there may be tears flowing.  You can understand why I would not change anything in my life if it were to be lived over again, other than I would try to be more loving…”

John Raymond Brandon, 98, of North Little Rock, Arkansas died peacefully at home on Monday, December 5th, 2005 surrounded by his children. Born on January 3rd, 1907 at Thornton, Arkansas, and on the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia., he was the son of the late William H. and Mae Chaffin Brandon.  His great-great-great grandfather - Francis Brandon - of Halifax County, Virginia, fought with the Virginia Militia in the American Army of Nathanael Greene against British forces under General Cornwallis at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse March 15th, 1781.  In October of that same year, he served with the American Army in the conclusive battle at Yorktown, Virginia, and then escorted the British prisoners who were surrendered there by Lord Cornwallis to their repatriation ports in Maryland.

Mr. Brandon is predeceased by his beloved wife Ruth Bridwell Brandon of Heber Springs, Arkansas. His surviving relatives include a son John R. Brandon, Captain, U.S. Navy Ret’d and his wife Christina of Norfolk, Virginia, a daughter Suzanne Brandon of North Little Rock, Arkansas, a daughter Lisa Brandon Doss and her husband Don of Jacksonville, Arkansas, a grandson Chaffin Bridwell Brandon of Norfolk, Virginia, a grand-daughter Elizabeth Smith Gaddy and her husband Marvill Gaddy of Norfolk, Virginia, a granddaughter Margarete Nathan Brandon of Virginia Beach, Virginia, great granddaughters Rebecca Gaddy of Norfolk, Virginia and Brittany Stubbs of Virginia Beach, Virginia and, last but not least, a red-headed great grandson namesake - Ethan Raymond Brandon of Norfolk, Virginia.

Mr. Brandon’s life lasted almost 100 years - spanning most of the twentieth century. His life encompassed two world wars, an influenza pandemic, a global economic depression, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Cold War, the demise of the Warsaw Pact, and the fall of the Berlin Wall …. not to mention a multitude of amazing cultural and technological developments. He grew up with a horse-drawn buggy in the front yard and stepped into the next world with internet and e-mail communications proclaiming his departure and describing his accomplishments.

Mr. Brandon has remembered in writing, with fondness, his life as a young boy at the family farm near Chambersville, Arkansas. In particular, he remembered his beautiful mother Mae Chaffin who died an untimely death in the 1918-20 influenza pandemic.  He also recalled his resourceful and energetic father William H. Brandon who personally designed and constructed the family home and worked a magically comprehensive and self-sufficient farm. Mr. Brandon recalled in detail the virtues and sometime hazards of going barefoot through the fields and forests, interacting directly with animals and flora of the area, and a friendly, yet sometimes combative relationship with his four brothers Frank, Zachary, Fred and William. Strategic alliances with his much younger sister Vera made for an interesting life as a boy.

Mr. Brandon’s father and his high school teachers, though located in a rural area, were musically inclined, enthusiastic and variously qualified. Mr. Brandon demonstrated early individual musical and organizational talent and appeared to impress those local luminaries whose influence was important.

His interest in music began as a child and was sparked by his father who sang at church and had a deep respect for music. He worked after school delivering telegrams for Western Union and earned $15.95 to buy a cornet from Sears and Roebuck. This instrument functioned well for several years but was soon replaced by a gold plated cornet given to him by his father.

Mr. Brandon received his early instrumental training through the local boy’s band under the direction of Mr. Roy Martin. His interest in music was evident and he soon realized that he would pursue music as a career.

Upon graduating from Fordyce High School, he attended Hendrix College. After a few years at Hendrix he went to work as the band director at Heber Springs. It was in Heber Springs that the single most important event of Mr. Brandon’s life took place, he met Ruth, and they were married.

After a short tenure at Heber Springs, Mr. Brandon became band director at Arkansas High School in Texarkana.  He held this position for 15 years and furthered his education during the summers.  He attended classes at Vandercook School of Music, Lewis and Clark College, and Western State College where in 1949 he received a master’s degree.  It was also in 1949 that he and his young family moved to North Little Rock where he remained director of bands until his retirement in 1971. 

 Mr. Brandon became an early dedicated music education professional, and in due course, decided that a state-wide organization of music professionals would benefit all concerned. He was instrumental in combining the existing fragmented professional organizations into a unified organization - the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association. At the time of his retirement, he was asked to become the Executive Secretary of the same organization.  He served in this capacity along with his wife Ruth until 1999.   At this time, he was named President and Executive Secretary Emeritus by the organization he served so faithfully.

Throughout Mr. Brandon’s career he was active in numerous band and music associations. He was a charter member of the Arkansas Bandmasters Association and also a charter member of the Omicron Chapter of Phi Beta Mu. He was elected president of the American School Band Directors Association in 1970. In 1976, Brandon was presented the "Mac" award by First Chair of America for outstanding contributions to bands and band music. In 1977 he was named Arkansas’ Bandmaster of the Year. At the 1977 "Golden Anniversary" convention of the American School Band Director’s Association, Mr. Brandon was presented the Goldman Award, the highest award that ASBDA can bestow to an individual. Mr. Brandon became a member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association in 1986 and in 1992 Phi Beta Mu, International Bandmasters Fraternity, recognized Raymond Brandon’s contributions by naming him to the Outstanding Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

A memorial service will be held on December 9th at 2:00 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church of North Little Rock.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be made to the Ray and Ruth Brandon Scholarship Fund which is awarded to an individual entering the field of music education in Arkansas.  Gifts may be sent to the Raymond and Ruth Brandon Scholarship Fund c/o ASBOA P.O. Box 6227 Russellville, Arkansas 72801.

Raymond Brandon is survived by a multitude of friends, students and colleagues who celebrate his life and mourn his passing. For them and for his family, he truly was the leader of the band.

December 5, 2005

It is with deep sadness that I tell you that J. Raymond Brandon (ASBOA President and Executive Secretary, Emeritus) passed away this evening.  Raymond celebrated his 98th birthday last January 3 – thanks to so many of you who participated in sending him birthday wishes.  He was at home after a short stay in the hospital where they had treated him for irregular heart rate and pressure. 

I have been waiting for just the right words to say, but brief words cannot begin to express the gratitude that we as individuals and as an organization have for the life and work of Raymond Brandon.  What a gift, blessing and role model he has been.  

You may send condolences to the family at Lisa’s email address – and/or to the office email – we will have a page on our website to honor him.  I will keep you updated as arrangements are made.

Please keep Raymond’s family, colleagues and friends in your thoughts and prayers.


The Memorial Service for J. Raymond Brandon will be held on Friday, December 9, 2005 at 2:00 pm at the First United Methodist Church of North Little Rock - 6701 John F Kennedy Boulevard -  72116 - 501-835-2201. Immediately following the service, guests are invited to visit with the family in the fellowship hall of the church.

Cards may be sent to the family at 2601 South Hill CT, North Little Rock, AR 72116.

December 6, 2005
From Lisa Brandon Doss
Dear Friends, 

Daddy passed away peacefully on Monday afternoon surrounded by the love of his family.  In his final days, we listened to everything from Gabrielli to Grainger, Mozart to Brahms, and of course, Sousa.  I will always be grateful for the privilege of walking that last mile with him, and though he has given me many gifts through the years, I believe it is this final gift that will prove to be the most precious.  You should also know that though the last month was difficult at best, he never complained.