Taylor recalled as ‘civic-minded gentleman’

Published 2:11 am Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some of Fredrick Melton “Fred” Taylor’s closest friends remember him as a man who went the extra mile to improve the quality of life in his community.

Taylor died Wednesday at the age of 84 and was buried Friday at the Andalusia Memorial Cemetery. He was the District 5 Little League administrator for more than 40 years and served on the city’s recreation board for more than 50 years, including 12 years as chairman.

Jimmy Wilson replaced Taylor as district administrator in 2003 and said he was instrumental in helping start the program in the early 1950s, when he first came to Andalusia as a high school football coach.

“Fred did so much to set up Little League here in Andalusia,” Wilson said. “Back then, it was mainly the churches and civic groups who got behind it — our first coaches were even some of the local pastors. He felt it was important for our young people to have something to do that was fun and safe.”

Andalusia’s Little League program was chartered in 1953 and is still the oldest continually operating Little League program in the state. Taylor moved to Florida in the late 1950s but quickly returned to Andalusia and was first elected district administrator in 1960.

Taylor was also involved in the community as a member of the city recreation board for many of his years in Andalusia. Dwight Mikel, Andalusia director of leisure services, said Taylor played a critical role in helping to diversify the city’s recreational program.

“When Fred started serving back in the late 1950s, the city’s recreation program was basically Babe Ruth, Little League, a summer playground program and the city pools,” Mikel said. “Under Fred’s leadership, it spread out and became a program for boys and girls, as well as adults. We added things like the library activities, the golf course, the Adult Activity Center … Fred was instrumental in the diversification of recreation in our community.”

Taylor worked in the insurance industry, and Mikel said his business background served him well in his civic participation, as well.

“He was a great mentor for me, and he especially taught me about the business side of this job,” Mikel said. “If he was leading a meeting, he would never make it last longer than an hour. He said that if you couldn’t get your business done in an hour, then you weren’t doing a very good job of leading the meeting.”

Taylor’s business acumen also allowed him to rise through the ranks in the Little League baseball organization. In 1989, he was named to the Little League International Board of Directors, and served a three-year term. His death was even reported on the national Web site for Little League Baseball.

“Anybody who’s anybody in Little League baseball knows who Fred Taylor is,” Wilson said. “He was a great leader, and he was willing to help anyone and listen to anyone. He was a true gentleman and a civic minded person.”

Taylor was also a longtime member of First United Methodist Church of Andalusia and the Lions Club. He was an alumnus of Troy University and served on the national alumni board for several years.

“Fred was involved in everything,” Mikel said. “He had a saying — he said that we all have to pay our ‘civic taxes,’ which we could pay by being involved in a civic club, or coaching youth sports, or being involved in a church. He said it didn’t matter how you paid, but everyone in a community needed to pay his or her ‘civic taxes.’

“Fred just happened to overpay.”

Taylor is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Mary Susan and Micky Underwood of Valley, Ala.; his sons and daughters-in-law, Fredrick and Gail Taylor of Crystal River, Fla., and Kendall and Patsy Taylor of Andalusia; four grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; one great-grandchild; one step-great-grandchild; and his sister, Joyce Koon of Columbus, Ga.