Remembering Roger Landrum (Nigeria)

 

National Peace Corps Association and the Peace Corps community mourn the passing of Roger Landrum (Nigeria 1961-63), who died early on Saturday, December 9, at his Washington, D.C. home following a brief illness.

Roger Landrum

Roger was a central figure in the creation of what is now the National Peace Corps Association.  In his career in Washington, D.C. Landrum also became a leader in the national service movement, becoming the founding president of Youth Service America and the later Youth Service International.

For several decades Roger worked closely with the Ford, Kellogg, and Mott foundations, and other philanthropies that supported non-government movement to offer voluntary community service in programs modeled after the Peace Corps. He worked closely with other champions of national service, including Senator Harris Wofford and Father Theodore Hesburgh.

Roger was dedicated to the notion that all young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. He helped lead efforts resulting in the passage of the National and Community Service Acts of 1990 and 1993. For this work, Roger was recognized by his alma mater – Albion College – with an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service. Before his death, he endowed a fellowship program for students at the college.

Roger served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria from 1961 to 1963 and became the subject of a popular documentary, “Give Me a Riddle,” that was filmed by a close friend and fellow Nigeria volunteer, David Schickele.

Seven years after the formation in Iowa of the National Peace Corps Association (originally known as the National Council of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) Roger, as president of the RPCVs of Washington, D.C., played a lead role in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Peace Corps. The 1986 gathering drew more than 5,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to the nation’s capital. As Roger wrote in a blog post published on the Peace Corps Worldwide website, “The most enduring impact of the 25th anniversary conference was engaging the growing number of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers as an organized force supporting the three goals of the Peace Corps.”

As NPCA affiliate groups continue to serve as a major force in our community, a quantum leap in development occurred in the immediate aftermath of the anniversary conference, where the number of affiliated groups of RPCVs surged from a handful to over 100.

“Roger was a pivotal figure in the history of NPCA” says NCPA President & CEO Glenn Blumhorst. “He personified a lifelong commitment to Peace Corps ideals, and his legacy of leadership through service will long be remembered by the Peace Corps community.”

Along with a longstanding commitment to service above self, Roger also excelled in the field of photography. During his Peace Corps service, he grew increasingly interested in photography, resulting in work and recognition in fine art photography. In 2008, Roger received the Prix de la Photographie Paris. He was a first-place winner in the 2008 International Photography Awards (IPA) and received further recognition for his work by the IPA in 2009.

4 Comments

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  • I think Roger Landrum, throughout his long life, optimized all that the founders of the Peace Corps had hoped of us returned volunteers. Today, in my own area, in New Mexico, we are debating whether engagement in difficult and controversial public policies is appropriate for a RPCV assoc, or whether we should confine our energies to pot-lucks, social events, and non-controversial stuff , avoiding anything where the two major political parties are at odds. As one of those earliest volunteers, I wish the late Hubert Humphrey were here to weigh in on our soul-searching. Rest in Peace, Roger. You did well, and we only wish we had learned more of your work during your lifetime. John Turnbull NMPCA, Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment, -63, -64, -65.

  • “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

    John, I believe that Hubert Humphrey would encourage and support more than potlucks and reunions, especially these days. I heard him speak in West Berlin in 1967 and his words helped lead me to the Peace Corps. For me, now is the time to tackle the controversial issues, and who better than RPCVs to stand up for Humphrey’s priniciples.

    – Don Drach, RPCV/Liberia ’71-’73

  • I taught at the University of Nsukka and knew Roger Landrum and the other PCVs teaching there.’ I married another PCV and have lived in California since 1963. Roger and two other PCVs, Howard Swann and Dave Schickele were inseparable. Howard and Dave lived in the Bay Area.
    I was at the 25th and remember vividly Roger standing on the stage under the big tent, telling how the celebration evolved. Then Director Loret Miller Ruppe was astonished at the response!
    Roger was deeply committed to the Peace Corps. He thought constantly of how to expand and develop programs.
    I feel saddened at his passing. The Peace Corps and all of us have lost a friend.

  • Little did Roger know what he was getting into when I invited him to be a featured speaker at the second annual meeting (’80) of the ACTION Alumni Assn. of the Greater Washington Area (AAAGWA, now RPCV/W). We had invited him to show one of PC’s first films, “Tell Me a Riddle,” that starred Roger returning to his Nigerian post 5 years later. As an X-PC Doctor who was working for USAID had become major news by refusing to promote Nestle’s baby formula as better than mother’s milk, we had to postpone viewing Roger’s film, in order to hear and support the good doctor. When Roger was invited again the next year (’81) after NPCA and PC (under PC Director, Loret Ruppe) partnered in coordinating PC’s 20th Anniversary conference, we finally showed the film and were proud to feature Roger as the star!

    Of course, Roger and I became close friends. He was proud of his NGO, Youth Service America, which expanded into Youth Service Intl. by entering Hungary as its first European country. In 1984, he became President of RPCV/W, which agreed to host NPCA’s convening Peace Corps’ 25th Anniversary conference—FOR, OF, and BY RPCVs. We worked long hours to put on one of the best conferences ever! Loret Ruppe had become a good friend and personally worked with us to invite leaders from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The 1,700+ paid registrants for the PC 20th Anniversary conference had grown to some 4,800+ registrants for the 25th Anniversary conference. AND NPCA made enough to pay Bill Carey, as our organization’s first, albeit, part-time employee. NPCA had come into its own!

    Roger’s life was exemplary: PCV in Nigeria I, film star, originating Youth Service America and Youth Service International, and official presiding over PC’s 25th Anniversary Conference. However, I will most remember Roger as a close friend for 37 years. At least he’s moved to Heaven, where he certainly deserves to be!

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