Hundreds gather to remember Nelson Townsend

Jack Tilk, pastor of First Centanary United Methodist Church in Quincy, Fla., spoke to a large congregation Thursday in honor of former Interim Athletic Director Nelson Townsend, who passed away from a sudden heart attack last Thursday. (Jordan Kinsey/The Famuan)

Rev. R.B. Holmes of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church addressed family, friends, faculty, students and community members who filled Florida A&M University’s Lee Hall Auditorium Wednesday to honor former Interim Athletic Director Nelson Townsend.

“We come to thank God for his life and legacy,” he said.

Townsend passed away at the age of 73 from a sudden heart attack last Thursday.

Throughout the service, various members from churches throughout the Tallahassee community recited scriptures from The Bible, expressing how religion played a vital role in Townsend’s life.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum said Townsend was not only dedicated to his career but also dedicated to helping others.

“As athletic director he was truly in his element, and it showed in everything he did, especially as it related to FAMU,” Mangum said. “He was an optimist, an encourager, a team builder and always willing to help when called upon.”

Townsend’s career extended from the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore to the University of Buffalo. He served as the athletic director at FAMU in 1986, and again in 2005 before taking the position for a third time.

Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, said Townsend left a lasting impression on many.

“Nelson had a way about communicating with people. In our profession, there’s an abuse of the Standard English,” he said jokingly as laughter erupted from the crowd.

Townsend is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren. Townsend’s youngest daughter, Eboni, spoke about the loving man affectionately referred to as “Daddy.”

“Daddy had a way of talking to [his kids] that would soothe our soul,” she said. “While many kids admired Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy and Batman, we looked up to this Superman. Our family’s hero was our dad, a true champion for all.”

As she finished her speech, Eboni ended her message with a song.

“I’m at peace,” she sang while fighting tears. “Even though my dad was taken. I’m at peace. Always knew I would be forsaken, but lord you gave my dad to me and he really was my everything.”