Press Room

In Remembrance: Past NCA President Orlando L. Taylor (1936-2024)

January 25, 2024
Association News
NCA News

“We must seize the moment to communicate the legacies of past achievements, while simultaneously remaining open to new ideas and new initiatives. We must value and embrace the notion that there are many ways of knowing and seeking truth. We must value communication as a scholarly subject for study, but respect its application and its performance. And through all of our diversity, we must constantly seek the centrality of the discipline that binds us together.”

Excerpt from Dr. Taylor’s presidential address,

November 6, 1999 in Chicago, Illinois.

Orlando L. Taylor, 87, was born on August 9, 1936 and passed away on January 16, 2024 after a decline in his health.

Born in Chattanooga, TN, Orlando always referred to himself as just a “country boy.” But, he was so much more. He was an excellent cook. Trivia junkie. God-fearing Christian. Music lover. True fashionisto. Brilliant writer. Creative thinker. Masterful orator. Visionary. University President. Dean. Leader. Professor. Life changer. Career Maker. Colleague. Father. Friend. And gentleman.

This son of the south was also an accomplished scholar, having earned a Bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, Master’s degree from Indiana University, and PhD from the University of Michigan. He was also the recipient of seven honorary doctorate degrees from Purdue University, Indiana University, the Ohio State University, Hope College, DePauw University, Denison University, and Southern Connecticut State University. Throughout his remarkable career, Orlando authored many books and research publications and either led, served, or belonged to countless organizations, working groups, advisory boards, and committees. Several of note include Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the Society of STEM Women of Color, Inc., and the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, which he co-founded.

As numerous and significant as they were, his positions, roles, titles, and degrees only tell part of Orlando’s story. In pioneering the research on “Black English” early in his career, Orlando legitimized the African American experience and set a course for advancing Blacks in higher education. He fought hard for the educationally disenfranchised and even harder against the forces that threatened their access to a better life. Orlando understood academic injustice and suffering, knew what to do about it, and actually did it. Over the course of his career, which spanned nearly 60 years, this champion for graduate education was either directly or indirectly responsible for perhaps a third of the PhDs awarded to African Americans in US higher education. He was also instrumental in increasing the representation of minoritized students in graduate programs at predominantly white institutions and transforming every institution of higher education where he worked into a sponsored research powerhouse.

Because of Orlando Taylor – both the man and his movement – higher education will be impacted for the better for generations to come. As the first African American president of the National Communication Association, and through his leadership in other organizations such as the American Speech and Hearing Association and the National Black Speech, Language, and Hearing Association, Orlando was responsible for moving Communication Sciences and Disorders onto the radar and into the discourse of mainstream higher education knowledge networks, and ensuring that there was broad inclusion of Black perspectives in those disciplines. Additionally, by brokering partnerships across institutional divides, both nationally and internationally, and vigorously advocating for the promotion of Black women in STEM into leadership positions, Orlando changed the face of higher education, especially for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

It only took meeting Orlando one time to know you were in the presence of intellectual royalty. It only took a conversation after that, no matter how brief, to know that you were in the presence of a legend. Orlando brought insight, wisdom, ideas – and humor when needed – to every conversation and situation. But, most importantly, he brought the facts. He could quote any statistic, recall events, or recite anyone’s bio with amazing accuracy. He remembered every name and every turn of events. He knew everyone’s story, including the back story.

And who among us will ever forget that voice? The infectious smile? Or that gut-busting, booming laugh of his? All of which could fill any room and touch every heart in it. Developed while he was a teen working as a radio disc jockey, Orlando’s baritone, easy-flowing, eloquent but down-home style and manner of communicating was nothing short of brightness – a balm for weary souls, an assurance that all was well, or a much-needed affirmation that everything was going to be alright.

Orlando’s love and passion for higher education, as deep as they were, paled in comparison to his real true love – his family. Orlando was a world traveler, avid sports fan, and connoisseur of fine dining. And nothing meant more to him than the times when he could enjoy his favorites with his favorites. The Taylor family trips, outings, parties, dinners, holidays, and just-because visits were the highlights of his life and the basis for his livelihood. For Orlando, family was his greatest source of love, happiness, and accomplishment.

Never admitting to himself or anyone else that he was more than “39” years old, Orlando convinced all of us that he would live forever. He is survived by his son Orlando Taylor, II; daughter Ingrid (Taylor) Boone; daughter-in-law Lisa Taylor; granddaughters Melanie Galloway, Jean Marie Johnson, Eva Brown, Brandee Johnson, Tonee Johnson, and Taylor Boone; great grandchildren Ilyaseen-Nur and Imani White; and dearest friend Kelly Mack, as well as scores of beloved cousins, friends, colleagues, mentees, and students.

Orlando was predeceased by his father LeRoy Taylor, mother Carrie Taylor, wife Loretta Taylor, and brother Robert Taylor.