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Robert Lee Farmer, Jr. 86 of Springfield, passed from this life on early Monday, March 20, 2023. Surrounded by love, he transitioned peacefully in his sleep at Northcrest Hospital, after a short illness.
Mr. Farmer was born August 7, 1936, to Robert Larventrice and Eva Bowers Farmer, in Robertson County, Tennessee. Bill Farmer, as he was called by family and friends, attended school at Bransford Elementary in Robertson County. He was a standout in sports, graduating from Bransford High School, class of 1955. To further his education, he left Springfield with $30.00 and the dream of playing college football at Lane College (Jackson TN). While at Lane, Robert was initiated into the esteemed brotherhood of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated in 1957. He played four years of football and made All-SAIC. and was voted Most Valuable Player in 1958. Although a good student, he needed a tutor for science classes. Geraldine Taylor, an excellent student in science, from Brighton, Tennessee, became his tutor, and later his bride. They married in Covington, TN on December 28, 1959. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Lane College in May 1959, equipped with the knowledge and skills to become an exceptional educator, coach, community servant, leader, and mentor. He received his Masters of Science at Austin Peay State University in 1982. Later, he completed other graduate work at Tennessee State University (TSU) and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Farmer’s teaching career began in 1959 in Cedar Hill, Tennessee as an elementary school teacher and principal. During this time, he had the fortune of crossing paths with the late Congressman John Lewis and working with him to train college students in the methods of non-violent protests. This method was used for years in the civil rights movement. He later transferred to Bransford High School as a teacher and coach of the boys’ basketball and football teams. During a five-year span, the Bransford High Lions football team had an impressive record of 32 wins and 12 losses. His basketball team record shows four (4) 20th District championships, two (2) District runner-up championships, two (2) Region 2nd place, and a Regional Sportsmanship trophy. The basketball record, under his coaching leadership, at Bransford was 166 wins and 49 losses.
Coach Farmer remained at Bransford High until the final graduation in 1971. When Bransford High transitioned to Springfield Jr. High as a result of desegregation, he continued to coach football, and 9th grade boys’ basketball. In 1977, Farmer was named head football coach, first African American, for Springfield High School, where he also served as assistant principal and teacher. He coached three (3) seasons, and his teams won the North Central Conference Championship (NCC) in 1976 and 1977. Several players were named to the All-District Team, one was selected for the All-Mid-State team, and Farmer was named the NCC Coach of the year both years. His coaching tenure ended when he accepted the position of Principal of Bransford Elementary in the fall of 1979, where he remained until his retirement in 1999. Like many educators, Farmer worked part-time. He worked at the Grand Old Opry House and served as a Ranger and Security for Opry and Opryland performers from all music genres.
In 2020, Coach Farmer was selected as a member of the first class of the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame. He was nominated as an athlete, a coach, and an administrator. He was also named to the Lane College Sports Hall of Fame.
Mr. Farmer was a servant-leader on a myriad of boards and entities in the Robertson County area and beyond. To name a few: Springfield Housing Authority Board, Robertson County Education Association/Tennessee Education Association/National Education Association, serving on the local and state boards for numerous years, Robertson County Democratic Party and many more.
Farmer's legacy included serving as a charter sponsor for the YMCA in the Springfield, TN area, the founding of the Bransford High School National Alumni Association in 1980 where he served as National Alumni President until 2007, acting instrumentally to form the TNT Middle School basketball tournament held in Springfield and remaining active in the Lane College Alumni – Nashville Chapter.
Robert was an active member of Banks Chapel UMC and labored untiringly through the years in various church ministries and was a certified Lay Speaker, and Administrative Board chairperson.
Robert was preceded in death by his wife, Dr. Geraldine Taylor Farmer, his parents, his stepmother, Ruby Farmer, and his brothers, John Wayne Farmer and Thomas Leonard Farmer, and sister, Mary Sue Baker. He leaves to cherish his memory, daughter, Laventryce Yvette Patrick (Joseph) and son, Robert L. Farmer, III (Lisa). He was PaPa to Joseph Patrick II, Julian Farmer, Jade Johnson (William), and Dr. Jordan Patrick. He also had 2 great grands, Lucas and Liliana Johnson. James E. Farmer, and Shirley Johnson (Daniel) are his surviving siblings; Sister-in-law, Mary Drew Taylor Jones (Avery) and Brother-in-Law, Thomas Preston Taylor. There are many friends and family too numerous to mention who will cherish his memory, kindness, and service to the community he loved: nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, co-workers, travel companions, students and athletes, coaches, the Larry’s Roundtable, the retired coaches at the Metro Center McDonald’s, and so many others.
In lieu of flowers or other expressions of condolence, the family request memorial contributions be to any of the following organization in his memory.
Bransford Alumni Association Scholarship Fund P.O. Box 53 Springfield, TN 37172 (On memo line: In Honor of Coach Farmer)
Springfield High School Athletic Association Facilities Fund. To donate by check, make it payable to: The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee P.O. Box 440225 Nashville TN 37244. On memo line, note Fund name, “Springfield High School Athletic Association Facilities Fund” (RL Farmer Memorial).
Dr. Geraldine Farmer STEM Memorial Scholarship Fund. Make check payable to Banks Chapel UMC. On memo line, note: “Dr. G Farmer STEM Scholarship Fund” and mail to the address below.
All donations can be mailed c/o Robertson County Funeral Home, 2201 Memorial Blvd., Springfield, TN 37172.