Two longtime public servants, who also happen to be brothers, will both have retired from service in 2014 as of June 30.
Rudy Felton has taught in the Bradley County Schools system for the last 41 years. His brother Kevin, known to many as “Officer Felton,” has served nearly 33 years as a member of the Cleveland Police Department — 30 in full-time service and almost three years as a reserve officer.
Rudy Felton was hired by the Bradley County School Board in 1973 as a teacher at Bradley Elementary in the social studies department. Following his hiring on Aug. 16, he graduated from college on Aug. 17, attended his first in-service Aug. 20 and taught his first day of classes Aug. 27. His first day as a new teacher was also the day of his first date with his future wife.
Kevin Felton had begun serving as a reserve officer in September 1981. His first day on duty was a Friday evening spent working a Cleveland High School football game. The next evening was spent on an eventful shift, patrolling the streets of Cleveland, after which he said he knew he wanted to make a career in law enforcement.
Kevin continued to work full time at Bradley Memorial Hospital while attending Cleveland State Community College and working part time as a reserve officer.
Rudy Felton met Debbie Sanders while both were in college and they married July 26, 1974. Mrs. Felton is also in the teaching profession as a faculty member at Cleveland State Community College. Their son Ryan continued the Lee tradition when he graduated from Lee with high honors in 2010. He is employed in Knoxville at the corporate headquarters of Scripps Networks Interactive.
At the time Rudy began his teaching career, Bradley Elementary had the seventh- and eighth-graders from Oak Grove, Hopewell and Waterville, as well as the eighth-graders from McDonald. During the 1979-1980 school year Bradley Elementary became Bradley Junior High School (now Ocoee Middle School). He continued to teach there until fall 1995, when he transferred to Bradley Central High School.
Beginning with the 2004-05 school year, Felton moved to Walker Valley High School continuing there until his retirement in May. During his teaching career, Felton served as a sponsor for many clubs, such as Student Government, BETA Club, Candle Factory and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Rudy has worked in many areas of athletics. His original sports experiences in Tennessee began during college. At Lee as an athletic department staff member under coach Dale R. Hughes, he was Vikings basketball statistician. Later he served as sports information director. He is a member of the Lee University Flames Athletic Hall of Fame as the first Meritorious Award winner.
Rudy has also been a referee and umpire for the local basketball, softball, and baseball associations. During his tenure at Bradley Junior High School, he became know as “Coach Felton.” His first coaching assignment was with the Cubs seventh- and eight-grade baseball teams during the 1980 season, working with the late Steve McAmis who was the head coach.
The following school year he began his basketball coaching career as the assistant coach of the Lady Cubs with Larry Osborne as head coach. “Coach” was responsible for the seventh- and eighth-grade teams and assisted Osborne with the freshmen team. Rudy continued in this capacity for seven years.
In his 41 years with the Bradley County School System, Rudy Felton has taught thousands of local residents. He was approaching his third generation of students within many families. He enjoys seeing the productive lives his former students are leading. He is still exploring his options for how he will spend his future. He does plan to do some substitute teaching and to continue to sing with the Crusader Choir, a choir at the Feltons’ church — North Cleveland Church of God. He has sung with the choir for 20-plus years and has served at times as the tenor section leader, as choir officer and in other capacities.
Kevin Felton attended Lee and then transferred to the Cleveland State Community College Criminal Justice program. During this time Kevin worked at Bradley Memorial Hospital (now SkyRidge Medical Center).
While there he met Sharon Caldwell, a former student of his brother’s, and they married Feb. 6, 1982. Mrs. Felton began working at Bradley Memorial in 1979 and, for more than 25 years, has been an RN in the emergency department. They were blessed with “a gift from Heaven” after 16 years of marriage with a daughter, Jennifer, who is a junior and honor student at Cleveland High School. The family are members of Georgetown Baptist Church.
Officer Felton recalls getting the phone call from then Sgt. Renegar saying, “Do you still want to work full time at the Cleveland Police Department?” ... “If so — the chief wants to talk to you now at the station.”
Kevin asked him if he was “messing” with him and he said, “No, get down here now if you want a job.”
That was the middle of June 1984. He still remembers meeting with then Police Commissioner Mitchel Lyle and Chief Arnold Botts and their offering him a full-time job. His starting date would be July 1, 1984.
He has served the community in the following positions: Patrolman, D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) instructor with the Cleveland City Schools, assistant training officer, member of the Special Investigation Unit, Criminal Investigation Division, and his latest assignment as a school resource officer at E.L. Ross Elementary and patrolling the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway after school, on weekends and during the summer.
Officer Felton began volunteer service with the Cleveland/Bradley County Rescue Service in December 1984. Later he went to both emergency medical technician and paramedic schools. He worked part-time with the Bradley County Ambulance Service for several years and then became assistant chief of the Cleveland/Bradley County Rescue Service. He stepped down in 1994, but continued to serve as a reserve member until 1996.
The most enjoyment Officer Felton said he has received out of his career has been while working in the schools doing proactive law enforcement. He says he enjoyed the other assignments also, but they were reactive ones. Proactive activities, such as D.A.R.E. and being an SRO, have given him the chance to have a positive impact on many young peoples’ lives.
Kevin said there has not been many days passed while working one of his jobs that someone has not said to him, “Are you kin to Mr. (Rudy) Felton, the teacher? I had him and loved his class.”
Officer Felton said he always got a laugh when he would answer “Yes,” to the ‘being related’ question, and then they would ask if he was Rudy’s son! He loved telling Rudy about people thinking he was his dad, instead of his brother.
Kevin’s future plans include mission work, hunting and fishing. He has been able to do mission work while working full time, but he says, “not as much as he feels the Lord has called him to do.”
According to Kevin, he feels his career with the Cleveland Police Department has been a mission field, but wants to do more to serve the Lord during retirement. He said his job had kept him from being afield in the woods hunting as much as he would like, and he is looking forward to having more time to spend on his hobbies.
Rudy Felton went on to say that a lot of young people in recent years told him their dad and/or mom had him as a teacher as well.
“Seeing students become doctors, lawyers, teachers, a sports writer (Joe Cannon) and good, productive citizens has been very rewarding,” Rudy said. Kevin told fellow officers what an honor and privilege it was to serve Cleveland alongside them.
The Felton brothers are originally from Rockwood Pa. Both graduated from Rockwood Area High School, in Somerset County. Rudy graduated in 1967 with Kevin graduating 10 years later. Their family were active members of Somerset Church of God. Rudy and twin sister Judy (Payne) moved to Cleveland in fall 1967 to attend Lee College. Kevin arrived at Lee in the fall of 1977.
Two brothers, two public servants, who will be missed, but never forgotten for what they gave and continue to give back to their community.