By M. ALEXIS SCOTT (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
W. A. “Rip” Scott IV backed away from his radar screen on March 31, ending a nearly 40-year career as an Air Traffic Controller for the United States Federal Aviation Administration.
Scott, who worked his entire career at the Hampton, Ga., regional facility, was praised by his colleagues.
“It won’t be the same without Rip,” said Darryl Dudley, who has worked with Scott since 1987. “As one of the first African-American controllers, he helped pave the way for all of us.”
Dudley added, “He trained me on my first four radar positions. He’s been a mainstay around here. We’re going to miss him.”
Scott began his career as an ATC on Aug. 16, 1971, after attending a training program in Oklahoma. In addition to Dudley, Scott has trained multiple dozens of new controllers over the years.
“I think I’ve trained four generations of controllers,” Scott recalled. There were the ones who were hired in the mid- to late- 1970s. Then after the strike and subsequent firing of all strikers by President Ronald Reagan in 1980, there was another crew of recruits. Then with the mandatory retirement age of 56 — implemented shortly after Scott was hired — at least two more generations of controllers have been trained by Scott.
Fellow African-American controller Joseph Hambrite, who became a controller in January 1970, called Scott “an excellent trainer.” He called him an all-around good guy, who was a great role model.
“There were not too many people who looked like us when we started,” Hambrite said. “We’ve been here a long time and we’ve seen it all.”
In addition to his mentorship of others, Scott added fun to the Hampton Center by wearing bright colors and some unique outfits, including once wearing a Don King wig that got him a lot of attention, including some (unwanted) from the front office
Dudley said, “He was easy- going and fun to be around.”
Hambrite pointed out that Scott was very dependable, but also very particular. “He had lunch at 12 every day when he worked the day shift and he had dinner at 5 when he worked the evening shift,” Hambrite said. “And he wasn’t too happy if he couldn’t keep that schedule.”
Scott has also been the controller for the Atlanta Daily World since 1997.
In this role, he has kept track of the finances for the company with his sister, Atlanta Daily World Publisher M. Alexis Scott.
“I would not have done this job without him,” said Publisher Scott. “He’s been a wonderful part of this family business.”
He modernized the bookkeeping for the paper with automated software and the latest technology. What used to take days to calculate became a matter of entering data and pushing a button to produce reports.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here at the Atlanta Daily World,” Scott said. “I was happy to respond to a family need and be able to contribute in this way.”
In addition to being the controller for the paper, Scott has served as treasurer of the family board of directors for the paper since 1997.
Scott is the grandson and namesake of ADW Founder William A. Scott II. His father W.A. Scott III also worked at the paper until his death in 1992.
Scott reflected on his time as one of the trailblazing African American Air Traffic Controllers.
“People have often said it’s a stressful job, but I always say it’s more stressful being Black in America than it is being an air traffic controller,” Scott said.
He was part of the crew that worked through the terrorists’ airplane attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It was the first time in history that the FAA had to put all airplanes on the ground. Everything got put down within an hour of the order to land the planes. Scott said.
“It was a tense time, because no one really understood the gravity of the situation. We didn’t know what was happening,” Scott recalled. “At the time, we didn’t know it was a terrorist attack.”
Scott said this was the most memorable event in his career. He added, “It’s a career that’s not for everyone. It involves the challenge of making split-second decisions that could mean life and death.”
Scott turns 65 in November, and said it took awhile for him to make the decision to retire.
“I’ve had some of the best times of my life during the last 39 years, seven months and 16 days,” Scott said with a laugh.
“This has been a great place to work, and I will miss the people,” he said. “But it is time to move on to the next phase of my life. I look forward to spending more time with my five grandchildren, and continuing to help my sister with the Atlanta Daily World.”