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Now It’s Our Turn


Occasionally you run into someone who helps draw out of you a better version of yourself. You cherish your interactions with them, and sometimes take for granted your next opportunity to be uplifted by them. It makes their passing all the more painful, and the profound impact of their life all the more poignant.

Last week we lost a great leader. A mentor. A friend. I say “we” because so many different sources, from obituaries, to business blogs, to personal emails, to Facebook posts all conveyed a similar message: I lost someone very special; someone who made a difference in my life.

Charles “Red” Scott passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. He was a successful business leader, as Chairman of Intermark and Fuqua Industries (among other leadership roles). He came from humble beginnings and achieved great success, as suggested by his recognition as a Horatio Alger Award winner. But Red never allowed those positions or awards to define him.

The first time I met Red he let me know exactly who he was. He was interviewing me as a potential Vistage Chair and we met for breakfast. During our ninety-minute meeting Red found out about my background, my dreams and disappointments, my wishes and my worries. I was shocked at how effortlessly he pulled it all out of me. It was also the first time I was exposed to his Jedi mind trick of starting a sentence with something like “I’m just a dumb old Texas boy, but…” and then making an observation that cut me to the core, or saying something so profound that Winston Churchill would be envious.

But it wasn’t until hours later, when my interviewing adrenaline had finally settled down, that I grasped what had transpired in our meeting.  Red had simply and conversationally shared his heart and gave me a glimpse into his own soul. I learned about his love – Miss Kathy; his pride – his children and grandchildren; his heart – Miss Annie (a toy poodle); his closest core of friends – TEC (Vistage) Seven; his passion – TEC (Vistage) Florida; and his most important relationship – with his Lord and Savior. I couldn’t help but respond in kind with details hidden in the recesses of my own mind and heart.

Who shares such intimate details? Someone very comfortable in his own skin. Or a close friend. Red was both.

There was much about Red that you learned from just watching him, or hearing him speak. Here are just a few lessons and impressions I picked up:

  • Red called BS when he saw it, heard it, or smelled it. It wastes time and energy.
  • He wasn’t afraid to talk about love in public, whether it was a book, a family member, a business associate, the United States of America… or a dog.
  • When Red was with you, he was fully engaged in the conversation.  He never appeared to be too busy and you never felt he had more pressing priorities.
  • He asked questions. Lots of them. He was a lifelong learner. Consequently, he remained informed, relevant, and resourceful, his entire life.
  • He was comfortable with transparency. He wasn’t afraid to tell you – if asked – about politics, investments, or his own successes and failures.
  • He supported the entrepreneur. He believed it was a noble calling, and a necessary role in a healthy United States economy. It helped fuel his involvement as a Vistage member and his role as the owner of Vistage Florida.
  • Red was there when his friends needed him, whether it was solving a business challenge for a colleague, helping to identify healthcare resources for an acquaintance, or praying for a friend in need.

Red offered his Business Cardinals, thirty-six tenets every business leaders should know – and follow. I encourage all business leaders to download this form and to refer to it constantly.

However, Red best summed up his own philosophy of life in a companion piece to his Business Cardinals, entitled “The Legacy,” which he wrote in 1999.

Charles “Red” Scott – The Legacy

The quality of one’s life absolutely depends upon the degree to which we align ourselves with and feel a sense of Reverence for God  - Our Creator and Father.

Service is the virtue that distinguishes the one grade of all times by which we will be remembered. It places a mark of nobility upon its disciples. It is the dividing line that separates the two great groups of the world;

  • Those who help – those who hinder
  • Those who lift – those who lean
  • Those who contribute – those who consume

How much better it is to give than to receive! Service in any form is both generous and beautiful. To just give encouragement, to impart sympathy, to show interest, to banish fear, to build self confidence, or simply to awaken some hope in the hearts of others…


I want to offer heartfelt sympathy to Kathy, Patrick, Kelly and the rest of Red’s family.  I also want to challenge all those who’ve been touched by Red’s wisdom, his counsel and his friendship – to pay it forward.  Make the old boy from Texas proud. He lived his life according to the words of “The Legacy.”  Now it’s our turn.


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a lovely tribute to an amazing man, Karl. I always feel good about the goodness in our world when I read your stories of real people who make a positive difference n the lives of those they touch. And, I’ll take it one step further. You bring them alive to me . Thank you for introducing us to “Red.” In our world of violence and senseless tragedies, it is a welcomed relief to know about the “Reds” of the world. Keep these life-affirming, inspirational stories coming!

    April 17, 2013
    • Karl Sprague #

      Kathy, thanks for your kinds words, and once again, making me smile. The “Reds” of the world are precious gifts, and they influence in person… and in stories. You would have liked him a lot. – Karl

      April 17, 2013
  2. Well said, Karl. While Red will be sorely missed, we can all follow in his footsteps to try to make this world a better place.

    April 17, 2013
    • Karl Sprague #

      Cindy, we are part of a huge community of people who were touched by Red and considered him a friend. Hopefully we can continue to encourage one other in the Vistage community as we try to follow in his footsteps. For what its worth, I think I recognize your footprints in those steps he left behind. Keep up the good work. – Karl

      April 17, 2013
  3. Karl, suffering the distractions of a busy and complex life, I momentarily took my eye off the distant horizon…and years went by. Reading your moving tribute to Red Scott was compelling. I know what I must do now.
    Don Jr.

    July 28, 2014

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