Community Advocate John Futch Succumbs
By Dianne Anderson
Whatever John Futch started, he was compelled to finish, and there was no such thing as a quick fix.
For decades, he chipped away to make an impact in areas that he believed counted the most in life – lifting the community and empowering the people.
Futch was as comfortable in the boardroom navigating red tape projects as he was down to earth in reaching back to help all who asked.
Long-time community leader John Futch passed away last Sunday.
Assemblyman James Ramos said Futch was more than a friend, and a brother.
They first met many years ago at CSUSB where Futch worked hard for the Student Union Center to bring all cultures together.
“John continued to make sure that not only for California Indian people, but for all people in our community, that their voice would be heard. He laid that groundwork for so many of us,” said Ramos, who represents the 40th Assembly District.
Futch was instrumental in creating the Santos Manuel Student Union and pushed for one of the first buildings in the CSU system to be named after a California Indian leader. He brought California Native American Day programs to the university in the late 1990s and helped the San Manuel Pow Wow find its home on campus.
Both Futch and Ramos served on the San Bernardino Community College Board of Trustees. When Ramos was elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, Futch worked with him as a field representative. Ultimately, he became Ramos’ deputy chief of staff.
Together, he said they went through a lot, and Futch will remain a part of him as a reminder of the most important aspect of the decision-making process.
He said that John never lost touch with the people.
“Every issue that John moved forward in was because it was a direct impact on the people in our communities,” he said. “That’s one thing we’ll always cherish about John.”
Among his many affiliations, Futch was a member of the African American Task Force for the San Bernardino Unified School District, where he raised concerns and made recommendations to address the low percentiles in Math and English. He established The Friends of the John Futch Text Book Endowment to provide books for students with a low GPA. The endowment will continue to provide scholarships. He helped initiate and promote the CSUSB Pan African Center.
Linda Hart, founder of the African American Health Coalition, said John represented the heart of the community.
“He was a great influencer. He got along basically with everyone, and he knew how to have those conversations to make change happen,” said Hart. “He was reasonable, but he didn’t bite his tongue.”
Most of all, he was adamant that the community needed to stay focused and stay on top of situations until completion.
He was very concerned about jobs for the community, which he had hoped to build on through the San Bernardino branch NAACP when he took the lead as president last January.
“He wanted to provide that leadership and bring in younger people” she said. “He wanted it to get back to what it once was.”
For James Tillman, Futch was like a father who took him under his wing to teach him everything about building relationships.
Tillman, who had worked recruitment for the San Bernardino Community College District, said he met Futch while tabling an outreach event. Futch introduced him to numerous local high-powered people.
He said that Futch always called him a son with no filter.
“I learned a lot. If I got hot-headed, he would say, we’re going to fix it in-house first, and then we take it out. I listened to him.”
Tillman took advice and joined boards and was amazed at how Futch was able to get what he wanted so effortlessly.
“He ended up raising millions of dollars for Cal State, and I said Mr. Futch how did you raise so much money? He said, you ask for it,” he said.
When it came time to pull down money for a San Bernardino Community College District community block party, Tillman followed the model of success. He approached local businesses, told them he needed the money, and he pulled in $5,000. Just for the asking, grocery stores and nonprofits gave him over $20,000 in foods and goods.
“Like the kids say these days, it’s a fact. John is a fact,” Tillman said. “He meant a lot to the community, and definitely meant a lot to me.”
Alise Clouser posted on Facebook that Futch was one of her first bosses at CSUSB Cross Cultural Center, and he had an extensive impact on her life. She also pointed to numerous important connections, both personally and professionally, stemming from Futch.
He had hired her as Liaison for the Santos Manuel Band of Mission Indians Pow Wow and pushed her to be the African Student Alliance Advisor while in grad school, she wrote. Both ended up establishing powerful connections with quality people.
“John was a bridge in my life and many many others. He advocated for students in a way I rarely see today and when I would say, “John you can’t say that” he would say, “what are they going to do fire me? Let them? I’m not here for the bull—- I’m here for the students!” And he was… he was always there for the students. Thank you for all you did for me and all those after me. I will miss you sir. Rest in peace.”