William Andrew Byrne, Jr., was born on January 19, 1944 and passed away on October 31, 2021 at the age of 77. He grew up swimming in the bayous of Valparaiso, the “Mayberry” of Okaloosa County in the 1940’s and 1950’s. He attended St. Mary Elementary School through eighth grade, attended Choctawhatchee High School and graduated high school at The Westminster School of Atlanta GA. During his years at Westminster, for a class project, he interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr., an event that shaped the rest of his life. After graduation, he attended the University of Virginia but during the summer vacation he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement, marching for justice in D.C., Atlanta and other cities and attending classes at the Historically Black College (HBC) Howard University in Atlanta. During that time he met some of the iconic Civil Rights leaders, including Julian Bond, Stockley Carmichael and others. And he was beaten up, had acid thrown at him and landed in jail. After two semesters at UVA, his grades encouraged him to join the United States Army. In 1964 he was stationed in Erlangen Germany where he met and married Ute Watzl. Their first son, William Andrew Byrne, III was born in Germany in 1965. After his discharge that year he returned to his hometown, Valparaiso and started back to school in earnest. With Okaloosa Walton Community College completed he moved on to Florida State University in Tallahassee, ending with his PhD in History in 1979. During those years he and Ute had their second son, Sean Patrick Byrne in 1966. Returning to Valparaiso, he worked in the family business, Valparaiso Realty Company. He also had businesses of his own, owning and running Hiram Nurdlinger’s Bar on Okaloosa Island where he served some of his famous dishes and poured some well received drinks. That was followed by owning The Fishhead Inn in Valparaiso, the site of many company St. Patrick’s Day parties. Andy was a born restauranteur and lover of people, food and fun. His love of history, however, won out and he began part-time teaching history at Okaloosa Walton Community College and the University of West Florida. In 1994 he left Boggy for a full-time teaching position at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA. There he shined, always loving a classroom of students who had to listen to him talk. NSU is a HBC, a Historical Black College, and Andy taught Black History, a combination that was noticed. His students adored him, some still keeping in touch in 2021. Their recognition tells his success. He rose to become Chair of the History Department and then Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. He missed teaching and eventually returned to the classroom, from which he retired in 2011. He was on the Board of Trustees of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Living History and Public Policy Center in Virginia and involved with the Southern History Association and Organization of America Historians. He was awarded the Marquis Who’s Who Publications Board in America and in the World. After retirement, he and Ute moved to Alpharetta in the Atlanta area, to be near their two grandchildren. The hundreds of ethnic, hole-in-the-wall restaurants on Buford Highway was also a deciding factor. It was there he passed away on Halloween, surrounded by his wife, sons, sister, and loving relatives. He is predeceased in death by his parents Bill Byrne and Rae Ruckel Byrne Williams. He is survived by his wife of almost 57 years, Ute, his sons Drew of Tallahassee and Sean (Patter) of Atlanta, his grandchildren Zoe and Wolfgang Byrne of Atlanta and his sister-in-law Ingrid Riemer (Hans) of Erlangen Germany. He leaves his sister Judy Byrne Riley (Odin Toness) of Niceville and his other siblings Pat Byrne (Beverly) and Terri Fedonczak (David) all of Niceville. In addition, he leaves loving nieces and nephews all around the world. In lieu of flowers the family asked that you donate to the William Andrew Byrne Scholarship Fund at Norfolk State University,700 Park Ave, Norfolk, VA 23504. Funeral services and a Celebration of Life will be held at Crosspoint Church in Niceville on Monday, November 8 with Visitation at 10:00 a.m. and funeral at 11:00. Burial will follow at Sunset Cemetery in Valparaiso, where he will be buried next to his many relatives.
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