Ralph N. (Shorty) Donaldson was born on September 12, 1937 in Holmes County Florida and graduated from Holmes County High School in 1956. Following graduation he enlisted in the US Army and served in Korea. Upon his return home in 1959 he met Evelyn Mitchell from Caryville and they were married in 1960.
Together they had 3 children. In his later years he would be known as G-Daddy to 5 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.
He joined the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (which later became the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) in 1962. Aside from his regular duties he worked security details, natural disasters, the Youngstown train derailment, the race riots in St. Augustine, and the Democratic National Convention in Miami.
"When I was about 13 or 14 years old it was pretty common on Friday and Saturday nights that we would all go coon hunting and could always expect to see Shorty Donaldson and/or Al Carpenter not long after we got started. They stayed after us. We'd be shining lights and have a 22 rifle with us and here they'd come. We would always run. One night we saw them coming so we put out our fire and all scattered in different directions. I decided to run thru a cypress pond about 12-14 inches deep and Shorty laid after me.
There was an old hollow cypress stump in the middle of that pond about 3-4 ft off the ground...I circled the pond and he was right on my heels hollering for me stop. I was always tiny so I jumped inside that hollow log and sat still. Shorty walked all around me, shining his light, telling me to come on out...among a few other things.
He finally left and I jumped out and ran to the house about 100 yards away. I went to bed and the next day he pulled up to the house and told my daddy that he got after us…he said he knew we wasn’t doing anything wrong but he loved to stay after us just so we wouldn’t. I think they enjoyed the chase more than we did.
Daddy would tell him to keep an eye on us boys and I didn’t know until years later that was all in their plan to keep us out of trouble." - A mischievous teenage boy from years ago who has requested to remain anonymous on account of having sons and grandsons of his own now.
Shorty took great pride in his work. He truly loved working for the people of Calhoun County as well as the surrounding counties. He is remembered for his fairness and his use of "good common sense" as a law enforcement officer. He was often commended for the immaculate condition of his uniform, vehicle, and boat. He was known to carry a toothbrush, a dust rag, and a whisk broom in his work vehicle to keep it tidy. Shorty was named Florida's Outstanding Wildlife Officer of the Year in 1972.
He worked as a Law Enforcement Officer for 38 years, 9 months, and 4 days. He served under eight elected and two appointed governors before retiring in June 2001. A little known fact about Shorty is that he kept a journal for every day of his career. He also served his entire Wildlife Officer career in Calhoun County, never once firing his service weapon in the line of duty.
Fellow officers Arnold Lloyd and Roy Burnsed share stories of their time working alongside Shorty for his retirement farewell video.
In his retirement years, he enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. He was so proud of all of them and their accomplishments. He also enjoyed traveling to Belize, Guatemala, Alaska, and Montana to fly fish. Ralph "Shorty" Donaldson passed away on October 24, 2015 at the age of 78. Community members tell his family often stories of how he helped them throughout the years. Always lending a hand or giving of himself in some way. A truly caring person. G-Daddy is missed by all who knew him but he will forever live on as a Calhoun County Local Legend.