By SKIP TUCKER
When I learned Monday that Dr. David Rowland moved on to the next plane of existence, it seemed to me a mighty tree had fallen.
Those who knew that good man must share the sentiment. And everybody in Walker County knew him.
Dave was 98 when he died on Dec. 23, vigorous almost to the last. His was the epitome of the life well lived.
I met him in 1966 when I enrolled at Walker College, where he was president. He might not have been the college’s founder. He was certainly its establisher.
In his decades of leadership he made Walker College perhaps the paradigm the state system of two-year colleges followed.
He opened the door to higher education for thousands who would otherwise never had the opportunity. There are so many testimonials to it. He changed lives.
He was a leader. He just knew how. He didn’t posture nor push. He led by example. In the half century I knew him, I never heard him raise his voice in anger, even in tight spots.
Dr. David Jack Rowland was perhaps the finest person, over all, I’ve known and I’ve known and know many fine people.
And I knew him better than most. He chaired an impactful environmental campaign I ran for Walker County 25 years ago. We worked together closely. He was always the same man in private as he was in public.
David was on that committee, and out front. We took a pasting from every pulpit in the county. I’d get up every morning to listen to preachers on the radio promise hell for me, David and John Oliver, president of First National Bank of Jasper.
We all believed in what we were doing but unlike John and I, David had nothing to gain. He did it because it was the right thing to do and he never budged an inch.
He’s in heaven. I wonder how many of those who condemned him he’s run into.
Of his remarkable attributes, the one I find most remarkable is that he employed no guile of which I am aware. That is a rare attribute. Nor did he shy from doing the right thing. I ran the the campaign to legalize the sale of alcohol in Jasper. He achieved greatness with soft voice, a small smile and honest, indefatigable determination
David was of slight stature but no one noticed. He was such a vital man. He carried himself so well. He was assured. He commanded respect.
The Man was a giant.