individuals who share the pathways of our lives who in their character and
personality are bigger than life itself.
Mr. Charles Thomas “Pete” Mathews was such an individual. His presence
filled any room he entered, his voice commanded attention, his wit and sagacity
To all the
members of his family and his extended family we offer our deepest condolences.
We were all touched by his life—a life dedicated to serving the people of
Alabama, especially those here in Clay County, in Coosa County, and at
Jacksonville State University.
know him as “Mr. Mathews,” “Mr. Pete,” or “The Chairman” each of us have our own
stories, a few of which are suitable for public presentation. I believe those
stories of humor are what he would want us to remember today. His life was full
of humor and he used it to with his razor sharp wit to communicate his message.
from the Board of Trustees he responded to a reporter who had inquired as to how
long his tenure had been… “I have served 36 years and over half as chairman…
that is half a normal man’s lifetime!”
there was nothing normal about him! Before retiring from the Board he asked me
to meet with him, that he was considering resigning. He told me that his greatest
fear in leaving was not retiring but in no longer having a connection with
Jacksonville State University, a place he had known as home since he entered as
a freshman in the 1930’s. I told him I would be glad to retain him as special
counsel to the president. He immediately accepted and asked what his retainer
might be. Knowing I was already outmatched in this negotiation I began low at
$1.00 per day. Well, we settled on $5.00
per day for the time being and began the contract. He never failed to continue the
negotiations. Even when I saw him last
week in the hospital, he said as I entered the room, “Mr. President we need to
discuss my retainer, Have you seen the price of aspirin in this hospital?”
Last week in
making plans for his funeral, he asked Becky and Charles to have his remains
tour campus. He said he wanted to be
sure that no one had removed his name from the coliseum.
I will always
remember the visual image of what I believe was his greatest smile and laugh of
delight. It was when our Heather
Whitestone, after being named Miss America, visited our campus and he presented
a resolution from the Board of Trustees honoring her and her achievement. Knowing full well that the Miss America
pageant forbid anyone to touch or kiss Miss America , he presented the
proclamation, ceased the moment and Miss America, and planted a kiss on her cheek
as only he could do.
His legacy is
the respect and love he gave and shared with his extended family. Part of that legacy will continue as an
endowment of over $1 million that will fund scholarships to help students
achieve an education at Jacksonville State University.
But an even
bigger part of his legacy, is for us to remember his service to others marked by
benevolence, tolerance, and friendship.
We are heartened by the fact that our memories and our images of “Mr.
Pete” are inscribed within our hearts, to keep that part of him alive within
us—that legacy of love and honor which was his life, in truth, can never