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Charles Thomas “Pete” Mathews

Eulogy by Dr. William A. Meehan

There are 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 earned respect.


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.


Whether we 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.


Upon retiring 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!”


Of course 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 die.

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