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7 October 2005

James & Miriam Haywood Originated Idea for New Bell Tower

Artist's concept of new bell tower to be constructed on the former Jacksonville High School property at the corner of Pelham Road and Beck Circle.

Alumna Miriam Haywood and her husband, the late James B. Haywood, came up with an idea for a free-standing bell tower at Jacksonville State University nearly 30 years ago.

Miriam Haywood and her husband, the late James B. Haywood.

The Haywoods went on to make provisions in their will to help pay for the project, which will become a reality in the future. The tower will be built on Pelham Road on the former site of Jacksonville High School.

The tower as a symbol of the university is important to Mrs. Haywood because her work at one time involved climbing into an upper room of the bell tower at Bibb Graves Hall.

"Many years ago, when they put in the chime system in Bibb Graves, they put me in charge of looking after it," she said. "Every time the electricity went off, I went up the ladder, which consisted of metal bars embedded in the wall, to change the time.

"Way before my husband died, even before we retired in 1979, we decided that we wanted to do something for the university in a permanent sort of way. We got to thinking about Denny Chimes at the University of Alabama, and we thought that good old Jax State needs a bell tower too. So, we wrote a will at that time and stipulated that our estate would go for that purpose."

The tower idea quickly captured the hearts and minds of JSU's alumni and the administration. The tower is now an important part of the university's master plan. James and Miriam Haywood's generosity ensures a solid foundation for the project.

Because it's difficult to forecast future construction costs, the university found a partner to ensure that the bell tower will become a reality. Clarence W. Daugette, III, of Gadsden has pledged financial support for the bell tower and other important projects at JSU, according to Joe Serviss, JSU's vice president for institutional advancement.

Mrs. Haywood came from Roanoke, Ala., to Jacksonville State Teachers College in 1942 on a one-year scholarship. James, her future husband, lived in Jacksonville. He went off to war in 1942. Upon his return, they met and married in 1946 and became lifelong Jax State fans.

Mrs. Haywood said she is touched by the thought that their legacy as a couple will live on in the form of the new bell tower sometime in the future.

Reminiscing about her and her husband's early concept for the tower, Mrs. Haywood recalled the following.

"We got the idea while James was working on his master's degree at the University of Alabama, which is known for Denny Chimes. I think the idea really jelled following one of my many trips to the upper tower in Bibb Graves Hall -- I went up the ladder on the wall to correct the time setting on the console following power outages. I don't know who had the bright idea of locating the console there, but it was rather difficult to get to it," Mrs. Haywood said.

Following Jame's death, Mrs. Haywood continued with plans to fund their idea when she rewrote her will.

Mrs. Haywood stayed on in school and graduated from Jacksonville State Teachers College in 1945 with a B.S. in education. She worked for the university 35 years before retiring in 1979. She worked for Dr. Ernest Stone as secretary while he was serving as director of extension. She then became assistant business manager, a position in which she served for 15 years before being appointed director of personnel services and payrolls. Mrs. Haywood was cheerleader sponsor for about ten years, and she and James designed and purchased the first Cocky uniform for the university mascot. They also purchased the American flag for the football field.

Mr. Haywood, who also played football for the Gamecocks, received his B.S. in education from Jacksonville State Teachers College in 1950 and a master's from the University of Alabama before joining the faculty of Jacksonville High School as a teacher and assistant football coach.

"Following a tornado that blew the roof off the university cafeteria in December of 1960, Dr. Cole contacted James to see if he could set up a military field kitchen on campus in the event repairs were not completed on the structure," said Mrs. Haywood. "Dr. Cole knew James had had experience in this field, as he was in charge of mess halls in World War II."

Repairs were completed and Haywood stayed on at JSU as director of food services. He became renowned statewide for the beautiful and bountiful buffets and ice carvings that he and his staff produced for numerous gatherings on campus, and even took one of his complete buffets to Montgomery for a dinner for the Alabama Legislature. He retired in 1979, and the Haywoods went to the University of Florida, where Mr. Haywood was named director of the Gator Athletic Dining Hall, where they worked for about six years before returning home to Jacksonville.

"Having a chime tower will serve as a gateway to the campus," said Mrs. Haywood. She appreciates the fact that the architect kept the tower's design similar to the gothic style of Bibb Graves Hall.

"Our will stipulates that my estate will go to the university to be used for this project, and the proposed location is ideal," Mrs. Haywood said.

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