Rec. building renamed for Wall

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Roland B. Wall’s family members and friends agreed that if he were still alive, the humble man who loved the Brookhaven Parks andRecreation Department would have been pleased but a little sheepish during a Saturday ceremony in his honor.

“He’d probably give all the credit to someone else,” said his daughter, Jenna Wall. “He would have been embarrassed by all the attention, but he would have been really grateful that the recreation department wanted to honor him like this.”

Saturday’s ceremony, held inside due to the weather, was to dedicate the current Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Building onHighway 51 to the memory of the man who was the president of theBrookhaven Parks Commission for 42 years – from 1963-2005. A marble marker will be put outside the door to commemorate the dedication.

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Son Roland B. Wall III, of Clinton, said his father, a realtor by trade, would have taken great pleasure in the award because the recreation department meant so much to him.

“This would have been so meaningful to him because he was prouder of what he did on this commission than anything else he did in his whole life,” he said. “This is so meaningful to us because of what it would have meant to him.”

Recreation Department Director Terry Reid told the crowd of more than 40 people that Wall was responsible for almost everything going on with the department today.

“Last week we cut the ribbon on our walking trail, and that was the last project he really gave himself to during his time here,”said Reid. “Everything we have now, Roland Wall had a part in.We’re working on two spray parks and we just got a grant to build a park at Bethel Church, and all these things come from groundwork he laid.”

Wall’s widow, Claire Wall, who lives in Clinton now, said she is glad the organization that her husband loved so much loved him in return.

“I’m overwhelmed. This truly means a lot,” she said. “I saw him do all this and love every single minute of it.”

Current parks commission president Woody Breeland said he remembered Wall not only as a great leader for the board, but also as a coach and mentor.

“I remember him being at a second-grade track meet in 1966,” he said. “Roland was a realtor by profession and in the business of raising our kids as a passion. If you grew up in Brookhaven, you had your life touched and enriched by Roland Wall.”

Breeland also read letters from Mayor Bob Massengill andAlderman at-large Les Bumgarner, who were both out of town for the weekend. They wrote the dedication was not only a fitting, but a perfect tribute to the man who gave his life to Brookhaven’s children.

“If Roland were here, he’d say, ‘Go ahead with your trip, Coach,I understand,'” Bumgarner wrote. “The apple of his eye was theBrookhaven Recreation Department. He will be loved and missed for as long as any of us grace the face of this earth.”

Reid remembered when he took over as recreation director thatWall had been there as support and instruction, as well as a good ribbing.

“He told me, ‘You’ve got big shoes to fill, you’ve got big shoes to fill,'” said Reid, who succeeded longtime director Hansel King.”Then after a few weeks he changed his tune to, ‘Don’t worry ’bout it boy, you’re going to make it fine.'”

And old friend Richard Case entertained the group with endearing stories about Wall and his love for his family, his dogs, his planes, Ole Miss football and the recreation department.

“He loved his family, that was always really evident,” Case said. “And he loved his dogs. Anytime you saw Roland, he had at least one of his dogs with him.”

Case also pointed out that Wall was Brookhaven High School graduate and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth’s first football coach. Roland Wall III agreed that his father’s involvement with Alworth was the only thing that rivaled his father’s pride in his work with the recreation department.

“He put his whole life into this, and it meant so much to him,”he said. “He wasn’t prouder of anything in his life, except maybe coaching Lance Alworth.”