I’ve been employed at The Citadel for more than two decades and have come to appreciate the many treasures this college possesses.
On Tuesday, we lost a gem.
Maj. Gen. James A. Grimsley, Jr., the 16th president of The Citadel, passed away on June 11. He served as president of the college from 1980-89, was named president emeritus upon his retirement, a designation previously given to only Gen. Charles P. Summerall and Gen. Mark W. Clark.
“Gen. Grimsley was a trailblazer in his time. His tenure at The Citadel was marked by a renewed emphasis on leadership and academic standards,” said Citadel President Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa. “The Citadel is what it is today because of Gen. Grimsley. He will be missed.”
“Gen. Grimsley was the consummate Citadel leader, and his impact was far reaching,” said Doug Snyder, chairman of the Board of Visitors.
While I never worked under Gen. Grimsley, I knew him and perhaps more importantly, he knew me.
I shall always remember him sitting at Riley Park for baseball games, perched by The Citadel’s dugout, always with a hot dog in hand or still holding the napkin after he finished. He wore his Citadel-blue ball cap religiously and always cheered for his beloved Bulldogs.
During the winter, he, along with his wife, Miss Jessie would sit midcourt on the second row in McAlister Field House, and he usually secured his hot dog at halftime. On several occasions, I saw him stand not far from Leonard Fulghum and yell at a referee.
But, oh, did he love football games at Johnson Hagood Stadium. While I could not tell if he had a hot dog or not (I’m betting he did), he would stay for the entire game, regardless of the weather or score. He would entertain guests in his “box” on the old west side, and again, he’d wear his favorite Citadel-blue cap.
Much has been said of him since his passing, and much more will continue to be stated.
But what everyone will say is that he dearly loved The Citadel.
From my perspective, Gen. Grimsley was a man’s man, a true-blue Citadel Man from the famed Class of 1942, and an avid lover of Citadel Athletics.
Perhaps the one thing that I’ll always admire about Gen. Grimsley is that he took a chance, rolled the dice and hired an unknown, Walt Nadzak, to be his director of athletics. Walt’s contributions and those that occurred under his watch have been duly noted, which helped Walt gain entry into The Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame.
And yes, it was Walt who hired me in 1991.
As we reflect in our own way about the life and times of Gen. Grimsley, I’ll always remember him fondly as a friend and loyal fan of our athletic teams.
A memorial service will be held in Summerall Chapel, Friday, June 14 at 10 a.m. The Grimsley Family will receive guests immediately following in Mark Clark Hall. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. at Beaufort National Cemetery. Donations may be made in his memory to The Citadel Brigadier Foundation, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409.
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