By Lauren Estes and Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Former Wallace State President Dr. James C. Bailey passed away on Friday morning, leaving behind a legacy that will live on in the current leaders and on-campus buildings that still bear his name.
Dr. Bailey served as president of Wallace State for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003 and fully retired on April 30, 2013. He started as an educator at Fairview High School in 1960 and was appointed as the first president of Wallace State in 1965.
Current Wallace State president Dr. Vicki Hawsey Karolewics said Bailey’s legacy lives on to this day at the college, with the standards and plans he put in place all those years ago.
“We are deeply saddened by loss of James C. Bailey,” she said in a press release. “The Wallace State family is exceedingly proud of the tradition of excellence established during Dr. Bailey’s tenure at Wallace State Community College, and it carries forward into the future.”
Bailey oversaw the college’s initial SACS accreditation, was a major supporter of the $12 million Tom Drake Coliseum built in 1993, and eventually had the 13-story James C. Bailey Building named in his honor.
Bailey told The Times in 2003 following the announcement of his retirement as president: “I just feel like it’s the right time for me to retire,” he said. “I have dedicated much of my life to building this college and a number of projects that I wanted to see happen have gotten under way this year. I am ready to work on some other things.”
Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail said the success of Wallace State can be traced directly back to the hard work of Bailey.
“We’re saddened to hear that he has passed, Wallace is definitely the crown jewel of the two-year college system and we’re proud to have it in Hanceville,” Nail said. “A lot of what the college has become today can be credited to Dr. Bailey. He put a lot of time and work there. His death is a loss for the whole community.”
Cullman Mayor Max Townson agreed that Bailey left an indelible mark on the county.
“My goodness, what he did for this community and education as a whole is above and beyond the call of duty,” Townson said. “He did so much for Wallace State and so many students. I knew him for a long time, I actually grew up with his wife. He will be missed, that’s for sure.”
Bailey attended college on an athletic scholarship and was a strong advocate of athletics as a way to further a young person’s education.
In addition to serving as president for more than three decades, Bailey was also Wallace State’s athletic director from 1982 until his retirement. In the years since he took the helm, Wallace State has won more Alabama Community College All-Sports Trophies than any other college.
During his tenure, Bailey helped shepherd Wallace State from its genesis as a trade school with 10 programs and three buildings, into a sprawling 200 acre college offering an array of academic programs in more than 35 buildings.
“Wallace State will be forever indebted to Dr. Bailey for his dedication to this college, and his legacy will live on forever in the facilities and programs he established,” Hawsey Karolewics said.
Bailey’s family has established a scholarship in his name through the Wallace State Future Foundation. Contributions can be made online at www.wsccfuturefoundation.org.