The death of Howard Hollis "Bo" Callaway last week marked the passing of a Georgia giant.
Although known locally for founding Callaway Gardens with his parents, Bo Callaway was a huge political player on the state and national stage. Many have called him the father of the Georgia Republican Party and its first superstar.
But as a native son of LaGrange, he was known here simply as "Bo," and he had a lifelong connection with LaGrange College. He grew up a few blocks from our campus, and often talked about walking by the college as a young child.
"I literally grew up with the institution, and I feel that I'm a part of that school history," he said. Buildings on our campus are named for his father and grandfather, and his son Edward now serves on our Board of Trustees as a faithful supporter.
In 2011, Bo Callaway spoke eloquently at our commencement and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree for his life of service. He urged our graduating seniors to be enthusiastic in life, and to think big.
"But thinking big won't be worth anything unless you have the one great thing that's really important - integrity," he said.
"George Washington said this at the constitutional convention in 1787, with a little struggling country that nobody knew if it would make it: 'Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hands of God.'"
He shared an incident from his days as a freshman congressman when he took an ethical stand and managed to change a policy.
"What do you see today in politics, maybe in your school life? People take a poll, they raise their finger (and check the wind) to see what the people want, and they try to give them what they want.
"No. You raise that standard, which is hard But you raise that standard as good as you know how, and let God take care of the event."
Bo Callaway was passionate about integrity, and he lived his life with honor as a state and national leader, serving as a U.S. Congressman and Secretary of the Army. He also was a veteran of the Korean War and trained Infantry troops at Fort Benning.
But even when life delivered a setback, as in his narrow defeat for the governor's office, he aimed to take the ethical path.
He told our graduates that there would be many temptations to cut corners as they moved through life, but that doing the right thing was always the best path.
"It doesn't matter what happens," he said, but "it does matter what you do with your life.
Bo Callaway was a man of integrity who made his life matter. For a college whose mission calls it to prepare "students to become successful, responsible citizens who aspire to lives of integrity and moral courage," he provided a remarkable role model.
We are thankful for the life and legacy of Dr. Howard Hollis "Bo" Callaway.
Dan McAlexander, president of LaGrange College; firstname.lastname@example.org.