Rawls’ resume is extensive

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In reviewing Sol Waite Rawls Jr.’s accomplishments — and they are numerous — the question is not what did Rawls do, but what didn’t he do to make the city and surrounding county a better place to live and work.

His son, Sol Waite Rawls III of Richmond, compiled this extensive resume of his father’s achievements:

Civic leader, philanthropist and servant to the Commonwealth, Sol Waite Rawls Jr. has held a position of positive influence and high regard for almost six decades in the city of Franklin, where he was born in 1919.

After graduating from Franklin High School (1936,) he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Virginia Military Institute (1940.) Serving in the United States Army from August 1941 until March 1946, he attained the rank of major and was awarded the Army Commendation Ribbon.

During 1946 when he acquired Woods Hill Farm, his continuing residence, he began full-time work with S.W. Rawls Inc., Petroleum Distributors (a family-owned business,) where he was president from 1964 to 1994, and chairman until he sold the business to his loyal and valued employees in 1997.

In addition to being founder and first president of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce (1953-56,) he is past president of the Franklin Rotary Club (1949-50,) Old Dominion Area Boy Scouts of America (1955-56,) VMI General Alumni Association (1951-53) and founding president of the Southampton Memorial Hospital Board (1960-80) on which he served for 32 years.

He was a 10-year member (1955-66) and chairman of the Virginia State Council of Higher Education from 1964-66. During the ‘60s, he served as chairman of the Governor’s Committee on Nursing; vice chairman for the Virginia Higher Education Study Commission; vice chairman for the Governor’s Regional Advisory Group for Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke; and vice chairman of the Virginia Comprehensive Health Planning Council

During his tenure on the VMI Board of Visitors (1968-76,) he served as vice president (1969) and president (1970-76.) He was vice president for the Eastern Virginia Medical School Foundation from 1970-80, and from 1978 to 1990, he helped raise $170 million as co-general chairman of The VMI Campaign (VMI’s $150 million endowment campaign.)

From 1983 until 2006, he served as director and president of the Camp Foundation, and as chairman from 2006-2007. He also served on the Board of Directors for Franklin Southampton Charities, the VMI Alumni Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Southeast Virginia 4-H Educational Center.

He also served as trustee of Sentara Health Systems. His former directorships include: The Village at Woods Edge; Franklin Concrete Products Company; Continental Telephone Company of Virginia; The George C. Marshall Foundation; the VMI Foundation Inc.; and the VMI Keydet Club.

He was the founder of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation and served as its president from 1989-1999. He owned one of the few registered private packs of foxhounds in Virginia, recognized by the Masters Foxhounds Association of America.

Among his many honors were: the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award (1935;) Old Dominion Area Council, Silver Beaver Award (1955;) First Citizen of Franklin (1966;) an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from the Medical College of Virginia (1968;) Unsung Virginian Award (1974;) VMI Distinguished Service Award (1990;) BSA: Colonial VA Council, Good Scout Award (1994;) Franklin/Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year (1998;) and VMI’s New Market Medal (2000.)

[Note: That is VMI’s highest honor presented to an American citizen whose life and career have displayed virtues shown by the 1864 cadets: leadership, duty, honor and devotion, this was only the 10th time the honor had been bestowed in 40 years.

Other recipients include Sen. Byrd and former governors.;] Virginia Economic Development Association’s Virginia Volunteer of the Year (2005;) and The Franklin Community’s Wall of Excellence award (2017.) The latter honor was made possible through Clyde Parker’s nomination. During the program that fall, Waite said of his father’s legacy, “You can be what you reach out to be.”

Rawls co-chaired a community relations (interracial dialogue) group, and was a member of the Franklin Baptist Church, where he has served as deacon, assistant Sunday School superintendent and past president of the Bruner Bible Class.

Waite himself added only this about his father and grandfather: “Growing up with both of them was an inspiration. Both taught — no, drilled into us — the same two lessons.

First, you must serve your community. And second, never take the credit. Give the credit to somebody else. Take the blame yourself.”