Troy loses ‘man of character’ with Rice’s death

Published 8:22 pm Monday, September 27, 2010

Bill Rice Sr. was laid to rest Monday in the town that he loved and honored all of his life.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said there has never been anyone who took more pride in his hometown than Rice or anyone who has done more to preserve its past for future generations.

“Bill will be remembered by the city for his contributions to the recycling program,” Lunsford said. “He will be remembered by sports fans as the tall, lanky fellow who played football for Troy High School and then for ‘the Bear.’ But mainly, Bill will be remembered for his interest and knowledge of the history of Troy.”

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Lunsford said he doesn’t know of anyone, except the late Margaret Pace Farmer, who knew as much about Troy and its people as Bill Rice.

“Bill loved Troy and he loved learning about its history and sharing it with others,” Lunsford said. “He realized the value of preserving our history by writing it down. He wanted people to know and understand what our community was like and how and why it has changed and the role people played in making us who we are today.”

Rice authored three history books including the “Troy 1838-2006” and “Trojan Influence.”

Rice was a part of the history of Troy, the sports history.

“Bill was the premier football player to come out of Troy, other than

(University of Alabama All-American) Bobby Marlow,” said William Davis, a neighbor and longtime friend.

Rice played fullback and defensive tackle in high school and was in Bear Bryant’s first recruiting class at the University of Alabama. He was a member of the 1961 National Championship team, Bryant’s first at Alabama.

“At Alabama, they made a lineman out of Bill,” Davis said. “He was big, tall and fast and that was an unusual combination for a man that big back in those days. Bill told me a lot of stories about playing for Bear Bryant. He was fearful of him but had tremendous respect for him.”

Mal Moore, UA athletic director, played with Rice at Alabama and attended his funeral services on Monday. “Mal Moore, Paul Bryant Jr. and several of Bill’s teammates attended the funeral and that speaks volumes for Bill,” Davis said.

Not only was Rice a great historian and a celebrated sports figure, he was also a hometown kind of guy. When the city of Troy was putting together a recycling program, Rice was the man the city wanted.

“Bill came out of retirement to do that for us,” Lunsford said. “Testimony to the job that he did was that Troy was named the number one recycling city (with a population under 100,000) in the country. It was Bill’s idea to get the recycling message across through small kids. We started by going into the schools and talking to the classes and the students took the message home. Recycling increased exponentially throughout the city.”

Rice served 22 years in the military and retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Alabama National Guard. He took great pride in having served.

But there was nothing that Rice took more pride in than being a Troy boy.

“Bill Rice Sr. left behind a legacy of words that tell the story of the town that he loved and one that loved him back,” Lunsford said.

At six feet and five inches and 200 plus pounds, Bill Rice Sr. appeared to be “a big ol’ bear.” “But underneath Bill was just a teddy bear,” Davis said. “He was a great guy. He was a man of tradition and a man of character.”

That’s how history will remember him.