Chapman’s ‘love of community’ is his legacy

Published 11:02 pm Friday, May 4, 2012

Wiley White was measured as she reflected Friday on the death of philanthropist Corley “Brother” Chapman Jr.

“His legacy will be his love of this community,” said White, who counts Chapman among her closest friends.

Chapman, 72, passed away at his home Thursday evening. A Troy native, Chapman was well-known for his love of culture, the arts and historic preservation. He was a former employee of Troy Bank and Trust Co. and, since 1971, had been a dedicated board member of TB&T and Henderson Bancshares. He served on the board of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center and, through his work with the Troy Arts Council, was instrumental in creating the Jean Lake Arts Festival which evolved into TroyFest. He also was a catalyst in the creation of the Johnson Center for the Arts and the restoration of “the old post office” in downtown Troy. Most recently, he purchased and restored the Allred House, garnering a listing on the National Registry of Historic Places for his work.

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“Brother’s contributions are going to extend well beyond his years,” said Allen Jones, a close personal friend. “He has invested so much of his life into the arts – from the cultural arts center to the Jean Lake festival … and he’s had a remarkable tenure with Troy Bank and Trust, where he’s been personally affiliated as either an employee or director since 1966.”

Chapman’s connection to the bank runs deep. His uncle, Lane Enzor, was a president of TB&T, as was his father, Corley Chapman. While working with TB&T, Brother Chapman was integrally involved in the establishment and management of the Charles Henderson trust, which provided funding for the public schools and Charles Henderson Child Health Center.

“Brother and his family have been such an integral part of TB&T for so many years,” said Jeff Kervin, president and CEO. “With his passing we are losing a friend, valued board member and strong leader.”

Kervin’s comments were echoed by many in the community on Friday. “My day was saddened with news of the death of my good friend Brother Chapman. Troy will not be the same with his absence,” said Mack Gibson.

“Having served on the Troy Bank and Trust Board of Directors with Brother for nearly 20 years, I discovered a very dedicated businessman in whatever endeavor he pursued. Not only did Brother give of himself to the business community, he freely involved himself with the cultural life of Troy. I would not attempt to guess the number of hours he gave to the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center as a board member and especially his leadership in the renovation of the post office building into a premier center for the arts. Not only will I miss him as one of my faithful board members at the cultural arts center, but I especially miss him as my good friend.”

Jones said he has known Brother “literally all my life. My parents rented a house from his parents when I was born.”

Upon returning to Troy in 1980, Jones’ friendship with Chapman continued to grow and develop, as did their business relationship. “Anybody will tell you he’s just one of the classiest gentlemen you’d ever want to be around,” Jones said. “He was stubborn in promoting what he believed in, yet he did it as a gentleman. That’s why he got so much accomplished.”

White worked with Chapman at the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center and through the creation of the Johnson Center for the Arts. “This just wouldn’t be here without him,” she said. “He was always thinking about how he could include things … he had a historic bent and only wanted the best for Troy and the people here.

“He wants buildings (like the Post Office) to come back and be alive … he wanted things to be alive and to thrive, and he wanted people to appreciate the history.”

Chapman was known for converting the former St. Martin Catholic Church in downtown Troy into the Emporium, preserving the historic structure and giving it new life. His vision for preservation influenced the effort to turn the former post office into a cultural arts center and the restoration of his residence, the Allred House, had been his latest project.

That preservation work is among Chapman’s most lasting legacies. “I told him a week or so ago, ‘you left a gem of history for the people of Pike County by preserving this house,’” Jones said. “This history would not be here if it weren’t for Brother.”

Chapman’s generosity extended throughout the community, in large ways and small. “Brother was behind the scenes and working to help anybody who needed it,” said Betty Waggoner, a fellow arts council volunteer and longtime teacher at Charles Henderson High School. “I never called him to ask for something at the high school and had him turn me down, I don’t care what it was…

“In fact, this morning I was counting money for Relay for Life and realized that this will be the first time I won’t have a check with Brother’s name on it.”

For Jones, Chapman’s “big heart” embodied his life and legacy. “He had a big heart. That’s just Brother … and I’m proud to say he was one of my closest friends ever.”