Looking Back: Carroll-TSU professor or Rhett Butler?

Published 7:01 pm Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There was a time when Rhett Butler strolled across the Troy State University campus, or was it Clark Gable people saw walking beneath the magnolia trees on the Quad?

No. It was just University professor Jack Carroll, a handsome, retired Navy man with 100 tattoos.

Anyone who was on the Troy State University campus from 1974 until 1989 will remember Jack Carroll.

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During those years, Carroll was professor of history and associate dean of the Arts and Sciences Department.

He was an imposing figure on campus. It was if Carroll had walked straight off the set of “Gone With the Wind” and onto the university campus.

To say Jack Carroll was a dapper dresser would be an understatement.

The most striking thing about Carroll was his collection of western-style suits, hats and boots. He often boasted of having more than 100 suits. His most popular attire was that of a Southern gentleman — a white suit topped with a white, wide-brimmed hat.

If Carroll had not chosen an early career in the Navy and a second career in the college classroom, he probably would have been a movie star.

In fact, he did have minor roles in many movies and once served as a double for Robert Taylor in a western movie.

He likely came in possession of most of his suits via the movie studio wardrobe departments.

Carroll didn’t wear glasses but he did carry a monocle on a gold chain and used it frequently.

Carroll was popular with the fairer sex. He could have been called a ladies’ man.

In 1945, when he was stationed near several movie studios in California, he agreed to a blind date. The date turned out to be Lana Turner.

Carroll grew up in Chicago where his father had extensive business holdings. He had a passion for baseball and his favorite team was the Chicago White Sox.

Carroll’s high school baseball coach was one of the members of the White Sox banned from baseball for conspiring with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series.

During World War II, he served under Admiral Richard Byrd, who was already famous as a leader of explorations of the polar region. He served with Byrd on the Navy expedition to the South Pole following the war.

Carroll met Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas Southall Freeman on President Harry Truman’s yacht. Freeman died before he finished the last volume of a seven-volume biography of President George Washington. Carroll and Mary Ashworth completed the seventh volume and shared the 1958 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

At TSU, Carroll was popular with the students. He was an outstanding lecturer and, oh, the stories he could tell.

Editor’s note: Information for Looking Back was complied from Dr. Milton McPherson’s research.