Vance Sherrill Summerlin, Jr.
I first met
Vance Summerlin in the early 1970s when he, his wife Peggy, and their four
children, Laura, Stephen, Melissa, and Kelly, began attending the Little
Church On The Lane, a Moravian
Church in Charlotte. Vance and Peggy joined a Sunday School Class
taught by my wife, Mary Lynn. I soon recognized that Vance was a
highly intelligent man with an irrepressible spirit, an unremitting
willingness to speak his mind, and a deep sense of social justice.
Reared in the working
class Wilmore neighborhood of Charlotte, Vance had to become tough in
order to survive. His nickname at Charlotte Central High School was
"Spike," and he honed his skills as a boxer. He later served
in Korea with the United States Army. Beneath his combative
exterior, however, Vance had a sensitive, artistic temperament. He
told me how he loved to listen to classical opera on the radio every
Saturday afternoon. Vance was a superb vocalist. For years I
stood next to him in the choir at church and marveled at his rich, tenor
voice. Vance's performances were enthralling, electrifying.
truly had a God-given talent to sing.
Vance was passionately interested in intellectual pursuits. He was an
avid reader and was well-versed in a broad spectrum of topics, especially
history, world affairs, and metaphysics. He knew the Bible well
and could quote many passages by heart. In matters spiritual Vance was
a seeker. His mind was always searching for proof. Vance was a
consummate question asker. Sometimes his readiness to
speak his mind forthrightly and boldly might shock those who had another
opinion. But Vance was always willing to listen to and consider
another person's viewpoint. He simply enjoyed the marketplace of ideas
and wanted to "mix it up;" and Vance understood that we never
learn anything new from someone with whom we totally agree.
Vance was essentially a child
of the Enlightenment. He would often express to me his disappointments
about the immoral and unkind actions of humanity. Vance cried out
against cruelty, prejudice, fanaticism, and blind submission to authority.
At heart Vance was an incredibly kind man who desperately wished for a
fundamental improvement in the human condition.
Vance was a salesman and was,
therefore, genuinely interested in people. He had a close, personal
relationship with Mr. Berol, his principal and long-time employer. He
also talked to me about his co-workers at Bank of America, Belks, and at the
many other places he worked. But Vance spoke most movingly to me about
his four children. He loved them deeply and wished only the best for
all of them.
Vance's heart was old, but his mind
was young. Vance was a truly fascinating human being. He was
never boring. Would that the world had more people like Vance Sherrill
Summerlin, Jr. Vance has gone to the other side of the river, and I
look forward to meeting him there one day so we can pick up where we left
off the last time we spoke. Goodbye dear friend. Your spirit is
finally at rest.
Dr. Dan L. Morrill
September 20, 2004