I was born and raised in Surry county. I attended Mount Airy High School where I played football for the Granite City Bears. Upon graduation I was offered a football scholarship to play at Virginia Tech. I enrolled at Tech in 1952 and elected to study Mechanical Engineering. I also enrolled in the AFROTC program. Upon graduation in 1956 I earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force.
I entered primary pilot training in the USAF and learned to fly in the T-34 and T-28. I completed my training in the B-25 and earned my pilot’s wings in 1958 and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command. I served as a crew member on the KC-97 and later as Aircraft Commander in the KC-135. I also have experience in the B-52, U3, and NA 265 Sabreliner amassing some 3000 hours of flying time.
Coming to RJR
When I departed the Air Force in 1967, I was searching for an engineering job and learned RJR was diversifying into other subsidiaries. I applied for a job and was hired as a Process Engineer in RJR Foods. I progressed over the years to Group Leader, Section Head and spent a short time as Director of Evaluation and Analysis. When the Del Monte merger occurred, I was not invited to move to San Francisco and was transferred to the corporate headquarters as Manager of Asset Administration in the Asset and Risk Management Department. I worked in this area for several years and ended up being promoted to Director of the Department reporting to John Dowdle, VP Finance for the corporation.
I enjoyed working for John. We had occasion to play golf together at his club after work John was not the greatest golfer, but he was fast. When we played at Old Town Club, I always managed to hit the ball and get into the cart immediately. Otherwise, John might just leave you standing in the fairway.
When the Nabisco merger occurred, I was not invited to move to Atlanta, and I accepted a position in R&D as Strategic Planning Manager.
I worked until 1988. I was offered an early retirement package and elected to retire.
In retirement, I have played a lot of golf as a member of Bermuda Run and later Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington. My wife, Mary, and I have spent nine winters in Florida as members of the Lake Wales Country Club. We have traveled extensively to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska, and China. We have volunteered for several charitable organizations and are very active in our church.
In 2017, we sold our home and moved into a retirement center called Carolina Bay here in Wilmington.. Ironically, Ed and Betty Horrigan, our former CEO, lived in the same building as we do. It’s a small world after all!
5553 Old Garden Road, Unit 102
Wilmington, NC 28403
Roger Simmons and I both worked in the Treasurers’ Department for several years, although in completely different areas. My association with him brings back good memories of RJR days, especially his description of playing golf with our boss, John Dowdle. John was about six and a half feet tall. I was not a golfer, but I remember traveling with him, and in airports or on city streets, I practically had to run to keep pace with him.
Roger’s story is an example of the new things you can learn about your former colleagues, even after all these years. I did not know that Roger played college football, served as a USAF officer in the Strategic Air Command, or was a pilot -three impressive accomplishments. GAH