Remembering a Beloved Birmingham Native
William M. Spencer III was a scholar, U.S. Marine, entrepreneur, civic leader, farmer, philanthropist, mentor, and good friend to many. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on December 10, 1920, to William M. Spencer Jr. and Margaret Woodward Evins Spencer, he passed away in March.
Bill Spencer graduated from the Baylor School in Chattanooga with honors and moved on to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1941 with a degree in chemistry. Later he attended Harvard University’s graduate school of business. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 and shipped out to the central Pacific as an artillery spotter. He participated in landings on the islands of Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa and was part of the first occupation force in Nagasaki. During his service he received the rank of captain and earned a Bronze Star. Following the war he returned to Birmingham and married Evalina Brown Spencer (founder of Highlands School) in 1946. Bill and Evalina were married for 47 years until her untimely death in 1993. Spencer later remarried and is survived by his wife of 15 years, Virginia Bissell Spencer.
Spencer began his business career as a partner in the ownership of the Owen-Richards Company, which later grew into Motion Industries. He also served as a director of the Mead Corporation, Genuine Parts Co., BE&K, AmSouth Bank, BioCryst (as founder), The University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, and The Robertson Banking Company. His many services to the community include serving as president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Festival of Arts, United Appeal, St. Vincent’s Hospital Foundation, and the Robert Meyer Foundation; as chairman of the Birmingham Museum of Art from 1986 to 1994; and as a lifelong supporter of the Boy Scouts of America. He also served as the president of Mountain Brook Club, the Redstone Club, and The Club.
Spencer’s legacy to UAB includes the William M. and Virginia B. Spencer Honors House, the Evalina B. Spencer Endowed Chair in Oncology, the Spencer Chair in Medical Science Leadership, the Virginia B. Spencer Endowed Research Fund in Neuroscience, and the Virginia B. Spencer Scholar in Neuroscience. In recognition of the Spencers’ history of philanthropic support, the Alabama Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals named the organization’s award recognizing outstanding philanthropy the William M. and Virginia B. Spencer Outstanding Philanthropist Award.
Above all else, Bill Spencer was a friendly, intelligent, and positive force who always believed in leaving things better than he found them. He was a tremendous example of the power of positive thinking and also displayed great empathy for his fellow man.
“Bill Spencer’s contributions to UAB and Birmingham are immeasurable,” says Shirley Salloway Kahn, Ph.D., vice president for development, alumni, and external relations. “He leaves a wonderful legacy at UAB that will impact generations of current and future students, faculty, and patients. I feel fortunate to have known Bill, and I know he will be greatly missed by the Birmingham and UAB communities.”
Maintaining the Momentum / Summer 2010