Dr. Garlan Edward Gudger Sr.
Dr. Garlan Edward Gudger Sr. of Cullman went to his Heavenly home on May 7. And just as he would have wanted, he was at his home in his bedroom when his heart closed the final chapter of his earthly life.
He became a Christian at age 16 on Mother’s Day at his home church in Salisbury, NC, where he was born and raised. He attended Salisbury schools and played sports from an early age. He played basketball, varsity football from the eighth grade until graduation, and he was the county weightlifting champion.
He resided in Salisbury until leaving for Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he was selected as an All Mid-South football player. From Heights he earned a football scholarship to Tennessee Tech, Cookeville, Tennessee, where he played on the OVC championship team. He graduated from Tech with a BS and MS in Health and Physical Education and later returned to Middle Tennessee to earn his doctorate in Junior College Administration.
In 1969 he began Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in his garage. The company has grown through his and his son Garlan Jr.’s leadership to be ranked this past month in the Top 5 in the nation for the industry.
Dr. Gudger coached locally at West Point, Fairview and Cullman high schools. He loved his players, and many of them went on to become coaches themselves.
After his own coaching days were over, he was always a presence at all his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events, no matter when or where, coaching from his chair at the end of the court or behind the fence. His words to his grandchildren were always, “Do your very best. That’s what God expects.” He used those words in his life as well, being “tough as nails” as he went through various health issues, including an organ transplant after receiving a kidney from Garlan Jr. and surviving Type 1 diabetes for 66 years, a very rare accomplishment – so much so, in fact, that he was awarded a medal from the Joslin Diabetic Clinic at Harvard University.
He was also awarded the “Flavious Smith Outstanding Alumni Award” from Tennessee Tech in his major department; “Outstanding Dean” of the Alabama Junior College Deans Association, a group that he founded at the inception of the community college period; and was inducted into the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, an honor he greatly cherished.
Dr. Gudger was the first dean hired at Wallace State, serving in that capacity for 23 years, helping students with everything from personal dilemmas to financial problems and, in some cases, funding the student’s college career himself. He retired in 1995 and continued to support Wallace State, encouraging students to enroll, promoting athletics, and forever being a cheerleader of all that the College accomplished.
An endowed scholarship bears his name through the Future Foundation. The Dr. Garlan Gudger Sr. Endowed Scholarship was originally established by Jeremy Oden to honor Dr. Gudger’s leadership and impact at Wallace State. Contributions to this fund may be made by being mailed to WSCC Future Foundation – Gudger Scholarship, PO BOX 568, Hanceville, AL 35077.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Dot Denning Gudger, and his three children, Jill Gudger Howell and husband Michael; Joy Gudger Barker and husband Brady; and Garlan Edward Gudger Jr. and wife Heather Pierce Gudger. He is also survived by six loving grandchildren, Victoria, Alexandria, Mary Elizabeth and Sarah Katherine Barker, and Garlan Edward Gudger III (Tripp) and Pierce Gudger. One sibling survives, Connie Gudger Mathews, of Salisbury, NC; two nephews, Justin Kepley and wife Amber and their three sons, Charleston, SC, and Jim Denning, McMinnville, Tennessee; and two nieces, Lindsey Kepley Hamrick and husband Justin and their two sons, Apopka, Fla., and Eva Denning Quinley and husband Ron, Knoxville, Tennessee.
He was preceded in death by his parents Hoyle and Ruth Gudger, infant brother, grandparents Paul and Liz Gudger and James and Maggie Womble, all of Salisbury, NC.
His desire was to always make the world, especially his community of Cullman that he loved, a better place. We believe he has done that while at the same time influencing generations of young people to have better lives and become better people.
Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. May 10 at First Baptist Church, Cullman.
Funeral services will be at First Baptist May 11 at 11 a.m. with Dr. Ed Hayes and the Rev. Tom Richter officiating, with interment in the Cullman City Cemetery. Moss Service is in charge of arrangements.
1 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”