Former Citadel President Maj. Gen. James A. Grimsley Jr. dies

Former Citadel President Maj. Gen. James A. Grimsley died today. He was 91.

Yalonda M. James

Former Citadel President Maj. Gen. James A. Grimsley Jr., widely known for emphasizing leadership, discipline and academic excellence, died Tuesday.

The retired U.S. Army officer and 16th president of The Citadel was 91.

Grimsley held the military college’s top post from 1980 until 1989, and was named president emeritus upon his retirement, an honor previously given to only Gen. Charles P. Summerall and Gen. Mark W. Clark.

Ben Legare, a retired Army Lt. Colonel and a member of the school’s Board of Visitors, said he served with Grimsley in Vietnam in 1966. And in 1982, Grimsley hired him as The Citadel’s government affairs liaison.

“He was firm but fair in Vietnam and he was firm but fair as president of The Citadel,” Legare said.

Grimsley, unlike many people, excelled in many areas of his career and life, Legare said. “He was a fine Army officer, with great skills as an administrator and had a deep understanding of the Charleston community.”

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in the Summerall Chapel on The Citadel campus. The Grimsley family will receive guests immediately following in Mark Clark Hall. Graveside services will be held at 2 p.m. at Beaufort National Ceremony.

“Gen. Grimsley was a trailblazer in his time. His tenure at The Citadel was marked by a renewed emphasis on leadership and academic standards,” Citadel President Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa stated in a news release. “The Citadel is what it is today because of Gen. Grimsley. He will be missed.”

Grimsley, born Nov. 14, 1921 in Florence, entered The Citadel in 1938. As a cadet he was the commander of Charlie Company, a member of the Bond Volunteers, the Summerall Guards, the Junior Sword Drill, chairman of the Standing Hop Committee and president of the Pee Dee Area Citadel Club. He also was listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. In 1942, he graduated with a degree in business administration and was commissioned second lieutenant of infantry in the U.S. Army.

His Army career spanned 33 years and included combat service in World War II and Vietnam. With assignments spread equally among troop duty and senior level staff positions, he advanced through the grades to major general and completed his career as the director of security assistance plans and policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During his active duty career, he received 35 major decorations, including two Silver Star medals for gallantry in action; four Bronze Star medals for valor; the Distinguished Service Medal; four Legion of Merit awards; and three Purple Heart medals.

Grimsley retired from the Army in September 1975 to accept the position of vice president for administration and finance at The Citadel. He assumed the position of interim president of The Citadel, on Aug. 25, 1980, and was named the 16th president of the military college on Dec. 6, 1980.

Grimsley’s legacy on campus will be lasting. Grimsley Hall replaced Alumni Hall in 1991 and the building is named in his honor.

Grimsley was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, the former Jessie Lawson of Florence. He has three children — James A. Grimsley III, a 1968 Citadel graduate; Anne Bander; and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William F. Grimsley. He also had seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.