Veteran receives high school diploma at 92

January 11, 2019 chris
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By Sarrah Peters/News Editor

On Christmas Day, Calvin Rollins received a present he never thought he would get. At age 92, Rollins received his high school diploma from Randolph County High School. His daughter Ann Rollins Bryant had arranged the diploma. Bryant had hoped to have Randolph County Superintendent John Jacobs travel to Gadsden to surprise Rollins with the diploma, but delays and holiday travel plans caused the plans to change.

Instead, Bryant contacted former State Representative Craig Ford and asked him to surprise her father with his diploma on Christmas Day while his family was with him for the holiday. Ford co-sponsored legislature to allow veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War receive high school diplomas that they did not receive because they were serving in the military, as long as they were honorably discharged.

“I’m honored that I got the opportunity to present him with his diploma, which he would have gotten 70 years earlier if he hadn’t been serving his country, protecting us during World War II,” said Ford. “It was a real blessing to get to do this for him for Christmas. Spending time with this hero was the best Christmas present I could have ever received.”

At about six or seven years old, Rollins missed a year of school while battling diphtheria.

“They said that I wouldn’t make it through the night,” said Rollins. “I remember them having a prayer meeting for me.”

The next year, he wound up fighting whooping cough and missed another year of school.

“I never hurt so bad in all my life as I did with whooping cough,” said Rollins.

He fell another year behind when his school, which had two teachers who taught several grades at a time, closed. He was transferred to a larger school.

Rollins was drafted at age 19 near the end of World War II, when he was in 10th grade. While traveling on the ship overseas in 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Rollins’ service brought him through Scotland to England, then to France and Germany.

“When I got there, I was the only soldier on the ship, that I know of, that got strep throat,” said Rollins. I was put in the field hospital.”

After that, Rollins went through Belgium, then back to France, then back to Germany, then into Austria. Rollins was honorably discharged in June of 1947, only months after he would have graduated.

“I tell you I tried to get on at these places and they said I had to have a diploma,” said Rollins.

After leaving the military, Rollins married his wife Nancy and attended a farming school in Randolph County, before moving to Gadsden to attend a trade school.

“We’ve been in Gadsden ever since, for 60 or 70 years,” said Rollins.

When finding jobs, not having a diploma often caused companies to pass Rollins over as a candidate.

“I tell you I tried to get on at these places and they said I had to have a diploma,” said Rollins.

Rollins did receive his GED, but many companies did not accept it as a substitute for a high school diploma.

Bryant said that her father’s experience made him emphasize the importance of getting a high school diploma.

“I can be satisfied now,” said Rollins. “I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had a diploma.”

Rollins built a career as an automobile mechanic and raised four children, two boys and two girls.

“The good lord looked after me all these years and guided me into marrying Nancy,” said Rollins.  “I’m sure he had to look after me lots.”