Sometimes you think you know a person and then it turns out that you don’t have a clue.
That was the case when I learned of the Sept. 17 passing of Jim Candler.
I hadn’t seen Candler in years but remembered him as a passionate supporter of Virginia athletics and past president of the Virginia Student Aid Foundation, now known as the Virginia Athletics Foundation.
He was living in Lynchburg when I met him and I just assumed he was a Lynchburg “guy.” Many times I’ve driven by Liberty University, located in the shadow of Candler’s Mountain, and figured there had to be a connection.
It wasn’t till much later that I learned of his Roanoke Valley roots.
Most of my information comes from physician and hospital administrator Dr. Kellogg Hunt, who was one of Candler’s teammates on the 140-pound team at Andrew Lewis High School.
Hunt and Candler were roommates at Virginia, where both played on the freshman
team in 1954. Candler stuck it out and spent three years on the varsity, earning a letter in his fourth year in 1957.
Candler wasn’t an All-ACC player for Virginia. However, he had been an all-state player at Andrew Lewis, no small feat given a physical handicap that Dr. Hunt, as a physician, can describe in educated detail.
“At the time of his birth in Salem, he sustained an injury to his neck and shoulder, resulting in paralysis of his right arm,” Hunt writes. “That arm failed to develop appropriately, leaving him with approximately 20-percent strength and severe limitation of movement of it throughout his life.”
That didn’t prevent Candler from playing football and basketball at Andrew Lewis, where he also ran track. He was captain of the football and basketball teams in 1953-54 and distinguished himself as a hurdler in track.
Following college graduation, Candler went to work for ESSO, now Exxon, and later went into business for himself, starting the Candler Oil Company in 1968. Hunt describes Candler as “a very competitive” golfer and tennis player avid golfer who also skied and played pick-up basketball.
“H never complained nor wanted any sympathy for his physical limitation and never let it keep him from enjoying whatever sport was available,” Hunt wrote. “Jim was very competitive and disliked losing at tennis, golf, or other endeavors. But he was ever the consummate gentleman.”
Candler, who was 78, was aware that he had a fatal disease and dealt with it gracefully.
“His keen sense of humor was apparent when, shortly after receiving the news of his fatal disease, he told his golfing buddies not to treat him any differently, with one exception – he needed three strokes in their future matches,” Hunt said.
“Their reply, in unison, was, ‘Forget about that!’ “