August 9, 1898 - October 11, 1981
The Ecumenical Institute of Wake Forest University was founded in 1968. Its first director was Brooks Hays. The creation of the Institute and the appointment of Mr. Hays were decisions made on this campus, but surely the heavens must have smiled at this wedding of noble purpose and noble man.
What most of us did not know at the time--with the exception of President Scales--was that Mr, Hays was a man of exceptional Christian and political vision and that he knew--not merely believed--that politics and Christianity were highly compatible and need not circle one another like suspicious, cautious enemies.
This unusual approach to the workaday world of passing laws or the arcane world of debating theological hypotheses gave many of us reason to pause. Mr. Hays was an old political warhorse, but in the words of one of his admirers "being around him was like coming upon a clear, deep pool of water and a few green trees in an otherwise dusty, barren and harsh landscape." More importantly, in the opinion of this Board, Mr. Hays showed us that landscapes need not be dusty, that ideas need not be barren and that love can be found instead of harshness, if one simply extends love.
So it was that Mr. Hays touched the lives of students, faculty, administrators, and members of the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University. We responded to him happily because he was a brave man who would not allow a tragic political defeat to mar his personality and make him a sad-faced and inept martyr. He counseled presidents of this nation as well as the impoverished residents of its ghettoes. He made young people believe that politics could become their happy and respectable parish.
Dr. Claude U. Broach, another former director of the Institute, said it this way: "He believed firmly--passionately would be a better word--that the world of politics offered not only a legitimate but also an imperative challenge for concerned Christians in the total spectrum of vocational choice. And he took on that challenge with matchless grace, wit, and wisdom. He had all the equipment required for a consummate politician, and more, he gave dignity to a profession often consigned to disrepute. "
One of the reasons we loved him was that he told genuinely funny and wise parables. He was a great servant of his native State of Arkansas and of the United States, a country he loved well and wisely. The Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University believes Mr. Hays made a special imprint on this institution. We salute his life and know that in death he continues to teach us.
We ask that this tribute to the Honorable Brooks Hays be entered into the minutes of the Board and that copies be sent to members of his family.
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