Originally created 02/23/03

Aiken's former city manager is dead at 78

Roland Windham, the Aiken city manager from 1963 to 1991 who was key in making the city grow and prosper, died Friday.

He was 78.

Mr. Windham was remembered fondly Saturday by family and by friends he made during his 28-year career with the city.

"He truly loved his job, the community and the people who were there," said former Director of Public Safety Carrol Busbee, who worked with Mr. Windham throughout his career.

The city leader was described as a warm, caring family man who had a knack for listening and making the person talking feel as if they were being listened to. His attentiveness spilled over into all areas of his life, which was rich with accomplishment personally and professionally, family members said.

Mr. Windham was assistant city manager and finance director for the city of Sumter and served a similar role in Rock Hill before becoming city manager in Aiken, where he became the catalyst behind the city's success and its path to progress, current city officials said.

"I contribute his management style and his wisdom to getting the city of Aiken to become the fine city it is," current Director of Public Safety Pete Frommer said.

In 1970, Mr. Windham merged Aiken's crime-fighting and firefighting agencies, creating a department of public safety. Aiken was one of the first cities to do so.

He also was instrumental in establishing Aiken's historic Hopeland Gardens and Rye Patch estate as city property, where a performing arts stage is named in his honor.

Securing the properties was one of his proudest moments, said his son, Roland Windham Jr.

"He just absolutely loved Aiken," Mr. Windham's son said. "He just wanted to do everything he could to make it a better place for everybody who lived here."

His scope of giving went well beyond Aiken, though. During World War II, he left his undergraduate studies at Wofford College to serve in the Pacific with the Navy. When communism fell in the late 1980s, Mr. Windham traveled with the University of South Carolina to Bulgaria and Russia on a trip to promote democracy.

Mr. Windham eventually graduated from USC and later obtained his master of education degree in administration there.

His daughter, Cindy Duryea, said Mr. Windham took great pride in everything he did, including his singing. The tenor performed solos at Aiken First Baptist Church and sang in The Music Man. He was Don Quixote's sidekick Sancho in Man of La Mancha.

In addition to his role as city manager, Mr. Windham was a member of several civic organizations, many of which honored him over the years. Despite his lifetime of achievement, Mr. Windham remained humble to the end, Mrs. Duryea said.

Shortly before his death he wrote her, saying, "If I made the world a better place, then my life was worth living."

"That was just Daddy," she said. "He was committed to excellence in every aspect of his life."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.


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