By Rubin E. Grant
Murry Bartow had a front row seat when the UAB football program started at the NCAA Division III level in 1991.
Bartow was an assistant coach on the basketball team under his late father, Gene Bartow, the head coach and the Blazers’ athletics director at the time. Charles “Scotty” McCallum was the UAB president.
Gene Bartow and McCallum had a special bond, Bartow said.
“Dr. McCallum was a great friend of our family and he and my dad were incredibly close,” Bartow said. “They were heavily involved in starting football at UAB.”
Gene Bartow once wrote that McCallum was “the best college president any athletic director could ever have.”
McCallum died Jan. 16 of natural causes at his home in Vestavia Hills. He was 95.
McCallum was UAB’s third president, from 1987 until 1993.
“Our university family and the Birmingham community have lost a fierce advocate and a wonderful friend,” UAB President Ray L. Watts said in a statement issued by the school. “Scotty believed in the people of this university, their work and their mission to provide a quality education to all and to build a medical facility that could care for the people of our state and beyond. Without his visionary leadership and dedication, UAB would not be the world-class institution it is today. Nancy and I are eternally grateful for Scotty’s life and join the UAB Family in sending our deepest sympathies to the McCallum family.”
Before being named UAB president, McCallum served as vice president for health affairs, dean of the School of Dentistry and chair of the Department of Oral Surgery. McCallum came to Birmingham in 1951 as an oral surgery intern and earned his medical doctorate in 1957 from what was then known as the Birmingham medical school.
McCallum’s family wrote in his obituary that “he loved the student-athletes and coaches on all the teams at UAB and frequently attended their games, as he believed athletics was integral to school spirit and the culture of the campus.”
McCallum was inducted into UAB’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
“He was great for UAB,” Murry Bartow said. “He was a veritable ambassador for the school, and he fought hard for UAB.
His Legacy in Vestavia
McCallum also served as Vestavia Hills’ mayor from 2000 to 2008, after having moved to the city in 1967 to raise his family.
Current Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry issued a statement saying he was thankful to have known McCallum.
“His impact on the City of Vestavia Hills will be felt for many, many years,” Curry said. “He leaves a tremendous legacy.”
City manager Jeff Downes also issued a statement.
“Many of the successes we see today are a direct result of the foundation laid by Scotty McCallum,” Downes said. “He was a fine man and an influential member of our city government. His many contributions to the City of Vestavia Hills will continue to benefit our residents for years to come.”
When McCallum received the Vulcan Park and Museum Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018, he said, “There are many things that bring me joy. What I love doing is working with the people in this community who are so wonderful. I’m lucky that I came to Birmingham back in 1951. When you’re making other people happy, I think that’s so important.
“We’re here because God put us here to make this a better world and a better place and to be kind to other human beings. It’s a beautiful, beautiful challenge.”
Bartow said McCallum accomplished his lifelong mission.
“All of us want to have a full life and he did live a full one,” Bartow said. “I’m going to miss him.”