DECATUR- The legacy of Thomas W. Carson will live on through a band hall bearing his name at East Central Community College.
“Tom would be so proud for EC (East Central) and for the band students that the band hall is finally being built,” said his widow, Brenda Carson. “Tom loved East Central, but more importantly, he loved the students he taught and directed...for him to be honored in this way, to us it is just so special."
College officials broke ground on the Thomas W. Carson Band Hall on Tuesday. The new building will honor Carson, who died of esophageal cancer in 2013 at age 57. He served as ECCC's director of bands for 30 years, from 1982 to 2012.
The 13,000 square-foot facility will be located on the north side of the Vickers Fine Arts Center and will cost an estimated $3.5 million. The hall will also house the Wall O' Sound Marching Band practice hall, practice studios, teaching studios, instrument storage, a music library and office space. Construction is expected to be started in the spring and will take about two years.
During the groundbreaking, ECCC president Brent Gregory reflected on Carson's impact at the college.
“Mr. Carson was truly an institution at East Central Community College,” he said. “He took a 17-member band in 1982 and transformed that into a 180-member band named the Wall O' Sound by 2012."
ECCC student and Wall O' Sound drum major Grace Everett remembered Carson as a young girl, and noted the influence he continues to have.
"My sister and I are just two of the many who were encouraged by a parent to be part of the program, due to their time under the direction of Mr. Carson," she said.
ECCC music instructor Chas Evans studied under Carson, and said joining The Collegians rock group changed his life. The band, directed by Carson, played popular pop and rock songs.
“That boosted my self-confidence, and that's all thanks to Tom,” said Evans, who succeeded Carson as the director of The Collegians. “He did a great job with that.”
Evans described Carson as a father figure, noting that he often helped students even after they left ECCC. Carson came to his mother's funeral and helped him prepare for his studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, Evans said.
“He was a great mentor, a coach and just a great guy,” he said.
Evans remembered that years ago, Carson would talk about the need for a band hall at the school.
That dream is now becoming a reality, he said.
“Here to see it happen 15 years later, it's just a joy to see,” he said.