As a child of the Depression (born in Tyler in 1925), I was raised in circumstances that young people today wouldn’t understand. One thing that hasn’t changed though is that education is the great equalizer. It helps people discover their talents and then allows them to reach their full potential. A good education is the key to a bright future where someone like me, regardless of background, can earn good wages, find a satisfying career, raise a family and provide comforts that were beyond any my family knew.
I attended schools in Tyler and Van, and graduated from Mineola in 1942. I made good grades, was in the National Honor Society, and then entered the Army in WWII.
After the Army, I took advantage of the GI Bill and attended Tyler Junior College from 1946-1948. Doc Witt recruited me for the Tyler Junior College Band and I also played trumpet in a dance band, The Varsitones. In my spare time, I played with the Tyler Symphony Orchestra and the Marvin Methodist Church Orchestra. Even then, TJC was establishing a great record of academic excellence. I worked hard to make the Honor Roll and joined the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), which continues to this day. In fact, more TJC students are selected for All USA Academic Team recognition through PTK than any other college.
While at TJC, I rode the bus from Mineola with fellow students such as Bobby Inman, who would become one of the most famous East Texans ever. I may have been voted Class Favorite at the time, but I had amazing classmates. Admiral Bobby Inman became the youngest Admiral in history and went on to become NSA Director and Deputy Director of the CIA. Fellow band member Harold Beaird became a petroleum engineer, oilman and philanthropist. Band member Grady Hallman went on to become a renowned physician and one of the finest surgeons in the country, and he still kept playing in the Houston Symphony until a few years ago.
Being around so many great TJC students inspired me as well. After graduating from TJC, I went on to Baylor University and received my BBA in 1950. For the next 23 years, I worked with Magnolia Oil Company, which later became Mobil. I attended law school at night in Houston at the South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1964.
Marvin Methodist Church helped my parents raise me as a person of faith, and I have served there in several Board positions. I am currently among the oldest continuous members, and I am still an usher at Marvin.
My wife of 63 years, Marilee Rabb Chapman, is an artist, author and retired teacher. Our two daughters, Dawn Chapman Herwood and Dr. Suzanne Chapman Reams attended Tyler Junior College where they were able to begin college while still at Lee High School. Our wonderful grandchildren, Chapman and Callan Herwood, also attended TJC which gave them a great foundation and helped them to be honors graduates in their baccalaureate studies.
My family, stretching three generations, has benefitted from a “legacy of learning” at TJC. Experiencing the nurturing and support, along with academic rigor at TJC, made all the difference in all of us becoming honors graduates in our four-year degree programs. TJC continues today to be our region’s “college of opportunity” and the Chapman family is proud to be part of the TJC family of alumni.
- Dean Chapman continues to practice law and is currently Of Counsel at the Flowers Davis firm. He believes that TJC was a great foundation and helped him to discover himself as well as the person he would become. He has tried to give back by being involved in the Texas State Bar Association, the East Texas Bar Association and the American Association of Petroleum Landmen. He served as Past President of the East Texas Association of Petroleum Landmen, Past President and Member of the Board of Directors of the Tyler Petroleum Club and Marina, and Past Chairman of the Smith County Child Welfare Board.