Colonel Bobby M. Dill Is Now At Peace With His Wife LaVerle
Colonel Bobby M. Dill, the Founder of The Times Examiner has gone on to be with his Lord on August 14, 2023, just ten days after turning 91 years old. All those who have been in politics, not just in the Upstate of SC but in South Carolina, know very well his influence here. But some of you may not know his influence within America's military and how The Times Examiner came to be. In honor of his memory, we will publish the following article that was published in the 2nd Anniversary edition of the June 5th, 1996 issue of The Times Examiner.
May God be with his family and friends as they prepare to honor a man and a legend here in the upstate of South Carolina. God bless his memory. Details of funeral and visitation arrangements will be forth coming.
Faith, Experience Motivate Publishers
Published by the Editor of The Times Examiner on Wednesday, June 5, 1996
Editor’s note: “How did you ever get into this?” people ask Bob and LaVerle Dill, owners of The Times Examiner. As the paper begins its third year of publication, we’ll try to answer that question and also introduce you to members of our newspaper “family.”
Bob and LaVerle Dill never dreamed they would one day publish a newspaper. In fact, they agreed to an early retirement beginning in July 1980.
No more stress, no more late night and weekend work. It would be wonderful.
But as time passed, there was a void. There was so much to be done, and others seemed too busy to do it.
Back in Greenville County, after an absence of 30 years, except for visits, they noticed that things seemed different. People complained about schools, government, taxes, undependable public officials, declining moral, and ethical standards, and "the media." Greenville was becoming a miniature Washington, DC - a place about which the Dills knew plenty.
They met while at Jordan High School in northern Greenville County. Five years later, while Bob was a student at Clemson (then a military school), they were married. That was 43 years ago this week.
Having two children and 28 different residences while Bob served in the military during war and peace, the Dills encountered the best and worst in schools and in humanity - top government officials and the dregs of society.
There were worthless bureaucrats and dedicated public servants, legitimate patriots, and leftist liberals who cursed and spat on widows and children of soldiers who gave their lives for their country. There also was familiarity with the national press corps.
When Bob finished at Clemson, there was an uneasy truce in Korea, the draft was in effect, and he had a two-year military obligation following graduation. Sixteen days after leaving college, he was on active duty in the US Army. Before his two years were up, he accepted a regular commission in the army.
That decision meant leaving an assignment in the Bremerhaven Port of Embarcation (Germany), where he saw LaVerle and their two small children nights and weekends, and moving to a Heavy Tank Battalion at Hanau, defending the Fulda Gap. They arrived at the new assignment on a Saturday afternoon, and Bob left the next day to join his tank platoon, firing for record at a NATO firing range.
LaVerle knew no one for hundreds of miles but quickly learned her way around and made friends with other army wives.
There in Hanau, she learned that, at times, military service demands more of the spouse and children than it does of the service member. She also learned that those who haven't been through it can't possibly comprehend what it's like to see your husband go out the door and never know if you will see him alive again.
Their first son, Timothy, was born in South Carolina. The second, Glenn was born in Bremerhaven. The boys attended public schools in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Hawaii. After one year in Hawaii, the Dills found it necessary to sacrifice financially and enroll their sons in private school to ensure they learned the basics in their formative years.
Bob recalls that excellent teachers at Stillwater, OK, and during their three years at Hawaii Baptist Academy, prepared the boys to survive some pitifully inadequate schooling elsewhere. They graduated from Mount Vernon High School outside Washington, DC, during the "open classroom" experimentation and went on to get college degrees and become successful.
The Dills listened to many first-hand experiences of those who escaped the horrors inflicted by Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Central America, as well as the national socialist regime of Adolph Hitler. The accounts of how once-free people became victims of their own governments were not unlike some descriptions of conditions in our nation today: People said they thought it would never happen, but suddenly, it was too late.
Bob was separated from the family for over two years during duty in Korea and Vietnam. He commanded a tank platoon in Germany and a battalion at Fort Hood, TX. He earned his aircrew member wings during a sensitive, three-year nuclear weapons joint command and control assignment with the Commander in Chief Pacific Airborne Command Post. He earned a Master of Science degree from Oklahoma State University and graduated from the US Army Command and General Staff College.
While Bob served on the Army Staff in the Pentagon during the wind-down of the Vietnam War, LaVerle worked as a part-time volunteer performing administrative duties for First Lady Pat Nixon. After Watergate and President Nixon's resignation, LaVerle worked as an office manager for a personnel agency in Alexandria, VA.
Ironically, Bob was representing the Department of Defense at the White House, helping to arrange a state dinner for returning POWs from Hanoi on the morning after the Watergate break-in. LaVerle remembers him commenting at supper that "those people at the White House this morning had bloodshot eyes … One of the women almost poured a cup of coffee on my uniform as she walked by. Her hand shook so much that the cup chattered on the saucer." Soon, they knew why.
A Challenging Assignment
During the Washington assignment, Bob was selected for his most challenging and rewarding assignment, which lasted six years. It involved consolidating all the army grocery stores (commissaries) into one organization with centralized management.
“I had been trained to manage an army commissary and had managed one in Bremerhaven for about a year during the '50s,” Bob says. "I had experience in troop feeding at all levels of command and had spent two years at Oklahoma State University taking specialized courses leading to a master's degree in food science."
At the time, the army had more than 140 commissary stores worldwide. Congress was abandoning Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to the Communists. Anti-military leftists dominated the media, and Congress was dancing to their tune. The services were told to make their commissaries operate more efficiently or see them cut from the budget.
“That would have been tragic for military families,” Bob says, “Especially the junior enlisted people who had children and were eligible for food stamps and were too proud to accept them. But each military post ran its own store, and there was no mechanism to increase efficiency or reduce cost. And the people charged with operating them frequently knew nothing about the grocery business.
As his three-year tour in the Pentagon drew to a close, Bob got a call from a general who knew his background and qualifications. He had to find someone to organize the consolidation of the commissaries.
"No, thanks," Bob told him, knowing about 150 generals scattered around the world had their own private grocery stores and wanted to keep it that way. He figured they would not think kindly of someone who told them they had to turn them over.
The Move to Fort Lee
His excuses were rejected, and while still assigned to the Army Staff, he moved with the family to Fort Lee, VA, where he started to build a primarily civilian organization of people with known track records.
His son Tim was at the Citadel, and Glenn was left in Mount Vernon to finish his senior year.
For the first year or so, Bob and the general who selected him spent weeks at a time, traveling around the world to explain the new management concept to senior commanders. They assured the commanders that the plan would improve service and reduce costs, thereby saving the commissary system for soldiers and their families.
The system was the first large grocery chain to install price scanners in all stores. The system was converted to very large "warehouse" size stores, which the commercial grocery industry at the time believed would not work.
By going to large self-service stores and checkout scanners, by 1976, 3,000 employees had been eliminated from the payroll. “The CEO of A&P visited our new organization and some stores," Bob recalls. "We intended to pick his brain. Instead, he adopted our ideas." Within a year, A&P opened its first giant-sized supermarket. Large stores are now the industry standard and are going up all over Greenville.
"I try to visit one every time I have a chance," Bob says. "It makes me feel right at home.
Time for Retirement
Bob's retirement in 1980 provided time for reflection. There was time for reading, studying, and thinking. It became apparent that local government was taking on some of the more troublesome characteristics of Washington, DC.
The school board was conducting public business and voting in secret sessions. Too often, news reports of the board's activities were sketchy and sometimes inaccurate. Bob began attending board meetings and writing letters to the editor.
For five years, he worked part-time as a substitute teacher, becoming familiar with problems at the classroom level. Then-Governor Riley and the education lobby promised that increasing the sales tax would solve the problems. “The same people are still making promises,” Bob notes.
He joined the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce and worked for several years as a volunteer with the small business committee. One of the projects was Freedom Weekend Aloft. After the event was up and running, Bob saw that most local concessions that had done much of the groundwork were squeezed out. At about the same time, the Chamber's Small Business Person of the Year was imprisoned within months of his selection.
Those years included much Bible study and prayer for both the Dills. More than ever, they realized that the Bible contains answers to all of man's problems and conditions and that they, like everyone else, had paid a price each time a biblical principle was violated.
The growing anti-Christian sentiment was becoming more evident in the community, home to two of the nation's outstanding universities created by and for Christians. The media either ignored the legitimate Christian community or depicted it negatively.
Military personnel subject themselves to civilian political leadership and are forbidden from active political participation. But somewhere along the way, as civilians, the Dills learned that those not involved in "party politics" are merely limited to selecting from choices made by others.
The precinct where they lived had a solid Democratic organization, but the Republican precinct had been abandoned. They got some people together and reorganized it. Bob now serves as executive committeeman for the Republican precinct, and both he and LaVerle were delegates to the county and state conventions this election year.
Bob's concern for the community led him to do a lot of writing, most of which ended up in the wastebasket. Finally, he was willing to write for anyone who would publish his material. That involved attending numerous school board meetings and other events, and the work became all-consuming.
Parents were alleging that their children were being exposed to hypnosis, New Age techniques, and out-of-body experiences and were required to read offensive materials in some schools. One parent was told by his young child that he and his classmates made "worry dolls" and were told, "Tell the dolls your problems, and they will take care of them. But don't tell your parents; they won't understand."
Employees of the school district and other tax-supported agencies were alleging waste and fraud and feared retaliation.
Finally, Bob gave in to the belief that his efforts created frustration. Full-time retirement to the farm was looking better and better. The Dills were given an opportunity to buy interest in a weekly paper, but it didn't work out. In infantry terms, it was time to "stack arms."
The rest was nice - but brief. When the word got around, the phone began to ring.
"Who'll Print the Truth?"
“You can't do that to us," one caller said. "Someone has got to write and print the truth."
“Then let someone do it," Bob responded. "I've done my share."
The calls kept coming. There were offers of support and free labor. Volunteer writers began to turn up. "No way," Bob kept thinking, having observed that the news business is as labor-intensive and stressful as the grocery business, with deadlines and more deadlines. Bob and LaVerle talked, sought advice from trusted friends, and prayed a lot.
The turning point came when LaVerle said, "If you really want to do this, I'll help. I did manage an office once, and I managed everything while you were in Korea and Vietnam. Besides, it will be a chance to work together - we've never had that opportunity."
Now their "togetherness" extends to late nights at the office, long hours rolling papers, and strenuous days servicing sales boxes. They never fail to thank those who help and support them --nor to believe that they are doing the right thing.
And that's how The Times Examiner came into existence.