Obituary: Broughton Wilkinson Rogers

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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Broughton Wilkinson Rogers, a Demopolis native and community advocate, died peacefully Oct. 13 surrounded by family at Whitfield Regional Hospital in Demopolis.

He would have turned 75 on Nov. 25.

Visitation with the family is 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 18, at Kirk Funeral Home on Highway 80 in Demopolis. Services are 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 19 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Demopolis. Burial follows at 3 p.m. at the Rogers Family Cemetery in Letohatchee, Alabama.

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Pallbearers will be Joseph Ulmer, Philip Cole, Archie Bird, Gil Rogers, Taylor Bates-Rogers, Ben Bates-Rogers, Jim Rogers, Dick Rogers, Mabry Rogers, Steve Rogers

Honorary Pallbearers will be David Turner, Barbara Turner, Daniel Black, Gene Long, Marty Nored, and members of VFW Post 5377.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions should be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 560, Demopolis, AL 36732.

An entrepreneur, military veteran, school teacher and friend, he was born in Demopolis in 1948, the son of the late James B. Rogers Sr. and Ernestine Brewer Rogers.

He is survived by his wife, Wanda Goggins Rogers, of Demopolis; a son, William Broughton Walters, of South Carolina; a step-son, Joseph Ulmer and step-daughter, Valarie Ulmer, both of Demopolis; four brothers, James (Jim) B. Rogers Jr. (Paige Parker), of Singapore; Richard (Dick) B. Rogers (Johnna Coats), of Mobile; E. Mabry Rogers (Jeanne Edwards), Birmingham; and B. D. Steven (Steve) Rogers, of Lexington, Kentucky; three grandchildren, Camden, Bryony and Brenton Walters; nine nieces and nephews, Hilton Augusta Rogers, Beeland Rogers, Danise Rogers, Tara Rogers, Gilbert Broughton Rogers, Katie Bee Rogers Marshall, Mary Coleman Rogers Clark, Benjamin Bates-Rogers and Taylor Bates-Rogers; and many cousins and friends.

An outstanding baseball and football player, Broughton was a 1967 graduate of Demopolis High School. He continued his baseball career at Jacksonville State University, graduating in 1971 with degrees in political science, history and secondary education. He also began a long military career there, joining the U.S. Army on Aug. 1, 1969, and graduating as a second lieutenant after four years in ROTC.

In 1974, he joined Rigdon Office Supply in Columbia, S. C., and 10 years later, started his own business, Rogers Office Supply in Columbia. It is in South Carolina that Broughton became a fanatic fan of Atlantic Coast Conference schools and athletics. Years later, he maintained that passion, only occasionally setting aside sports differences with his long-time Alabama and Auburn friends.

He developed an interest in politics at an early age, growing into an ardent conservative as an adult. He never lost his fervor for politics or conservative causes, often launching into debates with family and friends over issues and candidates.

In 1993, he returned home to Demopolis, taking a teaching job with the Linden City School system.

His return home sparked years of touching the lives of not just students but family and friends. It was difficult to go anywhere in Marengo County that he did not encounter a former student who shared kind words and fond stories of the impact “Coach Rogers” had in his math classes or outside the classroom.

His teaching career continued for 21 years until he retired in August 2012. He was named the district’s Teacher of the Year in 2009.

His teaching was interrupted by his military service. As an Army Reservist, he was a member of the Chemical Corps and a paratrooper. In November 2001, his chemical warfare Reserves unit was activated and he spent almost two years preparing to go to Iraq if needed. His Alabama National Guard unit was activated in 2003 and in 2004, Company C of the 711th Signal Battalion based in Foley deployed to Kuwait and the Sunni Triangle in Iraq for 372 days in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At 56 years old, he was by far the oldest member of his unit, old enough to be many of his troop’s father or grandfather. Once back in the states, he tried to volunteer to go back to serve with other young soldiers. The Guard said no.

In 2008, he retired from the Alabama National Guard after 37 years with the rank of sergeant first class. At the same time, he retired from the Army Reserves with the rank of major.

In a newspaper interview upon his return from Iraq, he refused to use the term ‘Hero,” to describe himself, leaving that for the soldiers who died or were wounded. But those who knew Broughton, knew that while he may not have acknowledged it, his heart made him a hero.

While that certainly was true in the eyes of his students and fellow soldiers because of his dedication and commitment, it may best have been demonstrated in his life in Demopolis, where for 20 years, he became known fondly to many as the “Box Man,” or “Cardboard Man,” or “Can Man” for his work running Rogers’ Recycling. What started as a hobby and desire to make a difference for the environment in some small way, turned into a passion after he retired from teaching and the military.

In that business, he often employed those who needed help and did not refuse an opportunity to offer a hand up. He was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Chapter 5377 in Demopolis and served on the vestry at Trinity Episcopal Church, the parish in which he and his brothers all grew up. He often drove the elderly to church, took meals to the sick and shut in among the congregation, and would bring young people from the community to services. Some of those young members now are serving as acolytes or bringing their own families to services. Having grown up eight blocks from the church, the family grew to cherish the sound of the Trinity church bell ringing. As an adult, ringing that same bell became Broughton’s love, his signature way of greeting not just the congregation but also to the community, just as it had been in his youth.

In his later years, he met the love of his life, Wanda. Their relationship blossomed into marriage. Nov. 18 would have been their anniversary. He drove her to Hugo, OK, where his mother grew up and where she married his daddy, to marry her there. It had been a favorite venue in the years before he graduated high school.

In his mind he may not have been a hero, but in the eyes of those who knew and loved him, he was the kind of hero we all should aspire to be.