Jack Tate stood tall for welfare, needs of children

John Tate gave an apt epitaph for his father Jack, who died Tuesday. Said the son: “He will be remembered, first and foremost, as a good public servant. He was about the common good, building community, and trying to help kids. He wanted to make sure they had a fair chance and he knew the best way to achieve that was through education.”

This community and its children are greatly indebted to him for doing so. Though John Austin “Jack” Tate died at 91, he leaves a legacy of civic action and commitment to children's issues that provides a solid foundation for this area to build upon.

A retired First Union executive, Tate helped create several Charlotte organizations that serve children including the nonprofit Child Care Resources, Communities in Schools (which works to keep at-risk students in school) and Success by 6 (which seeks to improve the lives of preschool children).

His life and work served as an inspiration for many, and drew accolades both nationally and locally. In 2001, Tate was honored, along with fellow banker Hugh McColl, by the Children's Defense Fund in Washington for his support of children and dedication to their needs. In 1987, he and his first wife Dolly, a nationally known child advocate who died in 1991, were the N.C. recipients of the Centennial Alexis de Tocqueville Award for volunteerism.

Tate later married Marjorie Warlick, director of Child Care Resources, and they continued working on behalf of children.

But Tate's devotion wasn't sparked by awards. He believed fervently that children deserved the best chances in life, and that adults had an obligation to see that they got them. As then N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt said at a 1993 roast in Charlotte: “I've known a lot of marvelous leaders. None of them has had a bigger heart or greater vision or more commitment to people and children than Jack Tate.”

Over 600 people showed up at that roast. Hundreds are expected at Tate's funeral today. As we remember Tate and his remarkable life, we'd do well to remember and abide by Tate's own words at that roast 15 years ago. “The plight of our children is in a state of crisis,” he said. “I am asking you to get in the game.”

More of us “getting in the game” to help children would be a fitting memorial.