Posted by William Nunnelley on 2004-01-20

Philanthropist Paul P. Piper, Sr., whose financial support and inspiration helped make possible the Children's Learning Center at Samford University, died Saturday, Jan. 17, at the age of 86. Mr. Piper was known for his charitable contributions to Christian causes, although he was a man of few words who preferred to downplay his generosity.

Piper dropped out of college and started his own business with $17 borrowed from his parents in 1937. From that beginning grew Piper Industries, a diversified company with 1,000 employees in 15 plants that manufactured farm equipment, munitions and grandfather clocks.

After eventually selling his stock in the company, Piper set up four charitable foundations to help Christian causes--Christ Is Our Salvation and three branches of Christian Mission Concerns.

Samford President Thomas E. Corts noted that "here was an able man, too busy and too successful to take time for college, himself; yet, he provided financial support for the education of literally thousands of college students at several dozen universities over multiple generations."

Dr. Corts also noted that Piper and his wife, Katy, were a small family, with only two children. "But their assistance to Christian schools and their concern for first-rate child care, have in effect increased the number of their dependents to tens of thousands."

Samford recognized Piper's remarkable compassion and generosity by presenting him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1995.

Born in Piperton, Tenn., a farming community named for his great-grandfather, Piper lived for many years in Memphis. He was residing in Apollo Beach, Fla., at the time of his death. He was to be buried in Memphis Jan. 21.

"Paul Piper was living testimony," said Corts, "that the Lord gets a lot of his work done by people who are not ordained, and who do not sound forth from pulpits."