WILMINGTON — Tamara Wilson Rollins was known as a person who gave of herself to make others happy and to help them become more complete citizens.
From helping at-risk youth in her hometown while sharing her musical gift with the whole community, she sought to make her community, and the world, a better place.
Rollins died over the weekend, and funeral arrangements are pending at the Turner & Son Funeral Home in Hillsboro.
Eleanor Harris, who knew Rollins almost 50 years, said Rollins is one of the most intelligent ladies she ever met. “She knew a little bit of everything,” said Harris.
Harris remarked about Rollins’ interest in young people.
“She always had a word for the youth of the community. She talked with them and showed them love,” Harris said, adding she sometimes would be frank with them if needed.
“Tammy was a great lady. Her voice and presence will be missed greatly not only in the African-American community, but in Wilmington at-large,” said Harris.
Paul Moke of Wilmington College worked with Rollins in the 1980s at the Lebanon Correctional Institute (LCI) in a project to assist inmates, many of them first-time offenders under 30, with reintegrating into society upon leaving LCI. She was in career services there, working with inmates to identify career goals and learn what it was like to work in a particular field.
Rollins oversaw the program, working with pastors of churches and synagogues and inviting members of the congregations into the prison — matching inmates with people who had worked in a field the inmate was interested in.
“She was very effective working with inmates and volunteers,” stated Moke.
He also has very fond memories of her as a good pianist and singer who understood the gospel tradition of music.
John Patton of Wilmington grew up near the Wilson Family and played football at WHS with Tammy’s older brother, Mike “Big Daddy” Wilson, in the 1960s.
Patton said Tammy was simply one of those people everybody seemed to like.
“I don’t think anybody ever said anything bad about Tammy,” he said.
Both Mike (as minister) and Tammy (as organist) performed at the funeral of John’s mother.
“Our whole family thought so much of the way they performed,” Patton said. “It [the funeral] was wonderful because of them both.”
Rollins’ death is a big loss to the community, said close family friend Art Brooks.
“She had such a loving heart, and a love for the Lord,” Brooks said.
Rollins sang at a lot of funerals throughout the area. And she was very concerned about the well-being of youth, he said.
In 2014 Rollins was honored as one of the Outstanding Women of Clinton County, which recognizes local women “who have made important, perhaps unique, economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian contributions to their communities.”
Rollins was a second-generation OWCC honoree.
“I’m grinning every time I think about it,” she told the News Journal in 2014 after learning she had been nominated. “My mom, Garnette ‘Merle’ McKee, won posthumously in 2003. It’s a real feeling of accomplishment; I always wanted to be like Mom.”
Rollins had served as secretary on the board of Harvest of Gold, a nonprofit organization which supports at-risk children with tutoring and mentoring programs. She also worked with kids in summer YMCA recreation and counseling programs.
She was retired after a 22-year career in social services.
Rollins’ Facebook page was filled with tributes Tuesday, including from Jennifer Steward, who wrote, “Sing those heavenly praises all the day long”; and from Scott Fortune, who wrote, “Your heart to love others as you did is an example how we should live and treat others.”
Cornerstone Baptist Church of Wilmington posted on its Facebook page, “The Cornerstone family mourns the loss of our dear Sister Tamara “TT” Rollins. We know with absolute certainty that she was ushered into heaven and heard the words ‘Well done my good and faithful servant’.”
Cornerstone Baptist Church Pastor Byron W. McGee referred to Rollins as a “matriarch.”
Diana Simmons posted that Rollins was a beautiful soul, and Sandra Offord described Rollins as “an awesome woman of God.”
Joshua McGee told the News Journal, “Grandma TT was a music mentor of mine since I was 8 years old and we started playing music in church. She took an invested interest in me at such a young age.”
A feature story on Rollins — commemorating Black History Month written in February for the News Journal by Wilmington College Professor Emeritus Neil Snarr — began: “It is not often that one comes across a person who approximates the altruism taught by Jesus and the Old Testament prophets, but they do exist! At one time this person was a student of mine and her commitment to helping those in need cannot be exaggerated.”
Snarr wrote in February: “In our society, when we speak about people who contribute to our community, we too often think of their financial standing – ‘someone did well’. This would be a totally inappropriate way to speak of Tammy — more appropriate would be a similar phrase, ‘Tammy did good.’ And she did it for those in need and in trouble.”