A true life of service

Published 12:03 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

Former Tryon Commissioner Austin Chapman dies

TRYON—People describe former Tryon commissioner Austin Chapman as humble, the salt of the Earth, A prince of a guy and someone who truly lived their life in service.

Chapman, 81 died on Wednesday. 

Chapman was a Tryon native, known for his football talents in high school and later for attending the Naval Academy and a 30-year career in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Captain. After retirement, Chapman returned to Tryon, where he was elected to Tryon Council and volunteered on several boards, including the Polk County Community Foundation, the St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Trustees, the Children’s Theatre Festival, the Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival and was a Cub Scout leader. 

Childhood friend David “Dee” Preston said Chapman was a renowned football player in high school, which is what got the attention of the Naval Academy. 

“He was an all around guy,” Preston said. “When he set his mind to do something, it got done and it got done properly and he was like that since he was a kid.” 

Former Tryon Mayor and once neighbor Jim Wright said Chapman’s advice and counsel to him while he was running for and later mayor was invaluable. 

“I can’t think of anything negative to say about Austin,” Wright said. “He never said a bad word about anybody. He was such a leader and such a logical thinker. The world has lost a fine person; a humble gentleman that we should all emulate.” 

Former Tryon Commissioner Wim Woody described Chapman as a very honorable gentleman. 

“It was an honor to serve on council with Austin,” Woody said. “He did everything professionally and did his homework and knew what he was talking about. With his background in the Naval Academy, he just did everything right throughout his life.” 

Former Tryon Commissioner Doug Arbogast said Chapman was a mentor to him on council. Arbogast said Chapman was instrumental in educating him on annexation, which was the biggest issue when Chapman served. 

“I had the utmost respect for him and the mentorship he provided,” Arbogast said. 

Chapman was elected to council in 2007 and won a 4-year term. He chose not to seek re-election in 2011. Chapman spearheaded the town’s comprehensive plan while he served and fought against a proposal for annexation. 

The town is placing a banner in honor of Chapman at the clock tower downtown. 

A service for Chapman is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Tryon.