James Dennis (1939-2017) Rash (1939 - 2017)

Obituary
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  • "Betty, words cannot capture the generosity of spirit,..."
    - Vicki Bott
  • "Dear Betty, Please know that the impact Dennis and you had..."
    - Nancy Carter
  • "Betty, Jack and I have such fond memories of you both that..."
    - Jane and Jack Dunne
  • "It was a great honor to work with Dennis on transit, land..."
    - Bil Holman
  • "Betty, Even though we just met and knew Dennis for a matter..."
    - Teana and Jeff Ross
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James Dennis Rash, 77, died peacefully in the shadow of the city he adored on July 25, 2017, surrounded by his family and friends. An avid cyclist, his athlete's body gave way to Parkinson's at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, but his courageous fight was inspiring to the end.

A service of celebration will be held Wednesday, August 2, at 11am, at First Presbyterian Church, 200 West Trade Street, Charlotte. The family will receive friends following the service in the Wood Fellowship Hall.

Rash was born on December 13, 1939, in Lenoir, the son of Margaret Rabb Rash and Lloyd Monroe Rash. He was a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was honored with the Order of the Golden Fleece, Order of the Grail, and Order of the Old Well. He earned his law degree at the University of Virginia.

He married the love of his life, Betty Chafin Rash, in 1980. The couple was awarded the 2013 UNC Charlotte Distinguished Service Award for their contributions to educational, political, and civic institutions in the Charlotte community. "The Rashes have remained steadfast in their commitment to service, dedication, and passionate advocacy, demonstrating persistence, fortitude, honesty, integrity, and generosity of spirit," said Chancellor Philip Dubois. "Their tireless efforts have expanded educational opportunities for all the members of our community and have helped to forge a more vibrant, equitable society for all."

Rash was beloved by his son, Jim Rash, and his daughter, Mebane Rash, as well as two grandchildren, Hutch and Wells Whitman. He believed travel was the most important part of a person's education, and Rash traveled the world with his family, including favorite trips to Scotland, Spain, and Kenya. He is survived also by his sister-in-law, Millie Johnson; her husband, Tommy Johnson; and his nephew, Marshall Johnson.

Rash practiced law and was admitted to the North Carolina Bar and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Judicial Court. He served as dean of students at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte during its formative years before beginning what would become an illustrious 23-year career at Bank of America.

During his tenure at the bank, under the leadership of Hugh McColl Jr., he started the first community development corporation and subsequently became the first president of the bank's community development subsidiary. McColl says, "Dennis led our bank's efforts in redeveloping 4th and then 3rd Wards. He brought more people to Charlotte's center city than anyone else. He was a visionary and a dreamer, and he knew how to make his big ideas a reality. I consider him one of my better friends. I'll miss him a lot."

An urban pioneer in his personal and professional life, Rash was known as the Mayor of Fourth Ward, a residential neighborhood blending century-old homes with newer construction, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Historian David Goldfield wrote of Rash, he "has probably done more than any other individual to transform Charlotte from a series of suburban subdivisions to a gosh-honest city."

After retirement from the bank, Rash returned to UNC Charlotte in 2001 as executive-in-residence and visiting professor for transportation policy studies.

Among a number of significant boards and commissions, Rash served on the North Carolina Board of Transportation and the Board of Trustees for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Bob Sink, a former library board chair and Rash's friend of 51 years, says, "Dennis was an esteemed champion for, and leader of, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, including matchless service as a member and chair of its board of trustees, as a behind-the-scenes adviser and problem-solver, and most recently as chair of the Main Library Reinvention Committee."

He loved his faith community, First Presbyterian Church, serving on the session as an elder three times. He was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for distinguished service to North Carolina by Governor Jim Hunt.

For those who choose to send memorials, the family requests consideration of UNC Charlotte Foundation, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28223-0001, https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1721/index.aspx?sid=1721&gid=2&pgid=769&cid=2242; Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation, 310 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202, https://secure3.convio.net/plcamc/site/Donation2?df_id=1540&mfc_pref=T&1540.donation=form1; or EducationNC, PO Box 1636, Raleigh, NC 27602, https://support.ednc.org/donate.

Arrangements are in the care of Harry and Bryant, 500 Providence Road, Charlotte 704-332-7133.

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Published in Charlotte Observer on July 27, 2017
Arrangements under the direction of:
Harry & Bryant Funeral Home
500 Providence Road | Charlotte, NC 28207 | (704) 332-7133
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