November 4, 1925June 13, 2012

DR. DAVID MARSHALL VESS of Birmingham, AL, 86 years of age, long-time Professor of History at Samford University, died on June 13, 2012 at his home in Hoover, AL. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of fifty years, Jean Buchanan Vess. He is survived by their son, John Buchanan Vess, daughter-in-love Jennifer Wales Vess, grandson Kevin Marshall Vess and his girlfriend Katie Kestenbaum, all of Mississippi. Other family members include Mrs. Lynn Buchanan Walker of Hoover, AL and family; Rev. and Mrs. Julius S. Jones (Anne) of Conyers, GA, and family; Dr. John H. Buchanan, Jr. of Bethesda, MD and family; Mary Vess Watson and family of Houston, TX.

The family will receive friends on Saturday, June 16th beginning at 1:00 p.m. with the funeral service following at 2:00 at Ridout’s Valley Chapel, 1800 Oxmoor Road, Homewood, AL 35209. Interment with military honors will follow at Jefferson Memorial Gardens on 2701 John Hawkins Parkway (Highway 150) in Hoover, AL.

The family requests no flowers or plants, but suggests that memorials may be sent to any of the following organizations.

Samford University Department of History, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229, designated for either the David M. Vess Scholarship for Study Abroad, or the George V. Irons Scholarship Endowment Fund

Angel of Mercy Elder Care 3100 Lorna Road Suite 316 Hoover, AL 35216

Christen Foundation 5959 Sherwood Forest Blvd. Baton Rouge, LA 70816

The charity or religious organization of your choice. A dedicated Christian, Dr. David Vess served in several churches in the Birmingham area as a Sunday School teacher, deacon, choir member, and chair of many committees and boards. In 1992, he was recognized by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention for twenty-five years of teaching Sunday School, first at Southside Baptist Church then First Baptist Church. In 1999 he received the Christian Service Recognition Award from Valley Christian Church. At the time of his death, he was a member of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. Dr. Vess attended city schools, and upon graduation from Phillips High School in May, 1943, he joined the U.S Navy Air Corps and fought in the Pacific Theatre in WWII until May, 1946. He returned to Birmingham and graduated from Howard College (now Samford University) in 1948. He earned his M.A. degree in History at Vanderbilt University, won a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for doctoral study at Harvard University, and completed his Ph.D. degree in 1965 at the University of Alabama. Dr. Vess taught at Samford for a year (1949-50) and rejoined the faculty in 1957. During his 40 years at Samford, he became a role model for other faculty in classroom performance, student guidance, professional activity and alumni relations. During his years as head of the Department of History and Political Science (1970-85), his accomplishments included ending the salary inequality for women, recruiting outstanding


  • Visitation Saturday, June 16, 2012
  • Funeral Service Saturday, June 16, 2012


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David George

June 21, 2012

Dr. Vess was chair of the History Department when I was a student majoring in History. He was a complete gentleman and always available to anyone who had a question or needed assistance. I saw him again just a few years ago and enjoyed sharing how Samford (and he) had impacted my life.

June 21, 2012

Dr. Vess was my course advisor and my history teacher while I was at Samford during the 60s. His influence and Christian example greatly impacted my life. He will be missed and fondly remembered. His was a life well lived.
I am so grateful for the privilege of knowing him.

Jan Jones Shultz

Jeannie Peeples Branham

June 15, 2012

Dr. Vess was an incredible example of Christian servant. As one of my Dad's colleagues and also a member of Southside, I honestly cannot remember a time when I didn't know and respect him. He touched countless lives through his own work and will continue to affect lives through those he taught.

Jim Gaines

June 15, 2012

I remember Dr. Vess as an erudite, friendly, smiling gentleman who conducted an informative but entertaining (yes, "entertaining") freshman introductory history class. He drove the same color, make and model of car as I did, a blue '63 Plymouth Valiant. Dr. Vess was always gracious and kind as well as being scholarly. He made a most positive impression on my life as I know he did on many others. The world is a poorer place without him.

M. Kathryn Knight

June 15, 2012

Dr. Vess made a major impact on my life. He hired me as his student assistant when I was only a freshman -- something that he told me later he had never done previously. For the entire time I was an undergraduate student at Samford, he helped me with scholarships, provided me with a job, and taught me a great deal about public relations. The history department newsletters were a huge project, but were vital to his success in raising funds for the department. While at Samford I severed one of my fingers playing volleyball, which meant that my typing for Dr. Vess suffered. He did not fire me, but graciously gave me more time to do my work. He never complained. When it was time for me to apply to law school, I still had an incomplete in the physical education class in which I had severed my finger. Dr. Vess, hat in hand, went to talk to the chair of the physical ed department. When he returned, he had worked out a way for me to make up the class so that the incomplete could be removed and I could then apply to law school. He worked tirelessly for Samford University. He was my boss, my adviser, and my advocate. My world is better for having known him and I give thanks to God for his life. M. Kathryn Knight,Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Milton, Florida