Alabama Academy of Honor

William Reynolds Ireland

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2006 and 2009.

William Reynolds Ireland has been described as "one of the best friends the environment of Alabama has ever had.” That friendship can easily be expanded to include education, volunteerism, philanthropy, athletics, and business, for he was a true and valued friend to all.

Born in Gadsden on December 3, 1923, to Charles Byron Ireland and Katherine Reynolds Ireland, he attended the public schools of Birmingham; Baylor School in Chattanooga, Marion Military Institute, Auburn University, Birmingham Southern College, and the University of Alabama. In 1943 at the age of 20, Ireland joined the U.S. Navy. Upon his discharge in 1946, he joined Vulcan Materials and embarked on a career that would span four decades. During his career, he served in various executive positions, including president of two Vulcan subsidiaries, executive vice president of the Midwest Division, and manager of Community Relations. He also served on the Board of Directors for twenty-nine years.

Selfless in his generosity, Ireland was involved in a wide range of charitable and educational causes that have had an inestimable impact throughout Alabama. His board memberships have included the American Cancer Society, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, Alabama Sheriffs' Boys and Girls Ranches, and Big Brothers of Greater Birmingham. Ireland has supported a number of efforts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, serving as board member and president of the Lurleen Wallace Memorial Foundation; as board member of the Supporters Group, Comprehensive Cancer Center; as co-chairman of the UAB Capital Fund Drive, Phase II; and as a member of the President's Advisory Committee and the President's Development Advisory Committee. He also served as a member of the Auburn University Foundation Board; as a member of Auburn University's Advisory Council, College of Mathematics and Sciences; as a trustee and former chairman of the Board of Trustees of Marion Military Institute; and as a trustee of Baylor School.

An ardent outdoorsman, Ireland devoted much of his time to the conservation of Alabama's resources. He was instrumental in the development of “Forever Wild” and served on the Governor's Committee for the “Forever Wild” amendment. He served as state chairman of the Southern Environmental Law Center's Campaign for Environmental Future, as a member of the Cahaba River Society Advisory Council and the Alabama Wildlife Rescue Service Advisory Board, and as a board member and past president of the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

Ireland was recognized by dozens of organizations and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Alabama Division, National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame's Distinguished American Award (1981); Alabama Broadcasters Association's Citizen of the Year award (1981); Arthritis Foundation's Humanitarian of the Year award (1991); Walter L. Mims Lifetime Achievement Award [for Wildlife Conservation] (1994); Ducks Unlimited Marsh Project award (1995) – named in his honor in 1998; National Society of Fundraising Executives' Philanthropist of the Year (1999); and the Women's Committee of 100's Citizen of the Year (2006). He was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame as “Distinguished Alabama Sportsman” in 2000; and he was honored in 2000 by the National Conference for Community and Justice. He received Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Birmingham Southern, and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Auburn University.

Bill Ireland and his wife Fay had five sons: Charles B. Ireland, III; John R. Ireland, Sr.; Kelly B. Ireland; William R. Ireland, Jr.; and the late Scott B. Ireland. They had thirteen grandchildren.

Ireland died on March 5, 2009