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Posted: November 23, 2011 12:00 a.m.

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Stepping down: Hoyt Oliver retires

By Douglas Moser/

Hoyt Oliver has served the city of Oxford, and Oxford College, for many years. He served on the city council for the past 12 years.

While Hoyt Oliver has studied and incorporated tenants from several major religions into his worldview, the Christian Bible has played an outsized role in life changes voluntary and seemingly incidental.

Oliver, 75, will retire from the Oxford City Council in December after a dozen years at Post 3. "The number 12 signals it's time to move on. It's a good Biblical number," he said.

"It's the same with (retiring in 2006 from) teaching: I was 70 and had been teaching for 40 years."

A lifelong Methodist, Oliver said he "appreciates the wisdom and practices" of many of the world's religions, and Buddhism in particular. "With Buddhism, it doesn't conflict with being a Christian because you don't worship a god. There are few concepts, really."

Even Oliver's successor has biblical implications: Lyn Pace, who ran unopposed for Oliver's seat this fall, is Oxford College's chaplain.

The son of a teacher and a Methodist preacher, Oliver said he swore as a child that he would be neither.
He turned out to be both.

Oliver finished his high school education at Oxford College and took university level classes there and at Emory University. Originally interested in science, he abandoned that field after earning a D in chemistry, he said. He changed his major to philosophy.

He graduated in 1956, and a year later embarked on a three-year mission trip to Korea. In 1961, he moved to Boston to continue his education at Boston College, where he earned a degree in sacred theology, followed by a doctorate in religion and higher education at Yale University in Connecticut.

He met his future wife LaTrelle, another child of a Methodist preacher and a Georgia girl, while he was studying at Yale. They married, and in 1966 returned to the South together. Hoyt Oliver took a job as a social sciences teacher at Oxford College, and LaTrelle taught English at the college for a short time before deciding to teach in the public schools.
Hoyt Oliver stayed at Oxford for 40 years. "I grew up with a sense of duty," he said. "I was grateful for what Oxford meant to me and wanted to give back."

That sense of duty compelled him into civic involvement, including serving on the Oxford Historical Commission, the Planning Commission, the Newton County Leadership Collaborative, PTAs and city government.

His first stint in politics was for 1.5 years in 1980 and 1981, having been appointed to the City Council to finish a term. For several years afterward he worked on the city Planning Commission and then ran for City Council in 2000.

In his 12 years on the council, the city built a new maintenance facility, a new City Hall building, shifted to a city-manager form of government, weathered the recession without substantial layoffs and revamped the zoning code to encourage the growth of a new downtown district on Emory Street.

"The biggest achievement is the zoning ordinance, which preserves the city's historical character, but establishes a central district," he said. "I think it's going to be really great when the economy picks up."

Oliver said he will spend his free time with his family, his garden, the Allen Memorial Methodist Church and his various woodworking projects. The biggest project is his house, formerly used as a dorm for lower-income Oxford College students. Both interior and exterior have been refurbished, and Oliver crafts wood bowls and Christmas ornaments for his family in a workshop behind the house.

"Woodworking is my manual meditation," he said.

But retirement comes with a twist of feelings, both relief and loss.

"I have mixed feelings, nostalgia, and I'll be missing things," he said. "I thought it was time for somebody else to have a chance." He paused and smiled. "I will still go to the meetings, and maybe I'll even say something."

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