Posted by Chuck Allen on

Not Rocky Balboa, but my Grandfather, Dr. Roscoe Jackson Allen, a man who embodied the qualities of the "greatest generation".  He wouldn't correct you if you called him Dr. Allen, but his peers and those who knew him best called him "Rocky". He was the kind of man who didn't demand respect, instead commanded respect. He was born without a birth certificate, literally dirt floor poor in the hills of West Virginia.  He was able to escape poverty and the prospect of becoming a coal miner by joining the US Marines. He was deployed to fight in World War II and was involved in storming the beaches of Guadalcanal.  He earned a purple heart for a shrapnel wound during a battle in Japan.

Staff Sergeant Roscoe Jackson Allen, USMC

By the time former Staff Sergeant Allen was done serving his country, he was able to use money given to service members for education to go to university, eventually earning a doctorate degree.  Dr. Allen was the first computer science professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and established the Administrative Computer Center in the fall of 1967. He was doing computer networking before computer networking was even a thing.  There is now a scholarship at the UNCG School of Business that bears the name of him and his wife.

Dr. Roscoe Jackson Allen, Sr.  The director of the first on campus computing center for The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1967.


I didn’t get to spend much time with him.  He passed when I was just 5 or 6 years old.  His oldest son (my father) unsurprisingly describes him as a strict disciplinarian, while his only daughter simply called him “Daddy”.  It’s my understanding that his grandchildren softened him in his old age. My earliest memories include climbing into his lap despite being encouraged not to and getting my hand swatted when I tried to reach for his crystal glass with a bit of brown mystery liquid that was poured over ice.  I imagine him to be sternly affectionate (if that’s even a thing). I imagine he would have gotten even softer had he lived longer.

The Rocky Briefcase from Earth and Hide.  Handmade leather satchel

As I was thinking of him and about using his name for my briefcase. I tried to imagine what he’d be like and how he would use it if he were alive today.  I imagine him strolling through the UNCG campus on a hot day with his silver hair slicked back, hiding his eyes with wayfarer sunglasses. He would be wearing an off white linen suit with an open collared shirt.  He’d have his signature briefcase slung cross-body and a Yeti tumbler filled with what may (or may not) be iced tea. He’d have a very reasonable car like a Ford Fusion hybrid as a daily driver, but he’d be cool enough to have an impeccably restored, fully loaded ‘64 Chrysler 300 convertible to take his sweetheart, Anna Mae, out on dates.  Every young man on campus would see him and want to be him.

Yea.  My grandpa was pretty badass.  


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