PLANNED GIVING SPOTLIGHT: Benedictine Military School establishes endowed scholarship in memory of Wade Layton

By Noell Barnidge
Wade Lamar Layton was extremely generous to Benedictine Military School, giving $7 million to BC over the lifetime of a trust that he funded. He requested anonymity throughout the duration of his trust. Now that the trust has been dissolved, BC would like to publicly thank him.

Layton died June 27, 2004, at age 88 in Candler Hospital. He was born in Tennille, Ga., where he and his six brothers (all of whom lived beyond their 70th birthday) were raised on a farm. As a young man, Layton ventured to Savannah in 1935, where his first job was driving a Lance delivery truck throughout the city. He served as both the delivery person and salesperson. Through the help of Ed Perkins, a well-respected banker with the Savannah Bank and Trust Company, Layton borrowed money to start Coastal Paper Company, a wholesale paper goods supply company, in 1946. His wife of 66 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Groover Layton, served as the company’s office manager.

As their business grew, Layton was able to quickly pay off his bank loan, create a sales force that extended 100 miles outside of Savannah, and expanded into packaged chemical supplies, trading under the name Sail Chemical Company. A group of Savannah investors formed a holding company to find successful businesses in the area to purchase. The group’s first acquisition was Coastal Paper/Sail Chemical Company. Layton agreed to stay on as chief executive officer at the group’s request. Layton hired a young man, Benny Faulk. Layton trained Faulk, treated him as family, and ultimately had Faulk run the business during Layton’s later years.

“Outside of his six-day-a-week, 12-hour day, with lunch at his desk, Wade led a very conservative and modest life,” his friend, Frank Brown, said. “He always reserved Sunday as a true day of rest, starting with church. He was involved in the stewardship of his church and was keenly interested in the education of children. Wade was very frugal in his spending habits, and his only extravagance was purchasing a new car every year. But, in keeping with his style, the car was always a small SUV that served as a delivery vehicle for paper or chemical goods to his customers. He literally kept a sales route himself until his very later years.”

Toward Layton’s twilight years, he wanted to ensure he had provided for “Miss Betty’s” wellbeing. The couple did not have children, and Layton wanted to give back to the community where he had been so successful. Upon the passing of both Layton and Elizabeth (on Jan. 29, 2007, at age 95), their estate plans included the creation of a charitable trust, with the expressed purpose to share his fortune with churches and church-affiliated schools.

As provided by Layton’s will, he asked that Brown and Faulk oversee the gifts made by the trust to organizations that met his intentions. Faulk died June 8, 2021.

“We both enthusiastically accepted the honor,” Brown said. “Due to his modest living style, and the good fortune of a very strong earnings accumulation over the period of the life of the trust, the Wade Layton Charitable Trust spread over $23 million to various churches and schools. Wade and Miss Betty were truly wonderful people who were able to share their good fortune with many. I am sure they are smiling as they look down and see the impact they made. May Wade and Miss Betty rest in peace.”

Layton was a member of the Acacia Lodge #452 F&AM, Chatham Club, Kiwanis Club (receiving his 50-year pin), served as Bethesda Union Society President, and was a former member of the Savannah Golf Club. He was a member of Calvary Baptist Temple, where he served on the finance committee and the school endowment program. Calvary Baptist School (now Calvary Day School) honored the Layton family when its new gymnasium was named the Wade and Elizabeth Layton Gymnasium. He is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery.

Wade Layton’s legacy will live on at Benedictine Military School with an endowed scholarship in his memory.