CHATSWORTH — The late Alwayne Jones believed anyone who could understand English should be able to do well in math, and anyone who understood math should do well in English.
“If you can follow the rules you can do either,” Jimmy Hilliard remembered his teacher, Jones, telling him in math class at Murray County High School one day.
“I said, ‘Mrs. Jones, I don’t agree with that. I think I’m pretty good at math, but not so good in English,’” he said. “She looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Hilliard, I don’t think you’ve had enough mathematics to know if you are good or not.’ But that’s not the end of the story.”
Hilliard, who graduated from Murray County High School in 1957, went on to receive advanced degrees in math and is currently a professor of finance at Auburn University. Upon his doctorate graduation in 1972, he sent Jones an invitation and recounted the story.
“I said, ‘You know. I think I’ve had enough math to say I’m good at math, but not very good at English,’” he said.
Hilliard never heard back from her, “so I don’t know what happened, but I suspect she still thought she was right,” he said.
Hilliard and Jones were among six inducted into the Murray County High School Alumni Hall of Fame on Sunday during a ceremony at the Rock Building — the current central office for the school system which was also the original Murray County High School building.
Joining them were Johnnie Sue Bradley, class of 1953; Edna Jo Butler, who taught at the school for many years; Tyson Haynes, a 1966 graduate; and Paul Henry, a 1965 graduate.
Though six were being honored, it seemed as though the stories kept coming back around to Jones.
She taught at the high school for more than 35 years. Though she preferred English, she taught any class that needed a teacher. Many of the people attending Sunday’s ceremony were influenced by Jones.
“Mrs. Jones was a class act,” said Frank Adams, who inducted Jones. “She was either very, very harsh if she needed to be or she was very kind.”
Adams was a senior needing to graduate, but wanting to avoid math.
“I needed a math course of some kind,” he said. “She came to me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said if I join the glee club, she’d pass me in trigonometry. I said ‘Mrs. Jones, I can spell trigonometry, but that’s about it. But, I can sing the first verse of ‘Blue Danube,’ because of her. She had a love for music. She passed away in 1999 at 91. Murray County lost a tremendous asset.”
France Adams said he had decided not to take a math his senior year of high school, but he ran into Jones the first day of school.
“She said, ‘Why were you not in my math class this morning?’ I said, ‘I didn’t want to be.’ She said, ‘Next day, be in my class,’” France Adams said. “The next day I was in her class... I was asked why, and I said it was inevitable. It was just a matter of when.”
Johnnie Bradley said she was taking piano lessons from Jones, but being a basketball player meant she often had injured fingers.
“I was going to take my piano lesson, and I couldn’t bend my knuckles very well,” she said. “She said, ‘Johnnie, you are going to have to decide if you’re going to play basketball or piano.”
Bradley chose basketball.
Jones and her husband, Hill, never had children of their own. A relative wrote a letter, which Tim Howard read, that stated “I know she would be honored.”
Johnnie Sue Bradley
Bradley was the administrator on call at Hamilton Medical Center when the Blizzard of 1993 hit.
“She found herself with a hospital full of 200 patients,” said Trudy Swilling, who inducted Bradley. “She was in charge of getting staff in, making sure there was food and water, making sure it ran as efficiently as possible on a generator.”
Bradley said many adjustments were made to survive the blizzard, including how to handle waste.
“We decided to use big cans and plastic bags, and sometime during the night I got a call and she said ‘What do you want me to do with these cans?’ I said, ‘Put them in the snow.’ I don’t know if that was against the law or not.”
Bradley was awarded the Georgia Hospital Association’s “Nurses Make a Difference” award for her leadership during the blizzard.
Swilling, who worked beside Bradley as a registered nurse, talked a lot about how hard it is to have a career and raise a family.
“Little did we know then where our nursing careers were going to lead,” said Swilling, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Bradley said she is “humbled” after receiving the honor.
“I look at the ones who have gone before me,” she said. “I don’t know how in the world you selected me. I want to thank all of you for that. I’d like to thank my family. It is very difficult to be a career woman and have a family. You are pulled in several different ways. My family has been very supportive of me throughout my career.”
Edna Jo Butler
Butler was a long-time hone economics teacher at Murray County High School, retiring in the 1970s. She died in 2000 at 86.
“Most of you remember her as a beloved educator,” said Tim Howard, who inducted her. “Although she officially retired before I got to high school, she never really quit. Teachers loved having Mrs. Butler as a substitute. She could not be still and she could not stand dirt or filth. So she’d clean their rooms.... I think she had more nominations (for the hall of fame) than anyone ever had.”
Howard read snippets from several people who nominated Butler.
“Mrs. Butler inspired me in many ways,” he read. “She quoted Bible scripture that helped us.”
Another student said “Mrs. Butler was the best teacher I’ve ever had,” Howard read. “We were all equal in her eyes... She was easy to talk to and always provided whatever advice we sought or she thought we needed.”
Many of the students mentioned Butler making sure students were treated fairly.
One wrote a story about how a girl was being made fun of for the shirt she was wearing. Another “well-to-do” student was initiating it against a poorer girl. Butler made the two girls switch shirts.
The mother of the girl who was being mean came to the school and Butler told her her daughter was rude and if the mother wasn’t going to do anything to change her behavior, she was, Howard read.
“She will always be remembered as a lady with a gift to make each student feel special,” he read. “She made all of our lives better.”
In a time with a lot of negativity and criticism, Haynes said, he’s glad to see an organization recognizing people and building a legacy.
“I deeply appreciate the recognition,” said Haynes, former Murray County sole commissioner and Chatsworth mayor. “There’s a lot more good people in Murray County and Chatsworth than bad. I have been really impressed with people I didn’t know that much about. These people are really outstanding. Some went away and did great things. Others of us stayed here and tried to contribute to the community.”
Pete Adams said he has inducted many graduates and educators into the hall of fame, but none have given him “quite the honor” as inducting his longtime friend.
“I’ve witnessed what a dedicated family man Tyson is,” Adams said. “He cares about others in this community. I’ve witnessed some of his generosity to people in this community.”
Adams and Haynes became friends in high school when the two would organize a game of football together during lunch.
“I still consider him one of my best friends after almost 50 years,” Adams said.
Henry has “done a lot of things for a lot of people,” said his sister Anne Henry, who accepted his induction on his behalf because he could not make it. “He was pleased we would recognize him.”
In high school, Henry had a way to “get out of things,” she said.
“He swears he never put the principal’s desk on the football field,” Anne Henry said. “He just mentioned it was a good idea to look at it out there instead of in the classroom.”
Henry, who joined the Air Force after high school, was badly injured in Vietnam, said France Adams. After being honorably discharged, he went on to be a park ranger at Mount Rushmore and Yosemite National Park. He was a horse patrol supervisor at Yosemite. He was invited to attend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Academy and graduated with honors. He became the first American to ride in the Academy’s precision team.
Henry has spent the last several years with the U.S. Army in the Middle East. He has spent time in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Kazakhstan.
Growing up, Hilliard said he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, other than have a good time.
“I didn’t know I was going to college,” he said. “Frank (Higdon, who inducted Hilliard) got a scholarship for basketball to Lincoln Memorial University. I thought that might be fun. I told my father I’d like to go to LMU, and when I got there, I realized I liked education and studying, enjoyed it, and I’m still doing it.”
Hilliard began at Tennga Grammar School and went to the high school at 12. He graduated at 16, said Higdon.
Though Hilliard didn’t make a “big splash” at Murray County High School, he said, “it prepared me well for what I was going to do the rest of my life. I’m proud to be a graduate of Murray County High School, and I thank you for this honor.”
Hilliard has published more than 50 articles in national and international scholarly journals.
“His service to finance is really extensive,” Higdon said. “He’s a welcome addition to the Murray County High School Hall of Fame.”