For 95th birthday, BHS students, colleagues recall days of Roach

Published 5:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006

Editor’s note: W.L. Roach served as Brookhaven HighSchool’s principal from 1946-1979. He touched the lives ofcountless students during his 33 years at the school’shelm.

In recognition of Mr. Roach’s 95th birthday, BHS alumni wereinvited to e-mail comments, thoughts and memories about their timeunder his leadership. Mr. Roach was unavailable to be interviewed,but he welcomes visitors to his longtime residence at 505 PineDr.

I remember Mr. Roach from my days at BHS from 1969 to 1973.He always spoke over the intercom system. Although he was a sterndisciplinarian, I respected him. I think he treated me fairly, andhe was a good principal. He was also my neighbor, living just downBay Street. He had white German Shepherds, so you didn’t go intohis yard! He loved those dogs, and I know how much he worked onkeeping his back yard well tended.

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Brad Roberts, Class of 1973.

Years ago I crossed stitched you a saying, “Age is a Plus not aMinus.” When you blow out that fire on your cake, my wish is youwill remember the hall that you once stood in with your keen eyesbut most of all you will feel our love to you.

Cathy Arnold Pigott, Class of 1978.

W.L. Roach is a man of authority who backed it up by his faithand commitment. In the halls of BHS you learned discipline and howgood a friend it could be. He demonstrated to all the skills thatit took to get through life. The closer you got to W.L. the moremeaningful it was. What a great guy!

Ted Burns.

My earliest experience with Mr. Roach would have been deliveringthe Leader to his home by bicycle and collecting for it each month.The small man had a big reputation. During the years at BHS I had afew involuntary visits to his office as well as the occasionalcomment noting it was time to have a trim because my hair touchedmy ears or was not two clear fingers above my eyebrows. Hecertainly kept order and respect on campus.

Bill Perkins.

One day in Donald Dick’s class I got caught admiring DianeParson’s pretty legs. Mr. Dick had me in the hall laying the boardof education upon me. Mr. Roach happened to come by and off to theprincipal’s office I then went where he continued my education withthe board. Thank the Lord for Mr. Roach and his discipline.

Tommy Franklin, Class of 1966.

He is a true legend. One Friday in late spring Lindy Wilkins andI decided to skip school and go to Fair River. That afternoon wehad arrived back at my house with all of our beach paraphernalia onthe front lawn. Who should drive by but Mr. Roach himself! We hopedthat he had not seen us but he did comment on my tan the followingMonday!

Mary Joyce Hinds Laycock

Mr. Roach is a special man, who put fear in some students, buthas a heart of gold. I’ll never forget seeing Cathy Arnold (Classof 1978) hopping down the stairs, spying Mr. Roach, rubbing hisshining bald head and saying, “I love you, Mr. Roach.” He could notcontain his laughter and his smile was worth millions.

Robin Hinesley Bradley, Class of 1978.

Your life has been an inspiration to me and to all those whohave known you through the years.

Joe S. Moak Jr. M.D.

At a pep rally my senior year, Mr. Roach dressed up as acheerleader in shorts and waving pompoms. Everybody went crazy!!Thanks so much for teaching me to respect authority but also forshowing me that the “authority” knew how to have fun.

Lynne Holmes Lofton.

He remains the iconic figure for decades of students whoattended Brookhaven High School. His life has been an agelessexample of self discipline and an unwavering moral compass – thedefinition of a true mentor!

Dr. Ed Moak.

Mr. Roach made us behave as our parents had already taught andexpected of us; even when we might not like it. I was teaching atCo-Lin before I fully appreciated what that brand of leadershipcould mean teenagers. There are reasons for rules andself-discipline is a major one!

Susan Collinsworth Allen.

I had no idea that anything I learned at BHS would actually beused again! Fortunately for my children you instilled in me arespect for others that I do not often see today. I hope I mirrorfor them the things I learned from you.

Yvette Lanier White, Class of 1981.

In the late 1960s, when I was president of the school board, Mr.Roach sent my son Michael home one day because his hair was toolong. After briefly considering my position and Mr. Roach’s, I didthe only thing possible – I sent Michael to get a haircut!

Lamar Bullard.

Always in charge, my good friend, Goat Hoff (age 70+) recallswhen Mr. Roach was first introduced to the student body. Three guyson the back row were cutting up in a way that they thought wasunnoticed. At the conclusion of the assembly, Mr. Roach calmlyrequested the three to come to the office where he proceeded towhip them soundly.

Bill Boerner, Class of 1967.

In the early 1960s, I was president of the Brookhaven SchoolBoard, and Mr. Lipsey had retired as superintendent of schools. Iwas very impressed with Mr. Roach, principal of Brookhaven High,and offered him Mr. Lipsey’s position. Mr. Roach declined, saying”I don’t want to be a pure administrator. I think my calling, andwhere I can do the most good, is here at Brookhaven High with mystudents. That is where I belong. With them. Not sitting behind adesk shuffling paper all day.”

Dr. Anton Reel Jr.

Thanks Mr. Roach for teaching us discipline, limits and respectfor others. Your guidance helped us to become better students,citizens, and parents.

Sharon Ivy Monju, Class of 1965.

Mr. Roach is one of the foundations of Brookhaven High School.The past generations of BHS students with the leadership of a manwho really cared about students and their education helpedBrookhaven High become a great place to get an education, preparestudents for the world after high school, and teach them aboutdiscipline. He is a man that you think back and then say, “I likehim and I appreciate everything he and BHS did for me.” He willalways and forever be Brookhaven High School.

Sheila Foster Furlow.

Mr. W.L. Roach was my principal at BHS for four years. I grew tolove and respect him a great deal during that time. He was also mydad’s principal 20 years before that. He always had the students’best interests at heart. I have heard many educators say he istheir hero and mentor.

As a famous principal once said, “That will go in his permanentrecord!”- W.L. Roach.

Deborah Brady, Class of 1970.

He was a very effective disciplinarian and I was a verycompliant student! My goal was to stay out of the principal’soffice – except once to read the daily devotion.

Judy Thornhill Barnette, Class of 1967.

I left BHS in summer of 1965 and went to Picayune High Schooland graduated in 1967. You have instilled in so many young peoplesminds what is right and what is wrong. I still to this day will notwalk on the grass if there is a concrete walk.

Bobo Ivy.

If all of the respect that you have earned were measured bywealth, you would be the richest man on earth.

Tommy and Lucy Goodson, Class of 1969.

Happy Birthday to the greatest school man ever!!

Doris White Winborne, Class of 1957.

Halloween, 1962, Richard Case and Bob Allen were cruising aroundin the old Case Tire truck and stopped down from Mr. Roach’s houseand got out to do something to his house and yard. Mr. Roach washiding in the bushes and jumped out and got between us and thetruck. We ran and came back later in Bob’s car. Mr. Roach waswaiting for us. We told him someone had stolen the truck and wewere looking for it and asked him if he saw who it was. I’m sure hebelieved us. The next day at school he called us in. He told us hedidn’t have any shoes on that night and almost froze his feetwaiting in the bushes for us. He still talks about that nighttoday.

Richard Case.

Mr. Roach, thank you for helping me get started and encouragingme to do my best in life.

Robert W. “Bob” White, Class of 1960.

Mr. Roach was the nicest and fairest man I’ve ever known. Hecared for and respected every student and we had respect for him.He was the best principal BHS ever had! I want him to know how muchhe meant to me, my classmates and my family.

Katie Nell White Smith, Class of 1950.

Mr. Roach was the fairest in dealing with students than anyone Ihave ever seen or known of. It didn’t matter who you were or whereyou came from. He was a friend to all who would allow him tobe.

Marvin Leon White, Class of 1955.

You knew you were in trouble if he ever called you “Bub”.

Virgil Brawley, Class of 1967.

Mr. Roach (Curly), you’re simply the best there ever was. Thanksfor being a friend.

Jimmy Nations, Class of 1967.

Thank you for the incredibly positive influence you had inmolding my life. I will forever be grateful for the consistency youshowed in guiding me through a challenging rebellious “season”.Your impression will live on in the lives of my two daughters andalso in their children.

Mike Burt, Class of 1969.

We started in the fall of 1965 as a normal student-principalrelationship and it changed into a really great friendship by late1970s. In October 2003 I got to honor and roast WLR at our BHS ’69class party at Dixie Springs.

Guy H. Nix III, Class of 1969.

Thank you for molding me into the person I am today. Everyonehad a fear of Mr. Roach but when you got to know him on a personalbasis after school, he was fun to be around. He had a humorous sideand was really funny.

Debbie Pepper Nix, Class of 70.

I grew up having respect (and fear) for God, my parents, and Mr.Roach. I’m grateful for the privilege of graduating from BHS underhis leadership. And a fine leader/principal he was: totally strict,but fair; firm, but nice … and full of integrity to this day!

Wanza Smith McGuffie, Class of 1971.

RubyNan and I have been best friends since 1965. With thatfriendship I got to know Mr. Roach as a father. The best advice heever gave me: “The next time anyone throws you an apple, don’tthrow it back, just eat it.” Ever since, I’ve tried to do my bestwith anything that was “thrown” my way.

Vicky Kuzmitz Wallace, Class of 1972.

My favorite memory of Mr. Roach is him standing at the waterfountain, tapping on it with a pen. After you took one swallow, hesaid “Move on, you’re taking too long.” He knew it made me laughbecause I barely got my lips wet. Small thing but one I will neverforget!

Jackie Arnold Crawford, Class of 1979.

The life lesson Mr. Roach taught me was our responsibility toBrookhaven and BHS. He told us whether it was a school activity ornot, we represented our town and our school and that people wouldjudge our behavior accordingly. That has always stuck in my mindalong with all the “protocol” he taught us, i.e. not walking on thegrass, how to leave the auditorium, don’t touch the berries on thebushes, etc. What an impact four short years had on my entirelife.

Debbie Adams Keene, Class of 1968.

Mr. Roach was able to command respect from all students – thisis something that one doesn’t just learn, but has as a gift. Myonly time to be called to his office was as a senior. There was a”tradition” that was passed down through the ages of putting underclassmen in the “pit” beside the old auditorium. The only way outwas by ladder.

Jan Maxwell Thurman, Class of 1977.

We entered BHS as freshmen with just a little fear of and a lotof respect for our principal. Through the years, he became acherished friend. Thank you for your leadership.

Lynda Ezelle Derrick, Class of 1969.

One of the many qualities I admire of Mr. Roach is his abilityto remember his students. He always had the uncanny ability knowwhat and who was responsible for something before anyone else knew.How did he know? May we all strive to reach such high levels ofintegrity and respect.

Joe Price, Class of 1969.

When I graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965 with aMA in Counseling and Guidance, I wanted to come back to this partof Mississippi to work. I wrote to the superintendent in McCombabout a job. Since he didn’t have a vacancy in my field and he knewBHS had a vacancy in this area, he gave my resume’ to Mr. Roach.Mr. Roach wrote me and I came for an interview and was employed asBHS counselor. Mr. Roach was an excellent mentor for me and I amextremely proud of the time I spent at BHS. Mr. Roach’s goal was tohave a good learning environment and the best teachers he couldfind. Mr. Roach expected teachers and students to strive foracademic excellence and this tradition continues today with BHSgraduates yearly going to military academies, Ivy Leagueuniversities and other outstanding academic endeavors.

George R. Brumfield, BHS Counselor 1965-70.

Circa 1971… dress code was fervently enforced at BHS. Afterconsiderable effort pulling together a misguided interpretation ofSeventeen Magazine, I reported to 10th grade (7:55 a.m.) only to beredirected home (8:05 a.m.) by a determined Mr. Roach whosedefinition of ”pantsuit” differed. Miraculously, decorum wasmaintained among teenagers.

Tonie Nolan, Class of 1973.

Mr. Roach, “Happy 95th Birthday” and many more.

Sandra Richardson Hoolahan, Class of 1973.

My senior year I walked into Mr. Roach’s office and there was aroll of tickets for the basketball game on his desk. I took them. Iwent to fourth period chemistry class and Tommy Lofton, my teacher,almost had a stroke telling me I would be expelled if I didn’t takethem right back. Word spread quickly that I had the tickets. Well,I ran down the hall and Mr. Roach was standing there. I said, “Mr.Roach this roll of tickets came rolling down the hall and I gotthem for you.” He said, “Come to my office!” Need I say more?

Martha Day Arrington, Class of ’67.

My husband and I both attended BHS during 70-72. Mr. Roach wasthe glue that held the school together. We saw him as a rock thatdid not move with the currents. He was consistent and fair. Myfavorite memory was giving his shinny bald head a good natured rubas I passed him between classes. I will never forget when he cameout on stage wearing large glasses, a beanie hat and pompoms for apep rally.

Rhonda Thornhill Myer, Class of 1973.

Mr. Roach is an icon for those of us in the 1960s decade at BHS.My class (1968) is now in the mid 50s age range and I’m sure mosthave known and realized for some time what a great educator he was.He and Miss Ab are the two that have a permanent memory in my mindof BHS.

Marilyn Bankston, Class of 1968.