Roach influenced lives in 33 years at BHS helm

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 28, 2006

In everyone’s life there is an individual one can look back onand say that person had a dramatic effect on one’s formative years- a person who left an imprint, who pointed you in the properdirection, who deeply cared about you although you might not haveappreciated it at the time.

For several generations of Brookhaven High School students thatperson was undoubtedly W.L. Roach.

For 33 years between 1946 and 1979, Mr. Roach served asprincipal of BHS. His persona was legendary and the fear he struckin his students garnered respect that remains to this day.

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The fact that he celebrates his 95th birthday on the same day wemark the one-year anniversary of a storm named Katrina is not loston the thousands of students who walked the halls of BHS during histenure.

Katrina changed lives and so did he.

Elsewhere in today’s edition is a tribute to Mr. Roach.

From across the country, his former students and colleagues haveresponded to our request to comment on some of their favorite “Mr.Roach” memories. The response was overwhelming – for he touched somany kids.

Unfortunately space does not allow us to print all of theresponses or give the individual comments due ink. For those of youwho did not have the pleasure of being under Mr. Roach’s thumb,maybe you can get a glimpse of this special educator.

Several years ago at the dedication ceremony for the reopeningof BHS following its renovation, Mr. Roach and I were discussingyears past.

He looked at me and commented that he did not remember anyinstances of my visiting his office while I was a student. With asmile, I told him that that was by design, as I had learned earlyon how to fly under his radar. With two older brothers before mewho were not quite so successful, I had listened diligently totheir tales.

My years at BHS were during turbulent times.

My sophomore year was the year Alexander High School andBrookhaven High School were combined into one. Tension amongstudents was high as black and white students tried to figure outthe situation and work through problems.

One common link that allowed that tension to subside was Mr.Roach.

His fair-handed discipline received the respect of both racesand allowed those school years to proceed with minor incidents. Ican remember blacks and whites sitting together scratching theirheads and saying, “Man, who is this guy?” That discipline probablydid more to unify the students than anything else – for we were allin the same boat.

While small in stature, Mr. Roach towered over the student body.Through that rough demeanor sometimes slipped a smile as helistened to the latest excuse for a student’s misstep – one canonly imagine after 33 years the variations he heard of “It’s not myfault, I was only….” Many of those excuses turned into humorousstories he would relate following his retirement.

While the years are starting to show on him as he now has to getaround on a walker and his mind is not quite as clear, his daughterRubyNan says you can still see a twinkle in his eye and his senseof humor shows when former students come to visit.

Last year Katrina interrupted his 94th birthday. This year shewould not dare!

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to