Former AHS leader Buie lauded for service to community

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 8, 2008

Friends, family and former students of one of the Brookhavenblack community’s most influential men gathered at Bethel ChurchSunday night to honor the man they credit with shaping theirlives.

Former Alexander High School Principal Jesse Buie was therecipient of praise, honor and the butt of a few good-natured jokesat a three-hour program honoring his life and service to thecommunity. The former football coach, teacher, principal,disciplinarian, adviser and spiritual guide was lifted up andcredited for setting precedents that made life better for blackpeople not just in Brookhaven, but across the state.

Scanning the room provided a glimpse of Buie’s impact on modernBrookhaven and Lincoln County. His former pupils and adviseesincluded a county supervisor, election commissioner, police chiefand several other education and business leaders.

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“One thing I would say is that he promoted scholarship,” saidLincoln County Election Commissioner and Brookhaven School DistrictDeputy Superintendent James Tillman. “He wanted you to do the bestyou possibly could.”

Tillman, an AHS graduate of 1965, said Buie’s insistence on theGolden Rule has helped him to be fair in his duties within theschool district.

“A lot of the times, a parent will come in and just because of yourposition, they’ll feel intimidated,” he said. “You try to make themat ease, and always think of the situation as if it was your childbeing discussed. Have a strong sense of discipline, but also apersonal concept of discipline.”

Buie’s pension for discipline earned him the nickname of “general”from one group of former students. Brookhaven Police Chief PapHenderson – an AHS graduate of 1965 – said being educated underBuie made excellent preparation for his life and duties.

“Mr. Buie was hell,” Henderson said. “But what God had planned, Mr.Buie was carrying it out. He taught us the value of life and whatto make out of your own life.”

Even though Henderson is 43 years removed from under Buie’sauthority, apparently the general is still the general.

“I’m the chief of police, and Mr. Buie still wants to tell me whatto do right now,” said Henderson, laughing.

Buie said he was honored and touched by the program celebrating hislife. The school administrator within him is still active andobservant, however, and he voiced his concerns about the conditionof students today.

The root of current problems begins at home, he said.

“What affects a community affects the schools, and the sooner werealize that, the better off we’ll be,” he said. “We had thatunderstanding – we understood that any problem that would come toBrookhaven would affect the schools. If we could solve our problemsbefore it comes a problem, we could stay one step ahead.”

The former head administrator was proud to be the center of praisefrom a grateful community Sunday night. The gathering took him backto the 1960s, when segregation necessitated a oneness in thecommunity that centered around Alexander High School.

“We created a culture, an Alexander culture,” Buie said. “We wereable to change the environment of the school and the county. And wefound that when you change your environment, you can changestudents’ attitude.”