Who has inspired us the most, we are often asked.
The answer is usually a parent and, if not, there is always a teacher that has made such an indelible impression that your thoughts immediately go back to the days of learning. The older you get, the more you realize some teachers are not always found in the classroom.
For Su Layne Powell Cox and her younger sister Dee Dee Powell Baker, their parents’ teachings were also their inspiration as their father, Jim Franklin Powell, and mother Marilyn both made education their career paths.
Jim worked for more than fifty years in the field of education serving as a teacher, counselor, assistant principal and principal. Their mother was a teacher of music.
“My dad had the uncanny ability to know what to do and say in the direst of circumstances,” said Su Layne. “But, he always taught us to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. And he meant just that. He was born in Durant, Oklahoma with a father that was the chief of police and a grandfather that was a sheriff, so it was natural that his teaching days would take him to where he loved the work the best at the Billy Moore Correctional Facility in Overton,” she laughed.
Jim received his degree in Secondary Education with his Secondary Science Composite Certification from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and received his Masters in Education and his Principal’s certification from North Texas State University. He was teaching at Richardson High School in Texas when he received his masters degree. He then became principal at Northwood Junior High.
“At first, we moved every two years after he received the masters,” said Su Layne. “In 1979, we moved to Gladewater where he stayed until his death.
“He was always working after hours. He would stock shelves for places like Piggly Wiggly; he made cheese for Anderson-Clayton and just so many odd jobs. He was just always doing something.
“As a father of girls, he could put our hair up in a bun better than any woman and he knew our twirling routines better than we did and when we didn’t want to practice the piano, he would be sitting right there on the bench with us coaxing us on and making the hour of practice fun.”
“My father was assistant principal for six years at Gladewater High School,” continued Su Layne. “Let me tell you it is not pleasant to attend the same school where your father is the principal. If any kid did something wrong and was sent to the principal’s office it was my fault. I always got blamed for telling him, even if I wasn’t even around. With that being said, he was a fair disciplinarian and was very intuitive on what was actually needed in the situation. He looked at what they were in trouble for more than why they did it.”
One incident involved a student stealing a hamburger and he called the mother in. They had an excellent rapport and the student had no need to steal food again.
“I graduated from Gladewater in 1985 and when I graduated so did my dad. He became principal at Kilgore where he stayed for four years,” she laughed. He left Kilgore to teach and counsel in the prison system.
“I had married a prison guard and he heard the stories coming out of the many offenders that were in their early twenties and his heart just went out to them. He taught us to have an open heart and do not judge and that’s what the inmates grasped. How it did hurt him to see one of his prior students in the facility and how often he was told they wished they had listened to him. My dad spent his holidays concerned about new offenders coming in and how to help each one get their GED and specific training so they could make a difference in the outside world.
“Warden Hudson has a slogan at Billy Moore Correctional Facility that says, ‘believe it or not I care.’ They worked hard to make sure the offenders realized that because both of them truly cared.”
Jim always left the room by saying I will see you tomorrow if the good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise. Jim Powell’s tomorrows on earth ceased on April 18, 2018 just before he was to receive an award for MTC’s Celebrating Excellence Program Services Employee of the Year. An award ceremony in his honor took place recently at the Billy Moore Correctional Facility. The plaque along with a cash donation to Gladewater ISD was presented to his daughters. Statements were made from prior students during the presentation and many notes received afterward.
One letter in particular sums up his life and was written by Assistant Laundry Manager Christy Henshaw at Billy Moore Correctional Facility. “Mr. Powell was a generous soul who chose not to give up when he believed in someone. He made a point to know your name and to say hi every time he saw you. When he asked, ‘how are you,’ he wanted to know the answer. Mr. Powell was dedicated to the people he worked with whether they were students, teachers, security or offenders. Everyone was human and he helped to direct them towards their path in life. Mr. Powell is missed every day,” she wrote.
Yes, Jim Powell made an indelible mark on many lives and those who knew him were very fortunate.
May His Love and Laughter Fill Your Hearts and Your Homes Throughout the Week. In the meantime, we may be reached at chitchatlinda@aolcom or903-984-2593.