Thursday, December 17, 2009
‘A great experience’
By BARRY BURLESON
R.C. Anderson received plenty of support and encouragement as a child.
And for more than 32 years he’s been giving that back as an adult through his work with schools.
“I first went into education as a means of making a living, but it turned out that’s not what motivated me,” he said. “It quickly became a thing I loved to do – help children. My main motive has been to help unfortunate people, because I was one of them.”
Anderson is retiring December 31 as assistant superintendent of the Marshall County School District.
His career in education started in 1963 at the old Henry High School in Byhalia. The math major, who received his B.S. degree from Mississippi Industrial College, taught classes and started the football program at Henry. He has been in various teaching, coaching and administrative positions with the Marshall County School District except for two years in Arkansas. He also spent 14 years working with the Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development District in Booneville.
Anderson grew up in Mount Pleasant, the oldest of eight children. There was no father figure in the home.
His mother, Thelma, better know as “Chippie,” was his inspiration.
“She was an outstanding lady,” he said. “One hundred percent of the credit for who I am today goes to my mother. She had no money to help me, but she had the love, the care and the motivation.”
Anderson dropped out of high school in nearby Fayette County, Tenn., as a teenager because he had to go to work.
“Mom was struggling to feed the children,” he said. “I was the oldest; I had to help.”
Sterling Owen hired him as a yard boy. He worked hard, particularly recalling a 4th of July incident when he cut his hand.
“That’s when I decided I needed to go back to school,” he said with a grin. “I still have the scar.”
But actually his employer told him he was too smart to be doing that type work.
“Mr. Owen told me, ‘You go back to school.’ And that still rings in my ear. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
Anderson said, looking back, leaving school for a brief period and doing the yard work proved to be a great blessing.
“It let me know what I was doing was not going to get me anywhere,” he said. “I felt I had more to offer. It gave me the opportunity to find myself.”
A friend who he grew up with in Mount Pleasant, Earl Kirkwood, encouraged him to come to Holly Springs and finish high school.
“I came here, got a summer job and got acclimated to the city,” Anderson said.
He graduated from Rosenwald High School in 1959, started college at Rust and then switched to MI because of a scholarship. He was the first one in his entire family to go to college.
“I needed $25 for college once and couldn’t even pay the $25,” Anderson said. “Mom was at home with seven children, and I could not depend on her. I drove a school bus for the city schools while in college. Since 16, I’ve pretty much been on my own.”
He was uncertain what he wanted to do after high school. Eighty percent of the Rosenwald graduates went to college.
“I was just following the leader,” Anderson said. “Eight or 10 of us boys decided to major in math, and I was successful in that area. I graduated (from MI) in 1963.”
While in college, he met his wife Juanita. He got married in his senior year.
“I invited her to a dance and paid 25 cents for her to attend,” Anderson said. “That quarter must have had magic in it.”
His wife is a retired educator with the State of Mississippi and will be retiring this year from her job in Fayette County, Tenn. They have three children and four grandchildren.
Anderson later completed work for his master’s degree in educational leadership, from Ole Miss.
He said his “baby sister,” Laura Sanders, also went to college and has taught school 32 years.
Integration in 1970 and moving from Henry High School to Byhalia High School was not tough, Anderson said.
“It’s all about how you project yourself,” he said. “Coaching/teaching is all about the kids. It’s all about keeping contact with the kids – making sure their grades are up to par. It’s team building.
“I just love to be helpful. So many children I have taught come back to me and tell me what a great motivation I was to them.”
He thanks former county principal and superintendent Lawrence Autry, who hired him three times.
“He was one of those people who was important in my life,” Anderson said. “He was instrumental in my role as a teacher.”
Just recently Anderson started thinking about retirement after becoming sick and missing some work. He did not like being unproductive.
“I have been employed for 48 years,” he said. “I don’t miss work. I believe in being on the job – fully involved.”
His daughter Regenia, who he called his “advisor,” encouraged him to retire.
“She told me, “It’s time to do something for yourself. You’ve been helping people all your life.’
“I told her I might back out. She said, ‘No, I will write your (retirement) letter.’
“I kept the letter about three weeks and then showed it to Mr. Randolph (superintendent of education).
“I know a lot of people work until the end of life and they’re not able to do anything for self.”
Anderson and his wife look forward to traveling and relaxation.
“I always said when I left education, that would be it,” he said. “My retirement is going to be retirement.
“I love my job. I hope I’ve impacted the people I’ve been associated with the same way they’ve impacted me.”
Anderson’s mother died in 1990. He still attends what he calls “my mother’s church,” Pleasant Hill CME.
“I have to carry on that tradition,” he said. “My mother always encouraged us to do good.
“My life experience has been a great experience. I came up the hard way, but I would not trade it for anything. It gave me values and it gave me appreciation.
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