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Hall of Pride inductions this week

By Suzannah Solomon Wilson

Four Tallassee High School alumni and one late educator will be honored at the annual Tallassee High School Alumni Association Hall of Pride induction ceremony, set for 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 15, in the THS auditorium.

Alumni being inducted this year are the late Mr. Joseph Wilson Patterson, Sr., Class of 1928, Dr. Byron Brightwell Nelson, Jr., Class of 1953, Dr. Thomas N. Taylor, Class of 1956, and Colonel Bobby W. Smart, Class of 1967.

This year the alumni association is introducing a service award, which will be awarded each year to someone who did not graduate from Tallassee High School but made significant contributions to the school.

The late Edwin R. Watkins, who served as Director of Bands for Tallassee High School from 1950 until 1987, will be honored with the Service Award.  His widow, Mrs. Betty Watkins, and their family will be on hand to accept the award on his behalf.

Mr. Patterson devoted 42 years of his professional life to the Tallassee Mills, the last 16 of which he served as General Manager (CFO) of the Tallassee Mills division of Mount Vernon Mills, Inc., of Mauldin, South Carolina.

He also served as chairman of the Tallassee City Board of Education and the Tallassee Community Hospital Board of Trustees.  He was president of the Tallassee Chamber of Commerce and served on the Boards of Directors of the Bank of Tallassee and the Birmingham and Southern Railroad.  Mr. Patterson earned the Boy Scouts Silver Beaver Award for Distinguished Service and the 2001 Frances Wagnon Award.

Dr. Nelson earned both  B.S. and an M.S. degrees from Auburn University and an Ed.D. from George Peabody Teachers College, Vanderbilt University.  His teaching and administrative career spanned 54 years, beginning with a teaching position at Wetumpka High School.  From there he served in various roles in Virginia and Alabama, and was superintendent for Arab City Schools (1971-74), Decatur City Schools (1974-92), and Homewood City Schools (1992-98).    Dr. Nelson was named one of “100 of North America’s Top Executive Educators” by Executive Educator magazine in 1984 and was inducted into the Alabama Leadership Hall of Fame in 1994.

Dr. Nelson served as president of the Alabama Association of School Administrators (1977-78), is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, was awarded the Silver Beaver award from the Tennessee Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and served on the Alabama Textbook Committee (1983-84).  He received the Leadership Award from the Alabama Council for School Administrators and Supervision (1981) and received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Auburn University College of Education in 2014.

Colonel Bobby W. Smart spent 44 years in service to his country and its allies as an active-duty Air Force officer, and as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service.

Smart earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management, and a commission as an Air Force officer from the University of Alabama, and earned a Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Army’s Command and Staff College. He completed Professional Military Education courses at Squadron Officer’s School, Army Command and General Staff College, NATO’s Command and Control Course in West Germany, and Air War College.

Smart has commanded four theater air control system and air defense organizations in the Air Combat Command and in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the Pacific.  He has served in key operational and staff leadership positions at Tactical Air Command Headquarters and Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon. While serving as the director, of“First Air Force Transition,” he guided the historic transition of the Continental U. S. air-defense mission from the active-duty Air Force to the Air National Guard.  He has served in leadership positions in Thailand, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines.  A command Air Weapons Controller, Smart controlled more than 1,500 air combat missions.  He retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel in March 2002 after 30 years of active duty service. 

Upon retirement, Smart immediately began service as a civilian in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition at the Pentagon. Within two years, he was selected to the Senior Executive Service (SES), the civilian equivalent of General Officer.

Colonel Smart’s active duty awards include the Legion of Merit with oak-leaf cluster and the Meritorious Service Medal with silver-oak-leaf cluster.  He has been awarded the two  highest civilian awards, the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award and the Exceptional Civilian Service Award.

Dr. Thomas N. Taylor attended all 12 grades of public school in the Tallassee school system.  He has spent 50 years in the field of education.

Dr. Taylor’s professional career began as a junior high science teacher in Langdale, now Valley, Alabama (1960-64) and went on to become supervisor of instruction of the Elmore County School District in 1964.  After earning his doctorate, his career took him to Jackson, Mississippi, back to Alabama, and then back to Mississippi where he finished his career.  Dr. Taylor served as assistant superintendent of the elementary schools in Jackson , Mississippi Public Schools (overseeing 10 elementary schools) and then as assistant superintendent of all of the secondary schools.  In Alabama, he served as superintendent for Arab City Schools (1979-86) and Florence City Schools (1986-93).

Dr. Taylor was named Dean of the School of Education at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi and also taught graduate classes (1993-98). Before retiring completely, he was principal of Gary Road Intermediate School in Hinds County, Mississippi, and worked part time as an educational consultant with the JBHM Education Group in Jackson, Mississippi.

Dr. Taylor served for eight years on the Auburn University College of Education National Advisory Council, which included three terms of service as chairman.  He has been named an emeritus member of the advisory council and is a member of the College of Education Patron of the Keystone and the Auburn Alumni Association, where he was designated a “Golden Eagle” in 2010.  He was also named to the College of Education Honor Roll in 2013.

Dr. Taylor was a Rotarian for 25 years and received its highest honor, the Paul Harris Fellow.

The late Ed Watkins, known to his students as “the colonel,” spent his entire band directing career at Tallassee High School.  In the 37 years he spent with the school system, he inspired more than 7,000 band students and countless teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.

Mr. Watkins was drafted into service and traveled with the Army bands-concert, marching, and dance bands-throughout the Pacific theater, playing USO shows, parades, and dances for Army brass, soldiers, and civilians.

After his discharge in 1946, he earned a music education degree from the University of Alabama in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, and he and his new wife, Betty, came to Tallassee, growing that first band of 45 into one of the most highly acclaimed high school bands in Alabama.  By 1966 he had written 161 executive half time shows without a repeat.  The “Long Blue Line,” named so because the uniforms were blue and not the school colors of purple and gold, consistently won “superior” ratings at band competitions.  Their musicians. majorettes, color guard, and drum major became crowd favorites wherever they performed.

Mr. Watkins also directed the THS Glee Club for 10 years and worked with Dr. John Cottle, organist and choir director at First Methodist in Tallassee, to inaugurate the McCraney-Cottle Arts Council.

Mr. Watkins was tapped into Phi Beta Mu, the National Fraternity of Bandmasters, and became its national president.  He was active in the Alabama Bandmasters Association and was elected to the Alabama State Teachers Hall of Fame.  He was posthumously inducted into the National Association of High School Band Directors Hall of Fame in 2012.

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