28 Apr 2011

A Tribute to Richard H. Gettys

Inside the Tomato, Latest Projects 12 Comments

If you were fortunate enough to know Mr. Richard Gettys, I think you will really appreciate his personal reflections as an educator put together by my friends at SlicedTomato. For thousands of Pickens County students, Mr. Gettys will always embody “ The Principal.”

A classmate recently reminded me that when Mr. Gettys entered a student assembly, everyone stood without being prompted. Mind you this was not the age of falling in lockstep or demonstrating respect for authority. Whites, blacks, honor students, burnouts, kids from privilege, kids from the mill hill. It didn’ t matter who you were—you showed respect for Mr. Gettys.

More importantly, you meant it.

My class was unique because we were the beneficiaries of Mr. Gettys’ leadership when he was principal at Easley Junior High School (now the middle school that bears his name) and again when he became principal at Easley High School our sophomore year.

As scrawny elementary school students we were aware of his legend before ever setting foot on the junior high campus. My earliest memory of Mr. Gettys was when I was literally being shuffled along a crowded hallway the first day at junior high. The crowds parted in much the same way the Red Sea must have done for Moses. There was the man himself, real flesh and bone, walking through a clearing that had not existed a split-second before. He was fixing his gaze straight ahead. That was good news, because if his gaze was fixed upon you, well, that was bad news.

There are too many memories to mention. But we all laugh about the time he made a brief smokeless tobacco announcement on the intercom. Mr. Gettys switched on the mic in typical fashion, breathing heavily for a few seconds—I suspect for effect—before announcing succinctly “ If I catch anyone else dipping in this school, then you can just dip on outta here.”

We snickered, under our breath. But you know what? We didn’ t get caught dipping at school either.

The most personal contact I ever had with Mr. Gettys is also the most recent. My young son and I have sat near Mr. Gettys for several years at high school football games. He would always smile and ask my boy how old he was and what he was doing in school. He was soft-spoken, and far more human than I ever imagined. But he was still very much “ Mr. Gettys.”

Richard H. Gettys died April 10, 2011. His wife Celia, a lauded educator in her own right, would pass just fifteen days later.

We all agree Mr. Gettys was an icon in our community. He was a natural leader and will be remembered a fair and effective disciplinarian. More than that he was a real man who made a real difference.

When I asked my friends for their memories and comments regarding Mr. Gettys, many of them answered to the effect that he was “ one of the most influential educators of my life.” We can accurately assume there are countless others who would say the same thing.

That simple sentiment is a titanic legacy. One not likely to be matched in the Pickens County schools any time soon.

Rodney Rogers

On His Life and Education:

On the Background of Easley and Gettys Middle School:

A Word to Students:

12 Responses to “A Tribute to Richard H. Gettys”

  1. Chris Hill says:

    It was an honor to spend that hour with him!

  2. Lana Hooper Harte says:

    He was a great man and will be missed. Had the honor of seeing he and his wife at our Class Reunion in Septemeber and he asked me the same question he always asked me”Lana, are YOU staying out of trouble” and I said Yes Sir Thanks to you.

  3. Reggia Riggins Stapleton says:

    I had the pleasure of attending Easley Junior High School when Mr. Gettys was principal there, growing up and being very good friends with Roddey Gettys (Mr./Mrs. Gettys’ middle son), and living for the past twenty-four years a few doors down from Mr. and Mrs. Gettys. I have many wonderful memories of the two of them. Mr. Gettys was a man of very few words, but when he spoke it seemed that everyone immediately stopped to hear what he had to say. I will never forget being out in my front yard one day a few years ago when Mr. Gettys came strolling by – it was shortly after I had taken an assistant principal’s job in Pickens County. Mr. Gettys stopped and said (in a way that only he could), “Reggia, I hear you’ve taken an assistant principal’s job.” I said, “yes sir I did.”. He said, Why the hell did you go and do that?!?!”. I just laughed and said “I don’t know. I thought I would try to somehow make a difference.”. He cocked his head to the side, looked and me, smiled and said, “I’m sure you will.”. I will never forget that day or him. He had a profound impact on my own personal education, and was a tremendous influence on what I believe to be right and wrong with regards to education today. I truly miss him and Mrs. Gettys and will cherish my memories of them.

  4. Linda Holder says:

    He was great to work for, and I’m thankful I had the opportunity. He used to tell us that those of us that taught the upper levels would not see those students after graduation. They’d leave Easley and not come back. They were on to bigger things in bigger places. “Be respectful to those in the lower levels of education here. They’re the ones who’ll stay here and end up taking care of you.” He was right. Those people are now my plumber, my electrician, my carpenter and many of the people who work for the city in different capacities: firemen, police, street workers. Thank goodness I was nice to them; they sure do look out for me now. He once told the faculty the story of two of EHS’s wild men who had worked in his house. “I told Celia, don’t leave the house while they’re here! But, damn, they did a fine job.” We all wanted to do a fine job for him. He was a leader, and we don’t see that too often in our field. We knew he picked us because he thought we were the best, and we didn’t want to let him down.

  5. Kathy Searcy Tripp says:

    I had the pleasure of having Mr Gettys as my principal at Easley Junior High ! As many students coming from elementary school to this big school, we had heard horror stories of Mr. Gettys. We heard he was rough and tough so I was scared to death, but after you got you got to know him you found out that he was just a very nice person, doing his job as he was hired to do. He did make you walk the chalk line and I am grateful to that. We knew he meant business when he spoke.He didn’t put up with a bunch of crap!!! My good friend went back to the school to see Mr Gettys after we had graduated from Easley High and I had gotten married and we sat and talked to him for a while and he took the time from his busy schedule to sit and talk to us.I enjoyed that day and when ever I would see him out he always spoke and asked how are you doing. He was an Icon at Easley Junior High and Easley Senior High and I am proud to have known him. He will be missed.

  6. Cyndi Durham says:

    Mr. Gettys stepped down at the end of my junior year at EHS and we hated it. He was a great principal, down to earth, laid back and yet stern when needed, he knew what was going on at his school, especially when you thought he didn’t. His is missed!!!

  7. Joy Addis Suddeth says:

    One word… REMARKABLE!!!!

  8. Anne Hair Bull says:

    I was blessed to have had the influence of both Mr. Gettys and Mrs. Gettys. I am so glad they were able to attend our class reunion in September, where they both looked well and seemed to appreciate being there. Does anyone else remember the basset hound he brought to school each day?

  9. Arlene Moore McMillan says:

    Mr. Getty’s was a good man. Most of us were afraid of him, but if you ever spoke to him while passing, he would give you a look and nod his head.

    I had the honor of having Mrs. Getty’s as a teacher while I was at Easley Jr. High. She was really a Great Teacher!!!

    It is sad as “we” grow older, so does everyone else. People that made a difference in many lives have grown older and have passed on. We will truly miss Mr. & Mrs. Getty’s and all of the “Remarkable” things they have done for Our Community and their Student’s!!!

    I no longer live in Easley, but was very sad to hear of such a Great Loss of not only One, but Two Remarkable People!!!

    Thank you both for the difference you made in my life then, but also now, while watching these video’s and learning things about Mr. Getty’s most of us did not know. I will share these with my children, hoping they will influence them in a positive way as it just did for me! (again)

    May you both Rest in Peace, and I hope you both knew what a difference you made in so many lives!!!

  10. Elaine Simmons says:

    Mr. Gettys was principal when I was in Jr. High. Later on, during part of the time I worked for a local paper he served as Superintendent of the School District. He was also a leader of the Pickens County Democrats. Remembering him as my principal and still sensing all that strength and power, it was hard to feel like a grown-up in his presence. I was always nervous and a little afraid I would mis-quote him or the typesetters would make an embarrassing typo and that I would experience his wrath at the next meeting I covered. That never happened. I imagine there were plenty of typos but he always treated me with respect. In watching the videos I was reminded of something he said at one of those meetings about drop-outs, the number of which at that time, was high in Pickens County. He said the statistics were deceptive because often when the drop-outs got a taste of real life and the kind of opportunities available without at least a high school diploma, many would go to adult ed. in order to graduate and even go on to college or to technical school to learn a trade. He said as far as he was concerned at that point they were no longer drop outs. His open-mindedness about education and an individual’s circumstances, opportunities and timing was no doubt liberating to those who did not have the grades and test scores or could not afford to immediately go on to university. I think thirty plus years ago during that meeting he was setting the bar for “life long learning”, a term we see and hear quite often now.

  11. Craig Leffew says:

    Like so many, I had the pleasure of having him as prinicipal at both junior high and high school, I remember well standing for him whenever we had a student gathering in the auditorium, gym or where ever it might have been held. I spoke with him, at Joe’s one day and he obviously didn’t remember me but I told him when I graduated, he just smiled and said those were the good ole days weren’t they? I proceded to tell him where my life had taken me and he sat and listened and said, I’m glad you’ve done well for yourself, I told him I couldn’t have done it wihout the education that he and all the teachers that worked for him provided me, I ended that meeting saying thank you, and am so glad to have had the chance to do that.

  12. Easley Combined Utility Commission Election 11/8, Part 1: About ECU | PC Saturday Sessions says:

    […] Fogle: appointed to replace Mr. Richard Gettys, who passed away in April 2011 after ~44 years of service on the […]

Leave a Reply