Reception held for departing school board member
By By KEITH S. BYERS Special to the Daily News
People jumped from their cars, opened umbrellas and dashed for the doors of Southside High school Sunday afternoon, trying not to get their feet wet. Once inside, attention began to focus on an older gentleman with a black suit and red tie.
William "Billy" Jefferson has been a fixture of the Beaufort County School System for nearly 30 years. His retirement comes after a distinguished career in which he served as chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Education for District 4. He announced last month that he will not be seeking re-election.
When asked what was his impetus for educational and community service, Jefferson replied, "Well, I was just a merchant downtown. I own Big Bargain Furniture but was really just involved in community affairs, and I was asked to run for the board of education. I was involved with children in school and also the Boosters Club, and I have really liked it; I have really met a lot of nice people. … I'm just gonna run my business for awhile."
The rain couldn't put a damper on the sunny atmosphere that emanated from the smiling faces of friends, family, associates and fellow educators, either.
Retired state Rep. Zeno Edwards, a friend of Jefferson, recently presented him with the highest award a North Carolinian can be given -- the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which was presented on behalf of Gov. Mike Easley.
"He's been a wonderful attribute to our school system, and Mr. Jefferson was a recipient (of the award) on Monday evening. Zeno's comments were very appropriate. A lot of people get on the school board just for the purpose of feathering their own political nest. Billy has been on this board for 26 years. Billy just wanted to make a difference," said board of education member Patrick Nash.
During the reception, longtime friends and co-workers paid their respects with hugs, handshakes and smiles. Jefferson was presented with a clock by board of education chairperson, Betty Randolph.
"We would know that the spirit of love is around, because, if you had not gone out today, and it got to be one o'clock; and you looked out and saw what kind of day it was, you really knew that if you were going to have to get dressed and go out for the first time, you would have to know that Mr. Jefferson must be really special," said Randolph.
The rain didn't keep 6th District Rep. Arthur Williams, D-N.C., from showing.
"He's a true friend of mine, a true friend to education, and I am just mighty proud of him. This high school may not have been built if it hadn't been for him," said Williams.