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The impact on young lives

Entering the ninth grade, none of us knew that we would meet a character that we have never forgotten. He was a big man with a high-pitched voice who had returned home to coach and teach the general math class Coach Wagner had taught. Graham Singleton was our ninth-grade math teacher, and we loved the big man.

Graham had a stellar career playing for the Pam Pack and an even more illustrious career playing on the offensive line for the Wolfpack at North Carolina State. He was a big man for those times and very capable of protecting Hall of Fame quarterback Roman Gabriel as an offensive lineman. Gabriel later entered the NFL Hall Of Fame, and he and Graham remained close friends even after graduation.

For those of us not recommended to take algebra by Mrs. Jarman, we were required to take general math under Coach Singleton. Most of us were too young to know of his outstanding collegiate career, but we enjoyed his stories. His room was on the second floor, and it was the perfect room. It had no windows but that never seemed to bother Coach Singleton or any of us in his class. We soon learned that he did not like wearing a shirt and tie because he would roll his thick neck and tug at the collar, and tell us how he despised having to wear it.

We called him “Heavy” affectionately (but never to his face), and when he got excited or not happy with one of us, his high-pitched voice called us to the front. As he rolled his neck and tugged at his collar, he would begin to teach us how high school students should behave with his brown paddle. Kenneth Cratch, Henton Chesson, Jamie Weatherly and I were all recipients of that paddle. The girls got the ruler across the palm of their hand (Brenda Dixon Hardy), which was much lighter than his paddle. Still, both got the point across.

Graham Singleton was more than a math teacher to us! He was a role model that we knew had been through many of the same experiences in life we were going through in the ninth grade. He was raised on a farm on Slatestone Road and knew about work ethics and what it took to become successful. He only wanted the best for all of us, and that is a quality we have never forgotten. It is important to help a person be successful, but it is more important to help a person be influential in the lives of others. He helped us understand the importance of being influential and always trying to help others.

Even though Coach Singleton left us after a year, we still remember the impact he had on our young lives, and he will never be forgotten by any of us. As a token of our love for him, we collected money to purchase him a brief case and gave it to him the last day of school. That is how much we loved Graham Singleton — and we still do!

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.