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Saying goodbye to Curtis Segars, a true Red Elephant
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Curtis Segars was never my principal.

But, the truth is, he was everybody’s principal. The one you wanted.

Curtis Segars, who died last week, was a beloved principal of Gainesville High School. You don’t have those very often these days.

Today, principals are too busy looking over their shoulders for over-zealous school administrators and board members, not to mention crazy parents who might file a lawsuit at the drop of a hat.

I am married to a hard-core Red Elephant who adored Mr. Segars. I used to tease him about that.

“I hope one day my wife loves me as much as she loves you,” I told him.

In typical Segars fashion he shot back, “You have to take into consideration who she is married to.”

Segars was of the old school. He was firm, but compassionate.

GHS alum Camille Massey wrote these words in an email to her parents, Abit and Kayanne Massey.

“When I think of Curtis, I think of an interesting twist on the metaphor ‘an iron hand in a velvet glove’ often used to describe someone who appears gentle but is in fact forceful. When he was our principal at GHS, he tamed us with an iron glove but fortunately there was a velvet lining. He appeared severe and was forceful when he needed to be, but he also had a gentle, nurturing side. It was a winning and endearing combination.”

He came from the athletic side of the house, having been a multi-sport star at Jefferson High School. His abilities earned him a
football scholarship to Virginia Tech, but he was injured and came home to the red clay hills of Georgia where he earned a degree and was forever a Bulldog.

Retired attorney John Melvin remembered watching Segars on the football field at Jefferson. Melvin was in middle grades when Segars was setting records at Jefferson High. The future principal was the first player from Jefferson to be offered an out-of-state scholarship.

The famed rock near Gainesville High was painted in tribute to the late principal Tuesday. One side simply read “Knucklehead,” a favorite Segars term for wayward students.

Curtis could be a bit of a curmudgeon, albeit a friendly curmudgeon. He is one of the only people I’ve ever known who could gently insult you and you felt good about it.

A few years ago, Segars was bitten in his backyard by a poisonous snake.

I saw him as he was recovering and told him we were praying for him at First Baptist. I also told there were several write-in concerns for the snake.

Another medical condition resulted in a need for him to take the written driver’s test again. I got him a copy of the study guide. At a time when many were hanging up their car keys, Curtis Segars passed the test with flying colors.

He flashed that toothy grin when I told him I was mighty proud of him.

After retiring as principal, he would dabble in politics and was elected chairman of the Hall County Commission. He served for four years and that was enough, telling a newspaper reporter his time on the commission was “interesting.”

He answered the call of his city a couple of years ago and temporarily filled a vacancy on the Gainesville City Council.

I was honored to call him a friend.

Of course, if you had asked him if I was a friend, he would smile with a twinkle in his eye and say, “Not really.”

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page.

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