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Integration-era Gainesville High School principal dies at age 81
Curtis Segars, remembered for community service, died Monday
Curtis Segars

Gainesville High School’s principal during integration and a beloved figure who was involved in community service long past retirement has died.

Curtis Segars, 81, died Monday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

“He was an outstanding person,” said Abit Massey, who served on the Gainesville City Board of Education when Segars was principal.

Segars had a “broad range of leadership and service, with favorable impression and impact on our children … and countless others,” Massey said. “It’s very rare for someone to have served as coach, principal, county commission chairman and city council member.”

Segars worked for the Gainesville school system during the racially volatile 1960s, as well as integration at Gainesville High in 1970.

After he retired in 1986, he took on projects and volunteered his time with several organizations. He founded an organization designed to help young people with drug and alcohol addiction through counseling and drug screening.

Segars served as Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman from 1989-92, an experience he once called “interesting.”

“It takes a community; it takes awareness,” he said of civic involvement in a 2013 interview. “I don’t feel I’ve ever retired.”

In 2013, Segars was sworn in as the Ward 1 representative on Gainesville City Council to serve the remaining four months of Danny Dunagan’s term. Dunagan had resigned to run for — and would eventually win — the city’s new elected mayor position.

Segars’ son-in-law, Ben Mason, managing partner of Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory in Gainesville, said his father-in-law was often quiet about his many community activities.

“He would do things and then he would just kind of stand back in the shadows,” he said.

Otherwise, Segars “was a very caring person,” Mason said. “He loved education and he loved working with children.”

Former Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer, who was a GHS senior when schools were integrated, described Segars as “a true leader in that he led by example and always held true to his principles and values.”

“We watched him face the challenges with practical solutions, integrity and humor,” she said. “He simply personified courage, commitment and resiliency. His influence on my life and of every student he led is profound.”

She said Segars often checked on her when she became principal and later superintendent, “always giving me a support and guidance, just as he had when I was a student.”

School board chairwoman Delores Diaz described Segars as “a very beloved member of the Gainesville school family.” She asked for a moment of silence to remember him at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

“He is loved — was loved — by all members of our Gainesville City Schools system and the wider community,” Diaz said. “Having taught in the Hall County system myself, I knew him personally and I know he was loved and respected in the wider community, not just Gainesville. He will be sorely missed.”

Segars’ family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday at the Banquet Hall of First Baptist Church on Green Street.

A celebration of life service will be conducted by the Rev. Shon Peppers and Dr. Bill Coates at 2 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville, GA, 30501, to the Good News Clinics, PO Box 2683, Gainesville, GA, 30503, or a charity of personal choice.

Times reporter Kristen Oliver also contributed to this report.