Long-time educator, community servant passes

Published 3:48 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

The late James M. Hill Sr. (left) is pictured with his son, James M. Hill Jr. (center), and grandson James M. Hill III (right).

The late James M. Hill Sr. (left) is pictured with his son, James M. Hill Jr. (center), and grandson James M. Hill III (right).

Chilton County recently lost a respected member and long-time servant of the community.

James M. Hill Sr., 94, of Clanton passed away on Jan. 20, leaving behind a legacy of immeasurable dedication to Chilton County schools and other service organizations throughout the county.

Hill was the first black person elected to the Chilton County Board of Education in 1978.

Family and friends of Hill shared memories of him and described him as an unfailingly generous person.

“He was a very giving man,” said James Hill Jr., Hill’s son. “He did anything he could for anyone that would ask him.”

Hill Sr. also served on the Chilton County Industrial Development Board, Chilton County Emergency Assistance Center board and was a member of Chilton County Retired Educators.

“He was a mild-mannered person that everybody liked,” Chilton County Commissioner Bobby Agee said of Hill Sr. “He was well received by all segments of the community.”

Agee ran for a seat on the commission the same year Hill ran for the board.

“It was to our advantage when we first ran to kind of pool our efforts,” Agee said. “I encouraged people I knew to vote for him, and he encouraged the people he knew to vote for me. We kind of worked together there on that first election.”

Born on April 14, 1919, in Macon County, Hill graduated from Selma University High School in 1937.

He was a 1941 graduate of Tuskegee University, where he majored in agribusiness and earned a master’s degree in administration.

He taught at Crossroads High School and was drafted into the military during World War II.

After serving in the United States Army, he moved to Clanton and served as principal at New Convert School for about a year and then served as principal at Maplesville Junior High School until 1965.

He left the education field to work in rural housing and became director of the Southeast district.

In 1975, Hill returned to education and taught masonry in Alexander City before transferring back to Clanton to teach at the Chilton County Area Trade School.

About four years later, Hill retired and ran for the Chilton County BOE, on which he served one term.

Curtis Smith served with Hill on the Emergency Assistance Center board and in Retired Educators for a number of years.

“He was a fine man,” Smith said. “Always cooperative, he served his county well. He was always helpful.”

James Hill Jr. remembers his father as a man “true to his word” and “that believed in being on time and punctual.”

“He was the type of person that everyone looked up to,” Hill said. “I was proud of everything he did.”

Hill also remembers his father taking him to the beach in Florida on weekends, as well as teaching him to how fish and hunt.

“He gave me his values,” Hill said. “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am.”