Beloved Clanton community member Scruggs passes

Published 5:45 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Photo_2: Ray and Hera Scruggs (center) are pictured with their grandchildren, (from left) Brittan Scruggs, Brett Bice, Brentley Scruggs Messer and Bethany Bice McClure.

Ray and Hera Scruggs (center) are pictured with their grandchildren, (from left) Brittan Scruggs, Brett Bice, Brentley Scruggs Messer and Bethany Bice McClure.

Those who knew Clanton resident Ray Scruggs describe him as a man whose compassion for others and pride in his school and community were evident in everything he did.

Scruggs passed away Aug. 30 at age 79, leaving behind numerous family members, friends and a lasting legacy in Chilton County.

“Many people knew Ray Scruggs as their coach, teacher, principal, fellow church member, community member or friend,” Scruggs’ granddaughter Bethany McClure said. “We were lucky enough to know him as Daddy and Granddaddy. There weren’t any other roles that he held higher than that of husband, father and grandfather.”

Ray Scruggs (left) is pictured with his wife, Hera Scruggs.

Ray Scruggs (left) is pictured with his wife, Hera Scruggs.

Scruggs served the Chilton County School System for 38 years as principal of Chilton County High School, a member of the Chilton County Board of Education, a teacher, a bus driver and an athletic coach, according to his obituary.

“He was one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known,” Rick McKee said of Scruggs. “He was strict, but he was fair, and he genuinely cared about you.”

Scruggs hired McKee as an English teacher at Chilton County High School in the fall of 1973.

McKee worked under Scruggs’ leadership at CCHS for nearly 20 years until Scruggs retired in 1993.

“He was a good boss and a fine man, and he truly loved Chilton County High School,” McKee said. “He was a good friend.”

McKee’s wife, Sheri McKee, was also hired by Scruggs to teach math at CCHS.

“He always backed you up as a teacher,” Sheri said. “He was always good to his faculty. He expected a lot of you. I think he did that both as a boss and as a person, and he behaved to a high standard that he expected you to behave to.”

Sheri said Scruggs was a teacher and coach before he became principal.

“He was a huge sports fan, but he still focused on academics,” Sheri said. “He managed to balance those two things well.”

CCHS teacher Kelly Wyatt Baker said she had known Scruggs and his family for a long time before Scruggs hired her at CCHS in 1991.

“He gave me my first teaching job,” Baker said. “He gave me that first opportunity at the school I graduated from. I can’t see myself being anywhere else.”

Baker said Scruggs was principal at CCHS when she graduated from high school in 1986.

Scruggs’ wife, Hera Scruggs, was Baker’s typing teacher.

“I taught three of his four grandchildren in class,” Baker said. “He has just always represented Chilton. He’s always been Chilton County High School to me.”

Baker noted Scruggs’ regular attendance at CCHS sporting events and continued support of the school despite health issues.

“Even last year in football season, he and my dad would sit up in the end zone in their chairs,” Baker said. “He was still so supportive after he retired. He was a big part of the community.”

Former CCHS teacher and football coach Don Hand said he and Scruggs had been friends since Hand moved to Clanton in 1970.

“He’s one of the reasons I came here,” Hand said of Scruggs. “I worked for him for 15 years. He was a very good person to work for, and he always let me run the athletic department.”

Hand described Scruggs as a “great manager of money,” an “excellent school man” and someone who valued employees that were well rounded.

“When we would get ready to hire coaches, he would tell me if he can’t coach, you fire him, and if he can’t teach, I’ll fire him, and we’ll find someone else,” Hand said. “That was a good thing. He always made sure coaches could teach as well as coach.”

Dr. Cynthia Stewart, current principal at CCHS, said Scruggs made her feel welcome when she arrived at the school more than 15 years ago.

“Mr. Scruggs became a very awesome professional mentor and friend to me,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t have asked to have moved to a new school and new community and been more welcomed by someone, and that was him. He was just an awesome man.”

Scruggs was originally from Monroe County, his obituary said.

He was born on June 22, 1935, and graduated from Excel High School.

He attended Livingston University, where he played football and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.

Scruggs also earned his Master of Education and Associate in Arts in administration.

He was a 55-year member of First Baptist Church in Clanton, as well as a member of the Chilton County Teachers Association, Chilton County Retired Teachers and the Clanton Lions Club.

Scruggs is survived by his wife, Hera; daughter Tammy Lewis (Everette) of Clanton; son Brent Scruggs (Paige) of Clanton; brother Bill Scruggs (Gwen) of Excel; granddaughter Bethany Bice McClure (Scott) of Kennesaw, Ga.; granddaughter Brentley Scruggs Messer (Clay) of Auburn; grandson Brett Bice of Birmingham; grandson Brittan Scruggs of Clanton; great-granddaughter Sarah McClure of Kennesaw, Ga.; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter Taft and Willie Mae Scruggs; brother, Jimmy Scruggs; sister, Peggy Baggett; brother, Mike Scruggs; brother, Randall Scruggs; and in-laws C.S. “Dutch” and Alberta Shumack.

A memorial service was held Sept. 1 at First Baptist Church in Clanton.

The Rev. Matt DeBord and the Rev. Jay Hurd presided.

Graveside followed with the Rev. Jack Drinkwater closing in prayer.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests gifts to the UAB Department of Neurology for Parkinson’s Disease Research, mailed to 1720 Second Avenue South, Suite 360B, Birmingham, AL 35294-0017 or online at

“He was one of the strongest men we’ve ever known, and he definitely served as the rock of our family,” McClure said. “He was always quick to offer a kind word, a witty comment, or serve as the voice of reason. His happiest days were those spent watching sports or with his family; sharing stories about his life growing up, reminiscing about family events and his education career, and imparting wisdom that our family will never forget.”