The old saying goes “Give people their flowers while they are yet living.”
Thursday night in the J.Z. George High School, the Carroll County School District did just that for Superintendent Billy Joe Ferguson – they gave him his flowers.
Ferguson was honored by his colleagues, members of the community, and members of his church Vaiden Baptist for the 50 years he’s served educating the children of Carroll County.
Principal Coretta Green, Jeff Seinfeld, Anjuan Brown, Laura Curry and Judy Tompkins shared memories and antidotes of Ferguson and the love that he has for his students.
Seinfeld said he worked for Ferguson at Vaiden High School, and the two have formed a lifelong friendship.
“My kids had heard stories of B.J. but had never met him. So, I finally convinced him to come to Baltimore. And, he didn’t want to fly, he wouldn’t fly. He drove his pickup, and I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t want to do that again,” Seinfeld said, laughing. “But, now B.J. since you have time on your hands, you can come to Baltimore, and we can find you a woman.”
The next person to speak was Anjuan Brown. Brown, up until this year, worked as head of security/assistant to the superintendent for Carroll County Schools. He said when he was referred for the job, he didn’t know Ferguson but when he met with him they talked for an hour.
Brown said the stories in the newspaper don’t always reflect what’s happening, and they don’t show the love that Ferguson really has for the children of Carroll County. He thanked everyone who has supported Ferguson throughout his career.
“Did he do everything right? No! But, do we do everything right? No! We are not perfect people and neither is he, but he cares for the children of Carroll County,” Brown said.
Curry said she and Ferguson had a unique relationship. Curry was a student at Vaiden High School when Ferguson taught there.
“Then Coach Ferguson became my colleague and then my Superintendent,” Curry said.
Echoing Brown’s sentiments, Curry said Ferguson loves the students in Carroll County and thanked him for his service and dedication.
She then presented him with a resolution honoring his 50 years of service.
Rounding out the speakers was Judy Tompkins. Tompkins said she and Ferguson worked together for 39 years, not working together only the four years he didn’t serve as superintendent.
“I guess Sherri Blaine is on the committee who planned this, and when she called me and asked me to present Billy Joe with his plaque, I said yes. But, then I thought, ‘Why me? I don’t work there anymore.’ But, then I got to talking with [husband] Clint [Tompkins], and I said, ‘Why not me?’”
Tompkins said she, her husband, and her daughter have all worked for Ferguson during his tenure as superintendent. And, her son served as a head football coach at J.Z. George High School for a short period of time. The two also attend church together at Vaiden Baptist.
“Billy Joe is basically family,” Tompkins said. “I tell this story all the time. He’s red-headed just like me, but I’ve never seen him get real upset, but one time.”
She then told the story of the one time she remembers Ferguson losing his cool while he was principal at Vaiden High School. Tompkins said Ferguson would stop by the Student Services office, after eating lunch at the Kozy Kitchen and sit and talk with them.
“We knew how to fix all the problems in Carroll County,” Tompkins said. “And we would tell him what to do, he didn’t have a wife so there was no way he was going to do what four women said, but he listened. There was one time he wanted to do something, and I told him ‘Billy Joe, that’s silly, don’t do that.’ And, I be doggone four months later, he was right. And I said ‘Billy Joe, I have to apologize to you, I was wrong.’ And it’s the only time I’ve ever done it.”
She said while thinking back on Ferguson’s legacy she wondered what Ferguson would leave behind.
“I read in the paper you said consolidation, but that’s not it. And, you were right, there probably are still people mad at you about it. But, that’s not your legacy. We can say buildings and go around and touch them, but that’s not it either. It’s a four letter word – love. That’s your legacy. You love the kids of Carroll County with agape love. You were never blessed with children of your own, but God knew what he was doing.”
She continued, “He gave you thousands of kids. We have doctors, lawyers, and I hate to say, but we have some standing on the street corner, doing nothing. And Billy Joe loved them all. If there was a kid who needed graduation invitations, parent that didn’t have the money to pay their electric bill, kids needed Christmas presents -- he saw to it that they had what they needed.”
Tompkins said others may come after Ferguson, but there won’t be another one like him.
“Carroll County may have had other superintendents before Billy Joe that cared, but not like Billy Joe. There may have been one that loves the students of Carroll County as much, but it won’t be like Billy Joe. That man loves these kids with an agape love.”