The impact of one educator….

I knew the memorial service would be crowded, so I got there 30 minutes early.  Not early enough. I had to park three blocks away, and the church was already full. So I stood against the wall. Waiting for the service to begin, I struck up a conversation with the man standing next to me.

I asked how he happened to know the deceased, and he told me that the man was his high school principal in the mid-70s.  Did he have a lot of contact with the principal?  He laughed.  “Well,” he said, “he paddled me once, and suspended me another time.”  And here you are at his memorial service, over 40 years later?  “Yes,” he said, with a smile. “Dr. Akins was a great man.”

Indeed he was, which is why the Wesley United Methodist Church in East Austin was overflowing.  How many people have a high school named for them while they still live?  Charles Akins was that kind of man.  Teacher.  Assistant principal. Principal.  Assistant Superintendent. Board member at ESC Region 13.

Charles Akins attended the all black L.C. Anderson High School in East Austin before the AISD integrated.  After college, he became a teacher and went to work in AISD.  When the district decided to close the black high school, it opened up a new high school in upscale, all white Northwest Austin, and bused black kids in from the Eastside.  They kept the name—L.C. Anderson—and named Charles Akins as the first principal.  In later years he recounted his memories of greeting both the black and white kids as they got off the buses.  Fights were common.

The district placed a lot of confidence in Charles to put him in that position, and he demonstrated through his service that the confidence was well placed. He succeeded at Anderson High School, and at every position he held in the district.

Charles was one of those people who seemed to overflow with warmth. He remembered names, and took interest in everyone he met.  That man who stood beside me at the service was not the only former student from long ago who took the time to honor this man.  At the memorial, the principal of Akins High School kept her composure until she noted that the school would soon have its first graduation without Dr. Akins.

I did not know him well, but knew him well enough to know that Charles Akins was a quiet hero. We are fortunate that we have many of them serving in our public schools.  The life of  Charles Akins is a reminder of the enormous positive impact a single educator can have.


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday, and some guidance from OCR.