Picayune Item’s super senior, Sam Billingsly “Mr. B.”
Published 1:46 am Sunday, August 14, 2011
Sam Billingsly is this week’s Picayune Item Super Senior because he has devoted his life to leadership in the Mississippi National Guard, Picayune School System and his church. He is active in the Community Band and teaches Sunday School at First United Methodist Church in Picayune.
He applies the test of “Is this fair?” to his actions and decisions. Fair is a word that means many things; www.Dictionary.com defines it as “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.”
That definition appears to be right in line with Billingsly’s personal ethics and code of conduct.
Billingsly, known as “Mr. B.” by his former students, began first his career in the National Guard.
He says, “I mobilized in 1951 with the 31st Division. They made us a training division and we had the men come to us for eight weeks of basic training before they went overseas. When I came back I re-entered the Guard and commanded a Unit in Winona for seven years. We had a pretty fair unit and I stayed in through Hurricane Camille. Afterwards, I retired having served 21 years.”
He met his wife, Jean, of 54 years, while he was a band director / guidance counselor and she was student teaching.
Jean Billingsly says, “It was a ‘God thing’ that we met. We were from completely different geographical areas. God just put us together in that school and we met; otherwise, we never would have laid eyes on each other.”
The family moved to Picayune in 1966 when Billingsly got the job principal for Picayune Jr. High School.
He says, “We had 950 kids in the school and it was all up to me and Peggy Stockstill to run the school. Peggy helped me ‘learn’ the people — there is a world of difference between that and just knowing someone’s name.
“I was the principal when they merged the schools. We were then able to take on two guidance counselors to help with the additional students. I stayed on until 1971 when I went over to the High School.”
Billingsly is remembered by former students as someone that walked the halls with a stern face and with a point of a finger he could reduce the toughest, brazen youth into a student of meek compliance.
“ I had an excellent faculty at time,” he says, “and a good student body. You know, my mama always had this saying that ‘everybody has to climb Fool’s Hill’ and with students sure they had some moments but they were good kids.”
Billingsly retired from teaching in 1989. He fondly recalls accomplishments of past students and says, “When I say I shop local — I mean I spend my money with former students. I am happy to see them and proud that they are doing well.”
He remembers former student, Dr. Joe B. Whitehead, Jr., (now the USM Professor and Associate Dean, College of Science and Technology Ph.D., Physics, Kent State University, 1989) as a smart boy that was amazing academically.
Dr. Whitehead, Jr. remembers Billingsly as well.
“He was a great principal. He was always encouraging and supporting in action and words
He drove me to orientation at Delta State in 1979 with his son Bob. He really wanted to help the students and always kept track of what me and how my family was doing. He had a big impact on my life.”
Today, Billingsly serves on church committees, teaches Sunday School, and plays the tuba in the Community Band each Tuesday. He enjoys his time with his wife, four children and nine grandchildren.
To his former students he says, “I think most of you have done real well. Hang in there; times are tough but they will get better. Take your time with your kids and don’t just turn them loose. It will pay off in the end.”