Locals honor memory of Billingsley

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fond remembrances: Samuel Billingsley, or Mr. B. passed away this month and is fondly remembered by friends and former students.  Photo submitted

Fond remembrances: Samuel Billingsley, or Mr. B. passed away this month and is fondly remembered by friends and former students.
Photo submitted

Chances are students who attended Picayune Memorial High School or Junior High from 1966 to 1983 remember the man known as Mr. “B.”
His children, former students and colleagues described Samuel Autry Billingsley as a disciplinarian who cared deeply for the welfare of his students.
Billingsley died at his Picayune home on March 2. He was born in Greenville, Mississippi, married to Jean for 57 years and worked as an educator, band director and school administrator for more than 38 years. He also had 27 years of combined military service in the United States Army and National Guard. He was a father to Bob, James, Lynda and Paul and grandfather to nine.
Bob, Billingsley’s son, said his father was always firm, but fair.
“He was principal to all four of his children,” Bob Billingsley said. “He treated us no different. He was also administrator at Picayune during integration of the schools. There couldn’t have been a better person to oversee that. He wanted a school that treated everyone fairly.”
Even after retiring, Bob Billingsley said nothing was more important to his father than seeing Picayune’s school programs succeed. He loved sports, Bob Billingsley said, but he knew academics are the key to success.
Mr. “B’s” daughter Lynda said her father was a fair person who didn’t like to brag and expected all of his children to attend college.
“He was always proud of his work,” she said. “But family was very important to him. We ate all of our meals together and took many vacations.”
For the past six months, Lynda cared for her ailing father and said it gave them a chance to reminisce. One of her favorite memories of her father is the birth of her daughter, Christen, his first grandchild.
“I saw him change from the strict disciplinarian to the doting grandfather,” she said. “It was a special time for me and provided closure. We have lots of good memories. He loved his grandchildren and they all called him ‘G-daddy.’ He loved and doted on them.”
Suzan Wilson said the Picayune community and especially his former students loved Billingsley.
“He ruled with an iron hand but we all learned respect from him,” Wilson said. “We were all terrified when he walked the halls. He said he found out all kinds of things that way. He had a paddle in his back pocket and a pipe in the other. I know from a personal experience that he was very fair in his discipline. I never thought I would have a personal relationship with my principal, but I feel honored to have had that. He loved his family and Picayune.”
Longtime friend and former Picayune Memorial High School Band Director Johnny Baker said Sam Billingsley talked him into leaving Hazlehurst to teach in Picayune in 1971.
“He was a very good principal,” Baker said. “He cared about those kids. He would come to our band practices. He has a good family, good kids and I’m going to miss him.”
Former student Carey Meitzler said Billingsley was greater at the little things.
“He never made a big deal publicly about acts of kindness, encouragement and counseling he did for so many of his students. He was stealthy about it to the outside world,” she said in an email. “I know that I would have gone down a different path in my life if not for his influence during high school. Picayune was blessed to have him in the school system. He taught life lessons daily, but in his own Mr. B kind of way.”

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