Educating Athens: Howard B. Stroud
“My father wanted to work to improve conditions for all people,” said his son, Howard Stroud Jr. “He didn’t just care about his family, but he cared about the entire community — it didn’t matter about your cultural or racial background.”
On March 30, 2007, Stroud passed away after devoting his entire career to improving the education of children in Athens, Georgia. He served as a teacher, principal and administrator in the Clarke County School District for 36 years. “He was a true educator,” said Clarke County School Board President Charles Worthy. “His greatest love was education. He wanted his students to do their best.”
As an educator, Stroud taught hundreds of children to not discriminate based on race. After completing his undergraduate study at Morehouse College, and graduate study at various universities, Stroud began teaching at AHIS. “He was a wonderful teacher,” said Stroud Jr. “A lot of students remember him to this day and come up to tell me how good he was, how much interest he had in their development.”
Stroud spent his first 14 years in education teaching in schools that consisted solely of African-American students. Starting at Athens High and Industrial School in 1956, he moved to Lyons Middle School (now Burney-Harris Lyons Middle School) seven years later and transitioned from teacher to assistant principal to principal within three years.
As a principal, Stroud interacted with both African-American and white individuals on a daily basis since he worked with students, faculty and board members. “He was a person who a lot of black people and white people were able to trust to be calm, rational, fair, but not afraid to speak his mind,” said Stroud Jr.
His unique method of relating to people earned him the respect of the community, enabling him to contribute to the integration effort. When CCSD integrated in 1970, he worked as a peace-keeper, a facilitator and a person who urged understanding.
During this time, his ability to bridge the gap between African-Americans and whites helped join the two races together in order to make integration go more smoothly than anticipated. “It’s very hard to bridge — to be really, really respected by both black and white,” said Clarke Central High School principal Dr. Maxine Easom. “He just had that capacity and in order to connect, you’ve got to have bridges.”
He led the movement by example. As a teacher and administrator, Stroud taught his students to do the right thing, a principle that he, himself, upheld. By never lying or cheating in any situation, Stroud built a reputation for integrity. “He didn’t care who it was — if it’s right, it’s right, and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” said Reverend Abraham Mosley, Stroud’s pastor. “He would stand for what was right, that was just the kind of person that he was.”
This standing as an honest person was beneficial to Stroud during the time when some district officials were suspected of embezzling funds in the early 80s. After the superintendent himself eventually resigned in 1981 when his illegal activity was made public, Stroud took his place for a year. “It was so wonderful to have him as the number two person to be able to move into the number one spot and continue to move the school district forward,” said Athens-Clarke County Commissioner, Harry Sims.
Following the appointment of a permanent superintendent, Stroud remained as the associate superintendent for 10 years until his retirement in 1992. As associate superintendent, Stroud’s was among the loudest voices calling for an increase in racial equality. Even after integration, all Clarke County schools were located in predominantly white neighborhoods. Stroud believed that this would create fewer opportunities for African-American children.
“We still had most of the black kids being bused out of their neighborhoods into other schools,” said Charles Stroud, Stroud’s younger brother. “So, people said that we needed to build a school in a predominantly black neighborhood to be fair.” The respect Stroud commanded helped him bring community attention to the lack of racial equality that still existed years after integration and encourage them to make this change.
In 1990, Fourth Street Elementary School (Clarke County’s first school in a historically African-American neighborhood) was constructed largely due to Stroud’s efforts. Then and now, it is a source of pride for many Athenians. This pride has generated a strong sense of community within the school.
“(Fourth Street) was a very special school to me,” said Easom, who was the first principal of the school. “I’ve never had as much community support as I had there. I learned a lot there about people (and) about race.”
Stroud not only contributed to the sense of community within the schools, but the sense of community within Athens. Although he was a member of more than eight community boards, he was a chairman on both the Athens Regional Medical Authority and the Board of Deacons at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.
In recognition of Stroud’s involvement in the community, the Foundation for Excellence established the Howard B. Stroud Award in 1987. Each year, a CCSD employee is awarded a $500 prize for putting the needs of the school district ahead of their own. “He was really proud of that award because it really highlighted people who were similar to him in their love for the community and their love for helping people,” said Stroud Jr.
The award is also a source of pride to Stroud’s friends and family. They appreciate the lasting memory of his hard work, and feel that he was deserving of the permanent tribute. “He basically put what was best for the community and especially children, students, ahead of his own family time to do what he could to educate children in Athens-Clarke County,” said Sims.
The award also hopes to help induce a tradition of community activism. “(He was) one of those community members that you hope other generations learn from and try to take what he believed and carry it forward, just use him as a role model,” said Helen Mills who served on ARMA with Stroud.
While people will remember him in different positions, whether as a principal, associate superintendent, board member, father, or friend, Stroud will be always be known as a man who impacted his community.
In tribute to his contributions, in June of 2007, the Board of Education voted unanimously to rename Fourth Street Elementary. Complete with a new motto, “Proud to be at Stroud,” this fall the school began the year with its new name, Howard B. Stroud Elementary School.
“He did a lot for the community,” said CCSD School Board member, Reverend David Nunnally Sr. “I’m really proud that the school board made the decision to rename Fourth Street. We felt good about it.”
As an involved Athenian, Stroud helped his city through his work in the school district and the community at large. Through the renaming of the school, his name will be carried on for years to come. “Mr. Stroud will never die,” said Worthy. “He was a giant of a man.”
Written by Emily Goodhue - Visit Website