Stroud was a true leader for Athens
As Howard Stroud Sr.'s soul was sent on its heavenward journey during a Tuesday funeral service at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, it was hard not to recognize that his passing has left this community without a piece of its own soul. Stroud was so much a part of what Athens has been, what it is today, and what it will become, that his loss will be that keenly felt.
Stroud himself explained why, in a 2000 interview with this newspaper. He said his life was guided by "the philosophy that you don't need to ask somebody else why certain things don't happen. This is my community, so I do what I can do to make it better."
Expanding on that philosophy, Stroud added, "Give all that you can give, and whatever that is, it will come back to you. And give to make things better for other people."
Clearly, those weren't just idle words for Stroud. His work in and for the community included service on the Athens Regional Medical Center Authority, the Classic Center Authority, the Morton Theatre Corp., United Way of Northeast Georgia and the Athens Retired Teachers Association.
He was also part of the Partners for a Prosperous Athens anti-poverty initiative, the now-year-old effort to reduce the local poverty rate.
But the most indelible mark Stroud left on this community undoubtedly came as a result of his 36 years of service in Clarke County's public schools. It's impossible to know how many young lives Stroud touched during his career, which began in 1956 when he took a teaching post at Athens High and Industrial School. He also worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at Lyons Junior High School before moving to the district's central office and its upper administrative ranks, serving as middle and high school coordinator, administrative assistant to the superintendent, acting superintendent and associate superintendent before retiring in 1992.
During his time as an educator, Stroud helped integrate the county's schools, an experience he would later recall as being both "interesting and trying."
In the days following Stroud's death - he died Thursday at the age of 77, of natural causes - a number of people who have come to be pillars of the community in their own rights recalled the sterling example set by Stroud.
Athens native Michael Thurmond, now the state's labor commissioner, recalled Stroud as a dignified man who was "soft-spoken, but when he spoke, you listened."
State Rep. Keith Heard, D-Athens, remembered that Stroud "was always there to give that voice of reason. What led him was doing the right thing."
Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims, a retired educator himself, paid what was perhaps the highest compliment given to Stroud in the wake of his passing, saying, "He actually did things. He was always trying to be part of the solution. ... People called him to get advice."
The voice that offered that advice is now stilled. But Stroud's life itself can continue to serve as an example, echoing the undying message that with a little work, things can be better tomorrow than they are today.