By Morgan Bryce
Following 48 successful years of teaching and serving as its principal, Beauregard High School’s Richard Brown has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 1.
The 73-year-old Brown made the announcement to faculty and staff on May 24 in a specially called session inside the school’s gym. After sharing his news, he led them in the traditional “Two Bits” cheer, something he has done after every football pep rally since becoming principal 40 years ago.
“That was a really emotional moment for me. But it was really, really good,” Brown said.
Brown’s path to Beauregard
A Smiths Station native, Brown grew up in their city school system and was coached and taught by the legendary T.C. Britton and his wife Vernice, two prominent figures in his life that guided him toward a career in education.
“Through the example they set for my life (and others), they inspired me to want to pursue teaching. Like I always tell my staff, you may not know it, but there will be somebody you teach whom you inspire and help make a difference in their life,” Brown said.
Because of his standout high school baseball career, Brown accepted a two-year scholarship to play baseball at Southern Union. Two years later, he transferred to Jacksonville State,where he furthered his baseball career and focused on his major.
During a time that the United States was deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War, Brown was drafted for a brief stint of service with the Alabama National Guard before he was able to finish his college education.
Newly married, Brown and his wife Marilyn moved to Hefflin in 1969 to teach at Cleburne County High School. Besides teaching health and physical education, Brown assumed the head baseball, basketball and football coaching positions at the school.
In 1971, Britton offered Brown and his family a chance to relocate to Lee County through a teaching position at Sanford Middle School. That was short-lived, however, as he was transferred that summer to Beauregard High School.
Classified as a 2A school, Beauregard’s facilities were antiquated and cramped upon Brown’s arrival, with the school also having to accommodate students from Loachapoka because the town did not have its own high school at the time.
“Marilyn and I say all the time that we wish they had taken pictures when we came. The football field had hog-wire around the outside, one little-bitty press box set up on the 50-yard line and about 10 rows of bleachers set up,” Brown said. “Our facilities were old and wooden … not in very good shape.”
Much like he did at Cleburne County, Brown taught health and physical education classes at Beauregard. Originally serving as the head coach of the basketball program and an assistant coach for football, he was also responsible for the formation of the Hornet baseball program in 1973.
Brown successfully juggled those coaching and teaching responsibilities until 1979 when the principal position opened following some personnel changes. After prayer and careful consideration, he said he decided to step away from his current tasks and accept the principal position “because I didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance to again.”
Under Brown’s leadership, Beauregard immediately began to see results, as the school became the first Lee County school to become SACS accredited in 1980.
In addition to better and improving facilities schoolwide, Brown has been responsible for major developments like the gym built in 1987, the recently built football facility and weight room as well as the new high school, which is expected to be completed by next spring. He has also made the recommendation for hiring every coach and teacher at the school for the last 40 years.
As Beauregard’s principal, Brown has served as a distinguished member of statewide and national boards, and was honored as Alabama’s “Principal of the Year” in 2006. Visit Beauregard High School’s website to view a full list.
Family and accomplishments
While Brown may have been the face of Beauregard High School, Marilyn was a beloved English teacher who taught at the school for the next 38 years until retiring in 2009. Their children both grew up in the Beauregard school system and went on to have successful careers locally, with son Richard Jr. currently serving as Beulah High School’s assistant principal and athletic director and daughter Misty working at Auburn University.
A number of the school’s graduates “have gone on to make names for themselves and make a difference,” Brown said, rattling off a number of athletes, doctors, nurses and high-ranking military officials who are Beauregard alumni.
“There are people from the Beauregard family all across the country, which is something I’m really proud of,” Brown said.
Beauregard has also won 10 state titles during Brown’s tenure, including nine combined boys and girls state titles and winning the county’s first-ever state football championship in 2016.
After witnessing the school’s largest senior class (177 members) graduate in 2017, Brown said a slight dip in attendance the last two years is only an aberration, citing the large amount of neighborhoods under construction in the community and talks of incorporating Beauregard as reasons to expect the school to grow in the future.
What the future holds for Brown and the “Hornet Nation”
Brown officially tendered his resignation at Thursday night’s Lee County Board of Education meeting. With their approval, the school can proceed to post the job listing and begin the hiring process.
While he had planned to time his retirement with the opening of the new school, Brown said he “knew the timing was just right and when God wanted me to step away.”
During the weeks between now and his retirement, Brown said there are a number of meetings and personal obligations to fulfill, including a 50-year anniversary cruise with Marilyn to Alaska later in the summer.
Despite stepping away from the day-to-day activities at the school, Brown said he plans to remain active in the community, hinting at a possible run for Lee County School Board or helping with the incorporation process if it proceeds.
When asked why he has stayed at Beauregard for nearly half a century, Brown said it all boiled down to one factor – love.
“I love this community and this community has loved my family and I in return. That and the Good Lord’s wisdom has kept me here,” Brown said laughingly.
Athletic Director and Football Coach Rob Carter said he believes that Brown’s legacy will carry on for years to come.
“He was like my second father. He devoted his entire professional career to our community and young people,” Carter said. “Mr. Brown was a great mentor to his staff and will be greatly missed but what he taught will carry on for generations. I love him.”