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When the Randolph County Board of Education set out to find a new principal in 1968, they were looking for someone who could shore up lagging discipline at the school as well as oversee impending integration. A stocky former history teacher and basketball coach from northern Alabama, Humphries shaped his 26-year tenure as principal at RCHS with a distinctively iron hand.
Shorts 1 inch too short meant a three-day suspension.
"We don't have the kind of problems they have in some schools," says Grady J Wakefield, 65, a semi retired county agricultural agent whose two daughters graduated from the high school, “and the reason is Hulond. Hulond has stepped on some toes with that, and I think this whole thing is just a small segment trying to get back at him." Humphries, in fact, magnified the subterranean currents that had long percolated in Wedowee, for Humphries was also a strong force in public life, a quality that earned him the lasting admiration of some of the town's most prominent citizens.
Active in a host of civic groups, Humphries, a hog farmer, was the one who not only donated pigs to numerous community functions but also cooked them.
Even now, having retreated to the pinewoods where he initially earned a living as a logger, he clenches his fist at Till's memory. "I guess I was like Daniel [in the Bible], running away from the job that God had for me, but God pulled me back," says O'Neal, whose lean limbs remain roped with the muscles of his logging years. There, in the reddish brown house on the right, is where Carol James' mother lives.Now 33, James left long ago for Las Vegas, where she is a nurse.But she has not forgotten what she says Humphries told her when she asked him why he chose a white girl with less experience than herself to be the cheerleading captain.It is the kind of place where chewing tobacco and snuff take up more shelf space in the grocery store than pain relievers do.With a black population of about 24 percent, located a half-hour from the nearest interstate, the county experienced virtually none of the state's civil-rights turmoil that convulsed the cities of Birmingham and Montgomery.
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A rebellious word or too-tight pants earned a few licks with the heavy wooden paddle in Humphries' office.