Former Houston schools chief rose from farm country to classroom

awoolen@macon.comFebruary 5, 2014 

matt_arthur

Longtime Houston County educator Matt Arthur stands near the school named for him.

BEAU CABELL/THE SUN NEWS — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

Editor’s note: This story is first in a series about the namesakes of Houston County schools.

WARNER ROBINS -- Matt Arthur is one of six children, the son of farmers.

As a young boy growing up in Fitzgerald, he always thought he would follow in his parents’ footsteps.

The family had dairy cows, and Arthur fondly remembers his mother, Nancy Arthur, churning butter and putting it into molds to be sold.

“We were typical farmers,” he said.

Arthur’s parents stressed the importance of school. There were few days he was allowed to miss class, and one of those was when the family slaughtered a hog.

When Arthur went to college at the University of Georgia, he changed his mind about being a farmer. He discovered his calling was teaching, and he earned a graduate degree in education.

Today, the 79-year-old is a highly regarded educator in Houston County, and Matt Arthur Elementary School is named after him.

Arthur moved to Warner Robins in 1962 to take a job at the new Northside High School as an industrial arts teacher and coach. He was hired alongside his longtime friend, the late Ray Horne, who grew to be a theater icon in Houston County and beyond.

In 1969, Arthur became principal at Northside, serving until 1980. In 1981, he was tapped as the Houston County schools superintendent and remained in that position until he retired in 1988.

In 1999, the school board named Matthew C. Arthur Elementary School for the man who dedicated 25 years to Houston County students and the community.

“I was very thrilled,” Arthur said, adding he didn’t know why he deserved the recognition.

Board member Skip Dawkins said the decision to name the newly built school after Arthur was unanimous.

“He left a pretty strong legacy for teachers in Houston County,” Dawkins said. “He was highly regarded by everyone he came in contact with.”

During Arthur’s tenure as superintendent, land was purchased for David Perdue Elementary, Northside Elementary, Quail Run Elementary, Feagin Mill Middle and Houston County High schools, according to the board of education’s history page at www.hcbe.net.

Some of Arthur’s most memorable moments come from seeing former students succeed. Former Superintendents Danny and David Carpenter were two of Arthur’s students at Northside.

“We have a lot of people move in here for the school system,” Arthur said.

The school system has seen growth since Arthur’s tenure, with the addition of two high schools to keep up with the student population.

“I think schools are better now than they ever were,” he said.

A lot of educators in Arthur’s early days of teaching “pot holed” students into one particular area of study. Schools now allow students to explore many different options, he said.

Prior to coming to Warner Robins, Arthur taught in Thomaston and was in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Benning from 1957-59. He married his wife, Sarah Bob, on Jan. 29, 1955. She also hails from Fitzgerald, but her husband calls her “uptown” because her father was a doctor. The couple has three children.

Although Arthur said he still “dabbles” in farming, and owns several cows on land off of Smithville Church Road, he doesn’t regret the career change.

“A lot of times people worry about their chosen profession,” he said. “I enjoyed every year I taught and coached.”

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