On March 23, I was invited to a reunion of teachers at Warner Robins Middle School — formerly known as Warner Robins Junior High School. The school opened in 1970 as Warner Robins Junior High for seventh- to ninth-graders and changed to Warner Robins Middle School in 1991, when the Houston County school system decided to include ninth grade in the high school and take sixth graders out of elementary school.
It was the next day, after reading a post on Facebook, that I realized the significance of the date — it had been 33 years to the day when Warner Robins Junior High Principal Joe Musselwhite passed away.
Whether the reunion was planned specifically to coincide with that date or it just happened by chance, I am not sure. Either way, the family that Musselwhite helped create as the school’s first principal remembered him fondly at the reunion.
Lowell Hopkins was the school’s band director from 1970-1991. Prior to coming to Warner Robins Junior he had been band director at Warner Robins High School.
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“We weren’t like a family, we were a family,” said Hopkins. “The faculty was outstanding and it was absolutely one of the best schools around, if not the best.”
As for Musselwhite, Hopkins said that everyone that knew him, loved him.
“The teachers loved him. He always stressed that if you don’t love kids, you can’t teach kids. He demonstrated that daily by the love he showed all the students,” Hopkins said.
“He was strict. He was tough. But he loved the kids and they knew he loved them. He would paddle their bottoms and they would shake his hand afterwards and apologize. He was an outstanding administrator and it was heartbreaking to lose him,” Hopkins said.
Angela Bigham, who came to the school when it opened in 1970 to teach art, still makes a trip to the school every day.
“My granddaughter, Allie, comes here now and she loves it here. All these years later, it is still a family,” Bigham said.
Brett Wallace took over as principal five years ago and he said that he quickly learned that he was stepping into a family at Warner Robins Middle School.
“So many of our teachers are former students of this school, so it really does have a family atmosphere here. They really welcomed me into the Warrior family and I feel a deep responsibility to keep that family feel going,” Wallace said.
The school has long been known for outstanding academics and success in student and extracurricular competitions from FFA to football.
Wallace says that some of the reason for the success is the family atmosphere of Warner Robins Middle School.
“Students thrive when they are part of something, something that is close knit, positive that includes people to lean on. That is important for the student but equally important for the teachers that work so hard to teach our kids,” Wallace said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the incorrect date for when Warner Robins Junior High School became Warner Robins Middle School. The change happened in 1991.
Alline Kent can be reached at 396-2467 or email@example.com