I received several books for Christmas this year, including You Better Be Right, My 25 Years as an SEC Football Official by Dick Burleson. I’ve read a few chapters already and find it to be a humorous and informative book about SEC football and officiating. What makes it worth noting here, though, is the mention of a family member.
The Pennington name first caught my attention in the Acknowledgements as a “high school teacher and principal, Mr. Pennington”. Then in the very first paragraph of the book Mr. Burleson mentions that he grew up in Blountsville. Immediately I’m wondering whether the Pennington mentioned in the Acknowledgements could be my great uncle John Burton Pennington, who was principal at the Blountsville high school that was later named for him. My curiosity was answered by the third paragraph:
I attended J.B. Pennington High School in Blountsville from 1953 to 1957. Like most boys in the ’50s, I liked all sports, but I concentrated on basketball and football, which was a great experience. My years at Pennington instilled in me a set of morals and values that shaped the person I would become. I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the teachers and coaches who taught me lessons in and out of the classroom, teachers like Ms. Porter, Ms. Shepard, and Ms. Cox, and coaches like Coach Starkey and Coach Driskell, who doubled as father figures for me when I sorely needed them. And then there was the namesake of the school, J.B. Pennington himself, who was principal of the school during my tenure. He was a man of impeccable character who expected no less from his faculty and students.
That’s exactly what he got. The school was spotless, free from the vandalism and graffiti that can result from the destructive nature of teenagers. The lockers had no locks, as decreed by Mr. Pennington, but this was not a problem. In my four years there, only once did an item turn up missing. Mr. Pennington called an assembly to announce that a girl’s shoes had apparently been placed in the wrong locker and he expected them to be back in their proper place by the end of the day. They were.
J.B. Pennington was the brother of Dad’s mother, Icie Pennington. Dad has a nice framed engraving of Pennington High School hanging on the wall above his mantle. It was Dad who gave me Mr. Burleson’s book, but I’m betting that he doesn’t know about the Pennington connection. When I eventually assemble our family history, I will have to include Mr. Burleson’s short anecdote in J.B. Pennington’s chapter.