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Home News-Telegram News 'Mr. Pete' Long, educator and community supporter, leaves behind a legacy of respect and dignity

'Mr. Pete' Long, educator and community supporter, leaves behind a legacy of respect and dignity

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For all the power of Google and the Internet, it can’t tell you much about Pete Long. But generation after generation of students and teachers who attended North Hopkins school can testify to the greatness of the longtime educator and community supporter who died Monday at the age of 96.

Funeral services for Pete Long will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at West Oaks Funeral Home. Visitation will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.

For some 40 years, William S. “Pete” Long was either teacher, principal or superintendent at schools in the North Hopkins area. But more than that, he was a friend, a mentor, and a father figure to generation after generation of students, teachers and others across Hopkins County.

“There’s not too many educators like him left,” said Barbara Cockrum, who teaches at North Hopkins ISD and worked with the man known as “Mr. Pete.”

“He’s a super-nice guy,” said Vaden Richey, who knew Long as both a student and a fellow educator. “ I patterned my life a whole lot after him, to be very honest. He influenced my life more than any single person.”

Talk to some of the people whose lives he touched and words like “dignity” and “respect” come up time and again.

“He could talk to anyone,” said Sharlene Brice, who worked with Long for several years before his retirement in 1981 He had a lot of connections in Austin through Texas Education Association and legislators, and everyone thought he was great.

He never saw anyone who he couldn’t talk to, and they’d feel extra-special, from the poorest  student we had to the legislators in Austin,” she added.

“He probably treated the poor child nicer,” said his son, Tommy Long, who now plays the role of superintendent of North Hopkins school.

“It didn’t matter if you were his kid or the worst kid in school,” recalled another son, Frank Long, formerly the district attorney for the Eighth Judicial District. “To him, you had the same obligations to respect the school. He treated everybody the same.”

“It didn’t matter who you were, he treated you with respect,” added Tommy.

Vaden Richey taught with Long for many years, but also walked to school every day with Mr. Pete when he first started school at the old Addran community. Long lived in the Macedonia community a few miles away and walked to his teaching job at Addran — about three miles — every day.

“I walked to school with him all that year, and we didn’t miss many mornings,” Richey recalled. “The ice really got heavy back in those days — we’d wrap tow sacks on our feet to walk to school.”

When the North Hopkins Independent School District formed in the early 1940s, Pete Long took over as principal, but by 1946 was the superintendent, a job he would hold for 35 years.

He was a strong supporter of athletics, agriculture and any other activity.

“There could be a livestock show in Houston — I’ve seen this happen more than once — and he’d have basketball players showing animals that morning,” Richey recalled. “He’d drive them back to North Hopkins in time to play that night, then load them up and drive back to Houston that night. He did that many a time.”

“He would make sure that all the kids had the opportunities to participate in every activity that they could possibly be in,” said Frank Long. “They did that for all the kids.”

The same kind of spirit extended to the teachers at North Hopkins.

“Everybody loved everybody and worked together to help each other,” Brice recalled. “The faculty would all go out to eat together once a month, just like a family. We had Christmas parties at his house.”

It was not a boss-employee relationship so much as one big family, she said.

“Pete was the daddy, and Miss Ruth  was the mama,” Brice added. “And no one called them Mr. Long or Mrs. Long — they were always Mr. Pete and Miss Ruth.”

Tommy Long said you can’t discuss his father’s relationship with other people, along with all the activities he was involved with, without talking about Ruth Long, who passed away in 1999.

“As far as their work and all the activities they were involved with, it wasn’t one or the other — it was both of them,” he said. “They were a team.”

For years after the couple retired from education, former students would come back to visit.

“They would come back years later after they got out of school and would want to come out and see him,” Tommy Long said. “Somebody would have come back to see their folks, but they also come by to see Mom and Dad and visit with them. It was that kind of relationship.”

Even after leaving his job, Pete Long never stopped being involved, staying active for years after he retired.

“He’d go to the ball games and supported  the students for years,” said Tommy Long.

He was a contributor to the North Hopkins Scholarship Foundation, but he also served with Golden K Kiwanis Club, the Civic Center Board, the Sulphur Springs Crimestoppers, the retired teachers association and other groups.

“He was always active in the community in every way,” Richey said. “He served on several committees in Sulphur Springs. He was community-oriented. I just couldn’t say enough nice things about him. He treated everybody great.”

The legacy of Pete and Ruth lives on in their children and grandchildren, and it’s evident that the lessons handed down had an impact. Of their four children, the oldest, William Howard, is a retired Air Force colonel who also became a surgeon. A daughter, Sammie, retired as regional director with the state health and human services agency, and now has a second career with Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler. Frank is a private attorney after a long career as district attorney. And Tommy has been North Hopkins superintendent for some 20 years.

Yet Frank and Tommy said they never felt forced in any direction by their parents.

“They never pushed to do this or that. it was just a feeling that education was important,” Frank said. “You’ve got to get an education, but you’ve got to be yourself, too.

“They didn’t press us to get a degree, but they certainly pressed us to learn,” Tommy said. “I can remember them saying many times you can lose a lot of things, but they can never take your education away from you.”




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