- Cindy Thomas-Buscher
Bill Wright started 52-year career in education as a teenage bus driver
Sam Houston Elementary School in Weatherford was built in 1980. In 1999, it was renamed Bill W. Wright Elementary School. Bill W. Wright was the former principal of Sam Houston Elementary School for 20 years. He was known as an outstanding educator and community member. I wanted to know the rest of the story.
When I sat down with Mr. Wright, I knew he was revered by former students, faculty members, friends, and family. We both are members of the Parker County Retired School Personnel group that meets the first Tuesday of every month. His daughter, Lynda, is president of our local chapter. His other daughter, Lana, is in choir with me. I was introduced to him at a meeting, but I knew very little about him. He quickly put me at ease when I stated I had never been on the other side of an interview with a principal, and he laughed.
Mr. Wright was part of a farming family. He said he loved to work the land and wanted to continue farming when he graduated from school. His parents told him no. They wanted him to go to college after high school.
He said he was surprised at their answer but did as they asked. School was different in Parker County when Mr. Wright attended. He was a school bus driver from age 14 to 18. I asked him if the rowdiness of the bus riders was a deterrent to becoming a teacher. He said, “No, farm kids were happy to get off the farm.” He graduated high school at age 16 and entered Weatherford Business School at Weatherford College.
While he was attending Weatherford College, he took a course taught by Elizabeth Childress. She influenced him to become a teacher. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary education at Texas Wesleyan University. His master’s degree in elementary and school administration was earned at Texas Christian University.
In between semesters he met the love of his life, Mary. They married the following year. They were married 70 years. They moved to Weatherford in 1951 after he received a teaching job. They immediately joined North Side Baptist Church where Mary was quite active. Mary had graduated from Cozzen’s Business College, so she worked at Merchants and Farmers State Bank. Later, she would attend Weatherford College and serve as secretary at T.W. Stanley Elementary, the administration building, and Central Elementary.
He taught secondary school for two and a half years, then became a teacher/principal. He was a principal for 46 years. He had a total of 52 years in education.
During his years of teaching and serving as principal, he had little time for anything else. He was busy helping his wife, Mary, to raise three children: Lynda, Lana, and Adrian. He spent his weekends doing yard work, washing cars, and spending time with his family. His daughters said, “His hobby was school. He loved being a teacher and principal and always said he felt he had been called to be an educator.”
He could repair anything that needed fixing and was a very good carpenter. According to his daughters, Lana and Lynda, he built a very elaborate yard decoration for Christmas one year, and they used it for years. He had installed a motor that moved the parts and turned candles around. They said it was fantastic. He also decided to overhaul an old Dodge pickup. They have very fond memories of that time.
On a lighter note, his girls told the story of the family playing baseball, using magazines for bases. They recalled, “Dad hit the ball hard and took off running. As he touched 2nd base, the Better Homes and Gardens magazine started sliding. We watched the magazine fly in one direction, and he went flying in the opposite direction. What a game!”
Yardwork is still one of his favorite pastimes, as he loves getting his hands in the soil, a carryover from his days on his family’s farm. His family is his very important to him. They often spend time together – and they still have a lot of fun.
He and his wife had a very strong faith and always made sure their family were in church every Sunday and Wednesday night. The kids knew where they would be every Sunday. Each Sunday after church, it was roast, potatoes, carrots and all the trimmings for lunch.
He has been invited and attended class reunions of former students. When he retired, he had taught three generations of some of the same families. Had he stayed one more year, he would have taught four. He was honored to be a part of serving these families throughout the years. Students still remember him when they see him out in the community. He can still tell you where students lived when they attended T.W. Stanley Elementary and Sam Houston Elementary, how many siblings were in the family, and where the parents worked.
I asked him what he feels is the greatest issue facing educators today.
“Today, they dump everything on teachers,” he said. “They are expected to teach morals, make sure their students are catching up in all areas of education they missed during COVID, tutor their students, and meet the state guidelines. Lack of support from parents is probably the biggest issue they face.”
If he could give today’s teachers advice, he would tell them to follow their instincts of what they think is best for their students.