WHITE SPRINGS — Whether it was as a coach, teacher, administrator or school board member, Waylon Bush made an impact on the lives of youth in Hamilton County.
Bush passed away Oct. 23 at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville after a battle with leukemia. He was 70.
The Troy State graduate began his 40-year career in education at the Hamilton County Middle School in 1971 before moving to South Hamilton Elementary the following year.
During his six years as a teacher and coach at South Hamilton in White Springs, Bush started to create the legacy that he has left behind.
“I know at South, he was one of the stalwarts down there,” said Rex Mitchell, the superintendent of Hamilton County Schools as well as a former student and a friend of Bush who taught and coached with him after graduating and beginning his own career in education. “He became synonymous with the school, as a coach, as an administrator, as a teacher.”
Johnny Bullard, the chairman of the Hamilton County School Board, was a student at South Hamilton when Bush arrived. Bullard said it didn’t take him long to make an impression.
Bush teamed with Charlie Harrison to coach the first integrated middle school football team at SHE and helped craft the school’s mascot, the Red Devils.
Bullard said that first season, the Red Devils played Madison twice and Hamilton Middle twice and after suffering a lopsided loss to Hamilton Middle the first game, SHE lost in a close game the second time.
“They were like trailblazers and they meant the world to all of us,” Bullard said. “I never forgot him. He was a great coach and a great school board member.”
After his run at South Hamilton, Bush taught at the old Hamilton County High School until the mid-1980s when he was elected to the school board for two terms.
Following a return to his hometown in Alabama, Bush later served as the principal at South Hamilton — the last full-time principal the school had before the district reorganized the administration for the elementary schools — from 2005-2011 and ended the 2012-13 school year as site administrator at HCHS.
“He was just the consummate person to be a principal, he cared about kids and did what was right for them, not what was easiest for him to deal with,” Mitchell said. “He was just everything you looked for in a principal and a person.”
Even following his retirement, Bush continued to serve the community. He became the pastor at Huntsville Church and also served other churches when they were in need of assistance, Mitchell said.
“Strong Christian man, family man, what you want your community to be built around,” Mitchell added. “We need more and more of that these days.
“He’ll be missed by lots of people.”
A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church in White Springs. At that service, the school district plans to present a flag to the family that it flew at half mast last Friday in honor of Bush.
Bush is survived by his wife, Sherry; son, Brandon (Holly) Bush; daughter, Morgan (Matthew) Hall; and two grandchildren, Wyatt and Trinity Hall.