Trawick’s legacy pertinent to today’s issues

Published 4:17 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

By By Tray Smith
When former Superintendent Melvin “Buck” Powell was still serving as head coach of the Escambia County High School football team, his boss, Principal Archie Trawick, escorted him to the career tech wing. There, Trawick pointed to a set of mixed and matched windows and asked maintenance personnel to replace them with a uniform set of glass pieces. The maintenance men refused, saying Harry Weaver, who was superintendent at that time, would never pay to replace windows that were not broken. “So,” says Powell, who witnessed the incident first hand, “Archie just turned and grabbed a hammer.”
That strong willed determination was lost on New Year’s Day when Trawick, perhaps the best principal in ECHS history, died at his family home in Perdido. However, the decisiveness and conviction Trawick embodied were long ago lost in our education system.
In an era when government regulations and legal liabilities have forced schools to request parental approval for spanking a child, deplorable actions by students have come to be described by adults in this community as things that “Archie Trawick would have never tolerated.” Indeed, I have grown accustomed to that phrase in my own home, as my mother frequently laments the deterioration in student character that has occurred since she graduated from high school thirty years ago under Trawick’s leadership.
Trawick has occasionally been derided by critics and friends alike as stubborn. It is important, however, to recognize the root of obstination is an understanding of right and wrong. Such an understanding would be useful in education today, as students have adapted to environments that do not penalize disruptive behaviors and thus made a habit of exercising poor judgment.
Trawick’s legacy could also be useful to education administrators and politicians, who would be wise to again heed Harry Truman’s creed, “the buck stops here,” and recognize that sometimes, someone has got to take responsibility and make a decision.
Of course, Archie Trawick’s stubbornness is not his legacy. Friends describe his strong will only as a means to a very compassionate end. At Escambia County High School, that end was the imposition of order on student body unnerved by racial tension. As a result, the institution flourished during a period of great turbulence nationwide, and overcame the greatest stain on our history having peacefully achieved racial harmonization.
Juanita Smith, my grandmother who worked for Trawick as a guidance counselor, tells a story of erecting a bulletin board in celebration of black history that was shortly thereafter torn down by white racist groups. Such stories are regrettable, but as a result of Trawick’s leadership they are not common. He alone suppressed the disgusting ambitions of those whose actions could have destroyed the social fabric of this city.
All educators claim to act in the best interest of their students. Trawick was an educator whose actions actually did serve his students best interest. He was awarded for his remarkable tenure as ECHS principal with a promotion, first to the position of assistant superintendent and then superintendent. With those promotions came additional responsibilities, and new challenges. Chiefly, he had to address proration, which we are again experiencing. Like always, Trawick rose to the task and got the job done.
Now, he has passed, but he left behind a great memory that this community cherishes. Archie Trawick is the face adults associate with their education, and he is the reason they were so well educated in character as well as scholastics. It is his students who now preserve his legacy, and it is their stories about him that have the teenagers of this generation wishing we could have only graduated when Mr. Trawick was in charge.
Tray Smith is a former page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at His column appears weekly.

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