Goodwood Museum, John G. Riley Center honor former Griffin principal
By Christina Hunter
Doing janitorial work wasn’t beneath William Robert Perkins, although he had two college degrees.
It didn’t matter that he was principal at the same school where he took on some of the clean-up duties at the school now known as Griffin Middle School. Getting paid $45 a month for all that didn’t seem to bother Perkins, either.
Perkins, who served as principal from 1941 to 1961, also was coach of the boys’ basketball team.
“He was everything that you could imagine a professional educator should be,” said Fred Lee who attended Griffin during Perkins’ era. “He was like everyone’s dad or granddad away from home.”
“He was very firm, very polished. I’ve never seen anybody who was no nonsense like Professor Perkins. He walked the walk and talked the talk. When he said pay attention, they paid attention.”
Perkins, whose photograph was officially displayed in the Goodwood Museum this past Friday, was enshrined for being a trailblazer in education. The ceremony took place during the annual Goodwood Museum and John G. Riley Center and Museum Applause for the Pioneers: Cuff Links and Pearls Gala.
More than 50 people attended the event to honor the man who had a reputation for being professional and strict.
Perkins, a native of Dallas County, Ala., who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Knoxville College, later came to FAMU to earn a Master of Science degree.
Perkins started his work as principal of the William Gaston Primitive Baptist School in Huntsville, Ala., while working as editorial secretary of the National Primitive Baptist Publishing Board.
While serving as editorial secretary, he received an offer to become principal of Griffin Normal and Industrial Institute. It has since been renamed Griffin Middle School.
Perkins faced many challenges such as no heat, electricity or running water at the school. He often traveled to a spring for fresh water for his students.
Perkins brought so many changes to improve Griffin that Leon County School Board recognized the growth and gave $50,000 in support for continued improvements.
While his former students knew Perkins as a disciplinarian, family members saw him differently.
“He was the closest person I ever met to Jesus,” said his granddaughter Tella Norwood. “He was a giver and he was kind. When I would go visit, he’d go straight in the kitchen and start cooking. I didn’t look at him as professor; he was daddy Perkins to all of us.”
The honor was fitting.
“He was such an inspiring man, and this was long overdue,” said Gloria Anderson, another family member.
Perkins not only leaves behind family to remember his legacy, but the many he has inspired.
“He taught us what citizenship was all about,” said Lee. “It was not just doing the right thing and behaving in school, but it was about helping each other and doing things together as a team. There aren’t many Professor Perkins left.”