There are several words one could throw out there and be a perfect description of JOHN ELLERBEE. Some of the more significant ones would include FAIR, DEVOTED, KNOWLEDGABLE, UNDERSTANDING, FAITHFUL, SINCERE, AND HONEST. That’s a pretty impressive group of words to live up to but John Ellerbee has done just that in his 37 years in the Jackson County School system.
Ellerbee graduated from Marianna High School in 1973, from Chipola Junior College in 1975 and received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Troy State University. There was never a doubt in John’s mind that he would return to the community he grew up in and give back to the schools and educators that had impacted him. Names like Milton H. Johnson, Jim Pavy, and Randy Free stand out in his mind to this day. Ellerbee says these coaches and mentors taught him discipline and intensity and to do things the right way and that’s what Ellerbee did for 37 years.
The Jackson County School Board recognized John Ellerbee November 15 with his upcoming retirement just days away. The number of people making time out of their schedules to come by and pay respect, share memories, and offer congratulations on his retirement and years of service to our education system speaks volumes for the man John Ellerbee is and always has been.
Travis Blanton, assistant principal at Marianna High School shared his thoughts on Ellerbee, “John and I go way back, he graduated from the same high school I did and not long before I did. We both coached with and against Randy Free and that’s where our bond originally started. Then I coached against John, he coached at Malone and me at Grand Ridge. We went to a lot of clinics together and he started doing me the way many had done him, kind of took me under his wing. I coached under Jerry Davis at Grand Ridge and Grand Ridge and Malone were huge rivals. John and I just hit it off, we shared the same ideas and stuff. We got to know each other and I watched him win championships and do it the right way. I actually coached against John when he was at Malone after he retired from coaching boys, when he was coaching girls at Malone and I was coaching girls at Grand Ridge. That made me a better coach to actually coach against him as a head coach. He came over here (Marianna High School) as the boys’ coach and when he was looking to go into administration, he asked me about coming here and that was probably a year-long process. I was his assistant here for one semester and I took the job and I learned a lot of basketball from him, coaching with him, against him and I got to be his friend. I taught both of his boys and I worked with his wife Haley and I’ve been able to know his entire family. Behind every good coach is a better woman. I’ve had a chance to be around some good people and John Ellerbee is one of the best. And one thing that everyone should know and it hurts me to say this because I’d like it to be me but John is the biggest Alabama fan there is. I say that out of respect for John. Another thing, is John can fish. He taught me a lot of about fishing and he’s the best at that too. John Ellerbee will be missed, he always had a calming effect on any situation he walked into and that’s hard to come by.
Mark Brogden worked under Ellerbee when Ellerbee was principal at Riverside Elementary and has high praise for him, “The thing that sticks out most about me working for John was his true concern about his faculty and staff as people. His philosophy that he said many, many times was “God first, then family, then work.” A perfect example of that was when I had a cousin pass away on the very last teacher workday of the year, a day when we have a million things to get done. When I told John what had happened, he didn’t bat an eye when he said “Go worry about that. School will take care of itself.” Brogden said that was huge in his book and gave him even more respect for a man he already had a ton of respect for.
Brogden said, “Another thing I always liked about John was he had a had a way of calming teachers’ stress levels as the state continued to increase the demands placed on teachers. It can get very overwhelming when things change because the state doesn’t just make small changes. They have a habit of completely trying to revamp everything at once and on top of that, they bring in various consultants and experts who many times haven’t been in the classroom in many years, who tell you all these strategies and ideas that look great on paper, but would never work in the “real world.” We would go to these in-services and come back stressed out and overwhelmed. John would hear teachers “venting” about everything they had just learned from these “experts” and he would just say “ya’ll know your kids better than anybody else. Shut the door and teach them what you know they need to know and quit worrying about all that. Working for John were some of the best years of my career. He is very much a people person.”
And who would know John Ellerbee better than his firstborn child. Tyler Ellerbee says of his dad, “I could tell several stories but I think I need to talk about my memories of him as a coach and also the person I got to see at home. Looking back, Dad was a very intense and demanding coach. He was very good at motivating his players and his teams intimated their opponents. My fondest memories were when his teams were not playing to his standard and he would throw his tie in the crowd or act like he was taking a charge and slide on his back across the floor. They usually called a technical foul but the crowd would go crazy and his players seemed to feed off the energy. Those that did not know him personally would always say “does he act that way at home?” In fact, he was the opposite. Everyone saw “coach” during the games but he made sure he spent time with us when he got home. He always made time to play with me and Ethan. If he went hunting or fishing, we tagged along. It was always important to him that we knew how much he loved us and that he was our “dad” no matter how everyone else viewed him. Now that I have kids, I have so much respect and appreciation for the time he took to make sure we understood that. The thing I hope everyone remembers about Dad’s time as a coach and administrator, is he always did things the right way and had the best interest of his players and students in mind.”
It can be seen in the life his children live that John Ellerbee definitely impacted them. They were the apple of his eye for many, many years and still are although if you meet John on the street and he starts showing pictures of his ‘grands’, you may think Tyler and Ethan have moved to the back burner to make room for three grandchildren. Carson, Cheston and Callen have become frontrunners in his conversations around town and his newest Alabama recruits. Rest assured, the grands will receive the same influence to be an Alabama fan, an honest, fair, and faithful person as his two sons received.
Congratulations John Ellerbee on your well-deserved retirement.