Callie Thomas retired from the Jackson County School Board in 2003, after having taught at three high schools for over 40 years. Mrs. Thomas graduated from Union Grove High School and received her degree in English and education from Florida A & M University in 1961.
Her career began at St. Paul High School, a school that Mrs. Thomas notes was like her alma mater, no longer in existence. She taught English at St. Paul for nine or ten years before moving to Grand Ridge High School. She remembers her first year at Grand Ridge as being one full of memories, “When I went to Grand Ridge High School, I loved it. I say that because I had to have loved it. I have so many memorable moments. My first year there was the first year of total integration and I think it was 1970. Oh, we had some times that first year but after that the kids began to do better, they respected me a lot, and it was great after that.” Mrs. Thomas recalls a young boy in her class who was very combative throughout the year, “He was a challenge from the first day but I persevered through the year. The most rewarding thing about that year came when this same child came up to me at the end of the school year and said how very sorry he was that he had given me such a hard time. He went on to say that he had learned more in the year with me that he had in years at Grand Ridge. That’s when you know you’ve done your job well.”
Mrs. Thomas remembers sponsoring the senior class at Grand Ridge, the Florida Future Educators of America (FFEA) which was later the Florida Youth Educators of America. She recalls the name changing back to FFEA at a later date.
Mrs. Thomas has many students she remembers who followed in her footsteps of education which pleased her, although she says, “I guess one of the memorable ones was my first year of teaching. That was a good year for me. I was very excited about teaching and I thought it was great, and I guess I thought that for many years because I taught for many years.” Melanie Martin Chasen stands out in her memory, “She was one of my greatest students I had. She was a very bright student. I had a student at St. Paul High School too. Martha Lewis was a senior when I went to St. Paul. She became a great teacher. I was fortunate and had a quite a few students who became English teachers.”
Mrs. Thomas recalls another student who opted out of her class after one day and laughs today about his comments when he sees her after many years later, “Chephus Granberry came in my class and was there one day before he got out of it. He told me, “I am getting out of this class, you are too hard and you give too much homework.” And he didn’t come back to my class but when I saw him years later he told me he wished he had stayed in my class.”
The Times spoke with Chephus about Mrs. Thomas, and immediately received a laughing response, “That is exactly what I told her but even today I wish I has stayed in that class.”
Another great educator speaks very highly of Mrs. Thomas. Eulice Bryant may be considered a little biased in that Callie Thomas is her sister in law, married to Mrs. Bryant’s younger brother. For those who know Eulice Bryant, you know she does not give praise away, it is earned. “Callie is a very dedicated and trustworthy person. She loved working with the children, all kids and she was very faithful in her job and her church.”
Callie Thomas is married to Haywood Thomas, who worked at Dozier School for Boys. They had three children, Haywood Thomas, Jr. and James Thomas who both live in Atlanta. Their daughter, Shasma passed away three years ago this August and her absence still leaves a void.
Callie Thomas left a memory at three high schools with faculty and staff, but she left a lifetime of memories with students’ lives she touched in giving 40 plus years to the students of Jackson County.