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Longtime educator Hambrick passes away at age of 85

Bartow County lost an education giant last week. 

John William Hambrick, a former principal, college vice president, superintendent and band director, died of natural causes at his home Monday, April 11.

During his 30-year career as an educator, the 85-year-old Cartersville resident served as principal of Cass High and Emerson Elementary, interim superintendent of the Bartow County School System and vice president of North Metro Technical College — now Chattahoochee Technical College North Metro campus.

“He was one of the most special men I have ever met,” said his daughter, Beth Hambrick Pryor, who is the county extension resource manager for the UGA Extension-Bartow County. “He never met a stranger, and in the intricate lives of his children, their spouses and blended families, he treated everyone, whether blood relative or not, as one of his very own. This trait is rare among men from my perspective. He provided, protected and remained patriarch of his family until the very end. There are not too many men that I know that can fill his shoes in this difficult time. He is a legacy and a legend and has been loved and liked by many, many people across the earth.”

Born June 22, 1930, in Bluefield, West Virginia, Hambrick was the son of the late Hezekiah and Laura Warden Hambrick and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Miami in 1953, an administration certificate from The University of Georgia and a master’s degree in music from East Carolina College in 1963.

He was employed as a band director and administrator in various parts of Georgia, including Jeff Davis, Commerce and Dublin high schools (band director), Charlton County High  (principal), Laurens County Schools (assistant superintendent) and Charlton County Schools (superintendent).

During his stint at Dublin High, the International Bandmasters Hall of Fame member built the middle Georgia band into one of the greatest high school bands in the nation and performed in the Festival of States in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Orange Bowl Parade.

Being inducted into the hall of fame was “one of his fondest accomplishments,” according to his wife, Jane Hambrick.

“His years as a band director made music an integral part of our home,” she said. “All of the children were encouraged to develop their musical talents. They sang or played musical instruments.”

Other honors included the Liberty Bell Award from the Dublin Bar Association and honorary memberships in the Future Homemakers of America and the Future Business Leaders of America.

In the summer of 1974, Hambrick came to Bartow County to take over as principal of Cass High School, where he stayed until spring 1978, Pryor said.

“He came to a somewhat troubled school as a hope for improvement,” she said. “He was able to improve the morale of the students and the faculty.”

“He took the job as principal because it was a larger school system and offered more opportunities for him,” Hambrick added.

ies for him,” Hambrick added.
In Bartow, he also served as interim superintendent during the summer of 1984, supervised the construction of Mission Road Elementary School and was vice president of North Metro Tech, where he worked until he retired in June 1992.

“He was pleased with North Metro Tech and was called the granddaddy of it because he found the land, worked on the property while it was [being] built and served as vice president in charge of curriculum later,” Hambrick said. “He thought it offered a splendid chance for Bartow County young people to get an education.”

While his career was important to him, he always made time for his family, according to Pryor.

“He sacrificed for his job but always made it up tenfold as we traveled across the states in an RV ‘getting an education,’ attending annual family reunions and teaching us how to change a tire,” she said.

Hambrick was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and because of his beliefs, he “would not abide a foul tongue or alcohol in his home and expected his children to do the same,” Pryor said.

His faith also is one of the things she will miss most about her father.

“[I’ll miss] his love for his church, sense of humor [and his] capacity to love his family and the people in his life because of his relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ,” she said. “He was a great teacher and taught us not only music but made us all rich inside with his love of family and the gospel. He was always happy to see folks, especially his loved ones who came to visit after leaving his nest.”

“He loved people and treated everyone with dignity,” Hambrick said. “He was fair in his treatment of others, believed in being honest and loved to go to church. He was a sports fan [and] enjoyed traveling, western movies and musicals.”

But the father, grandfather and great-grandfather had his difficulties in life that included the death of a son, Johnny, and a grandson, Andrew John Pate.

“He was invincible until the birth of our beloved Brian Pate [Hambrick’s grandson], who has Down syndrome, and losing a grandchild and then a son, which humbled him and took a piece of his heart,” Pryor said.

Besides his wife and daughter and her husband, Alan, survivors also include his daughters and sons-in-law, Norma and Jim Pate and Gwen and Rob Webster; his son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Cindy Hambrick; 19 grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; three nephews; and one niece.

The funeral was Saturday in the Parnick Jennings Funeral Home chapel, with Bishop Mark Fleming officiating, and burial was in the Cassville Cemetery. 

“At the funeral, when my brother was delivering the eulogy, he asked that Papa's favorite grandchild stand up,” Pryor said. “All 19 living grandchildren rose to the occasion.”