A local legend calls it a career

If there is any truth to Allen Cox’s claim that school bus drivers count their work years because dog years are counted – seven go by for each calendar year – then Cox served as director of transportation for Bryan County schools for 105 years.

That’s 15 person years of dealing with school buses, school bus drivers, children, parents and traffic. Always more traffic.

But Cox, who retired in June, only started that job after spending 13 years working as a teacher, coach, assistant manager and friend to everyone who knows him.

One such friend is his high school drum mate, Derrick Smith – a banker who serves on both the Bryan County Board of Education and the Bryan County Development Authority.

“Allen Cox is probably my best friend in the world. In fact, he’s a lot of people’s best friend. His positive, outgoing personality makes him approachable and trustworthy,” Smith said. drummers, college mates and lived across from each other for a while when we were kids. If there’s a person with a kinder heart and a kinder soul, I haven’t not yet encountered.

Richmond Hill High School boys’ basketball coach Jimmy Hires, who went 647-151 as head coach and won three Class A state titles at RHHS to punch his ticket to Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has worked with Cox over the years on various coaching staffs, and the two men are friends.

He said it this way. “Allen had a lot of hats in the system,” Hires said. “He did an outstanding job in everything he did. He coached with me, he took over the women’s softball program and had great teams, he coached just about every sport there is. He has a great personality, he has had a fabulous career in education and I am proud to say that I have him as a friend.

Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher, who inherited Cox as transportation director when he took the job in 2012 and relied on his guidance and experience, said there weren’t too many like Cox.

“Allen Cox is a larger-than-life figure with the biggest heart and a great sense of humor,” Brooksher said. “He’s the kind of person who would give you the shirt off if needed and was always there to lend a hand and support, even if the matter was outside of his department. The positive impact that ‘Allen’s had on kids will last a lifetime and I’m so grateful to have called him a teammate and more importantly a friend.

That kind of response is why the news that Cox was retiring at the end of June felt like more than just a retirement.

In a way, it also seemed to signal the end of another link between an older, smaller, more Mayberry-like Richmond Hill, and one that was coming faster every day. Outspoken, friendly, a little gruff, and looking more like an old-school football or baseball coach than a department head, Cox is a local Doctor of Philosophy who also has a Ph.D. “You can call me doctor when it’s time to line up for lunch or payday,” he once said. “Other than that, you can call me Allen,” then added, “I never thought I was going to college, and I was the first in the family to go to college. And I ended up with a doctorate. Who would believe that?”

Albert Odom would. Cox said the former golf coach told him years ago that the more degrees he had, the more money he would make.

“I kept that in mind,” Cox said. “He was right.”

As Smith noted, Cox was a member of the class of 1978, which numbered 50. They both played first team varsity baseball at Richmond Hill High School.

“Allen threw and I tried my best to catch what he was throwing,” Smith recalled. “We played recreational league football, baseball, then later in life adult league softball for the champions of the Wallace Dentistry Dynasty team.”

After high school, Cox went to South Georgia College. It didn’t take, so he came home to drive a Pepsi truck and did it for eight years before he finally went back to school to graduate from Armstrong State and then got his master’s degree, his specialist’s degree and a doctorate. .

During this period, Cox taught and coached and married – his wife Kristi is a member of the Richmond Hill town council – and started a family which includes daughters Allena, Allie and Alea – and Alivea, who was 14 years old when she died in 2018 of lymphoma. In her memory, Allen and Kristi opened a scholarship and a cafe. After taking time off, Allen Cox returned to work. His work, he said, was important. Just like the work his bus drivers did. Students too.

“We’re the first people they see in the morning, the last people they see when they get home,” Cox said. “And you are needed in many ways. You are a counsellor, you are a nurse, you are an educator, you are a bus driver, you have to meet so many needs when a child gets on that bus and does it in traffic driving a 50 person bus . And then you have parents, you have security requirements, you wear so many hats. You need to be a well-rounded person for this to work. And if you don’t like a kid wiping a snotty nose on your sleeve, you’re probably not going to make it as a bus driver.

Smith, a banker by trade, said it’s the way Cox cares for the people around him that “exemplifies what a good friend, father, husband and employee should be.”

“He’s done wonders (in Bryan County schools),” Smith said. “He cared and cared so much about the children in our community. He made sure our kids had transportation for field trips, graduations, sporting events, and many off-campus trips.

Cox, who noted his job as assistant principal and coach at Richmond Hill Middle School under lifelong friend Billy McGrath was one of his favorite assignments, said his plan was to go fishing with friends and spending quality time with family before deciding. what to do next.

“I have some land on Cranston Bluff, it’s wooded, not on the water, but if you throw a rock you can hit the river,” he said. “I’m going to go down there, carve my way and build myself a shed. I have no intention of going anywhere. Besides, who can afford it? ”

He might even see a black panther while he’s there, if he’s lucky. There were reports of one a few years ago on a property adjoining his. That would suit Cox well, he said, because he’s never seen one as big as this one is reputed to be. That’s one more thing I’m looking forward to, anyway.

“If God only created one Allen Cox, that’s OK,” Smith said. “At least he put it in time and the lives of myself and our special group of friends like Yeakle, Norris, Zeke, Craig, Dino, The Big O, Beth, Jeff and Stevie. We are all blessed to know and love him. May God continue to bless Allen Cox and his family in every chapter of life. »

Just know that you might not be alone if you see Cox at the grocery store and say hello. He has many friends in town.

“I’ll see kids that I used to teach or coach or go to school all the time, to the grocery store or something, and they’ll come up to me and say ‘ I still have that baseball card you gave me 20 years ago,” Cox said. “I used to give them baseball cards for good behavior. When you’re 5 and you get a baseball card for being calm and sitting the Indian way, your eyes light up and it can be something as simple as what they remember. They may not remember their first-grade teacher years later, but many of them remember who drove the bus that took them to school.

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