Perhaps the best tribute to the late Charles Allen Sr. is that the many friends and relatives he leaves behind have come together to set up a scholarship fund in his memory.
Just as much of his life was dedicated to Columbia County schools, his legacy will perpetually be one of continued support for our students.
Mr. Allen wasn't a Columbia County native, but he lived here longer than most have. For nearly 70 of his 83 years he made our community his home until his death Monday morning, and in nearly all of that time Mr. Allen was in service to his fellow citizens.
Mr. Allen graduated in 1939 from Evans High School, and went off to the University of Georgia to study animal husbandry. He went to work managing the Georgia Hereford Farm -- the namesake of Hereford Farm Road -- right after graduation. But duty to his country called, and Mr. Allen answered by serving in the Army veterinary service in the India/Burma theater in World War II.
Mr. Allen went back to the farm on his return, eventually buying a stake in it. He was chosen in 1955 to service on the Columbia County Board of Education. We say "chosen," because members of the county's school board weren't elected until nearly 20 years later; during Mr. Allen's term, the grand jury chose upstanding citizens to serve, and he was deemed worthy.
That wasn't his first service to the schools. Starting in 1947, Mr. Allen also taught part-time and ran the agriculture department at the old Leah High School, the start of a career in public education that spanned 36 years.
Mr. Allen eventually was elevated to administration, and served alongside Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard as his right-hand man, eventually ascending to assistant superintendent. He retired in 1983.
But less than a year before his retirement came a time when Mr. Allen performed what was perhaps his most valuable service to Columbia County. Then-Superintendent Don Thornhill was hired away to a state Department of Education post, leaving the county in the lurch at a time when construction of Harlem High School was behind schedule, school budgets were in flux and student rezoning was in midstream.
That's when Charles Allen Sr. stepped up to the plate, accepting the post as interim superintendent until an election for the post could be held.
Mr. Allen, wrote The Columbia News at the time, "chose to serve the schools in a critical period rather than to run for the office or remain on the sidelines. Allen put the schools first in the time of an extreme crisis."
This paper then summed up the community's gratitude to Mr. Allen: "His long, loyal and devoted services are indicative of the character of the man. Thanks, Charles Allen Sr."
More than two decades later, a scholarship fund will remember that level of community dedication with an annual award to a deserving student. The details are still being finalized, but the John Charles Allen Sr. Scholarship Fund soon will be set up at Georgia Bank and Trust.
We urge Columbia County citizens to show their gratitude to Mr. Allen with donations to the fund, so his dedicated service will long be remembered.
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