ELIZABETHTOWN — Saturday, Sept. 26, will long be remembered as a special night for the Hair family.
The Bladen County Board of Education boardroom was dedicated to former Bladen educator William J. “Billy” Hair. For forty-two years Hair served the children, teachers, administration and people of Bladen County.
Beginning in 1941, his work as an educator included being a classroom teacher, an assistant principal, a principal and his last twenty-one years as Superintendent of the Bladen County School system.
During the 1966-1967 school year, the segregated Bladen County Schools was operating nine schools for black students and eight schools for white students. Former Chief U.S. District Court Judge Algernon Lee Butler, the man considered most responsible for desegregation of schools in eastern North Carolina during the 1960s, summoned the Bladen County Board of Education and Hair to appear before him in district court in Sampson County that year.
Butler, according to Hair, asked “who represents this sawdust body?” as school board attorney Worth Hester stood before him. Integration and school consolidation movements developed that year under the leadership of Hair and by 1971, the system was fully integrated.
In the late 1980s Hair spear-headed the acquisition of the current Board of Education building and, in 1988, the building was dedicated to the county as the Bladen County Schools Administration building. Operations continue today in the building, which was once a farm equipment supply company.
Hair retired as superintendent in 1983 from the Bladen County Schools. But the Hair name would not be forgotten as two other Hairs, Miles and Alex, sons of W.J. Hair, became educators in the Bladen County Schools. They both retired from Bladen County Schools — Miles as an assistant principal and Alex as a career and technical education teacher. Marsha, his daughter, pursued other career paths and is currently a licensed real estate agent in Atlanta.
W.J. Hair still resides in Bladen County along with his sons.