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Excellence in Education and Community Services
George T. Watson, a prominent native of the Pass, graduated from Randolph High School in 1943, and was drafted for duty with the Marines during World War II. Upon discharge he went on to pursue his B.S. Degree from Alcorn A&M College graduating with the distinction of Magna Cum Laude and accepted a teaching position at Grenada, Mississippi until 1955. He then took leave to join the Douglas Aircraft Corporation in California as an aircraft designer where he also completed his Masters Degree at the University of California. Following his return to Grenada for a new teaching engagement, George was appointed Principal in 1961 at his Alma Mater, Randolph High which is now named Pass Christian Middle School. Shortly thereafter, he was elevated to Federal Coordinator for the School District.
Watson, early began his participation as a volunteer in his community. In 1964 he was Co-Chairman with the Heart Fund Campaign and in 1968 was appointed a member with the Park Commission. One position he will never forget was as a Civil Defense Shelter Coordinator when Hurricane Camille cut its path through town.
Responsibly alert to his Hurricane emergency duties, he put out a call to some 300 citizens to gather at the Pass High gymnasium. With reluctance, they followed his bidding. Watson assigned his support group to keep the gathering informed and orderly. As the winds increased, concern for continued safety in the Gymnasium was raised and it was decided to move the evacuees to the main school building. Immediately, the winds hurtled debris upon the structure as everyone uttered prayers for protection. With the morning sunlight they realized that their prayers were answered. Upon filing out, they all evidenced the demolished Gym in which they had first sought shelter.
Following Camille's vast destruction to buildings resulted in Pass Christian becoming the first community in the United States to voluntarily create a single school system with a population ratio of Whites greater than Blacks. Pass townsfolk readily agree that Camille was a two-edged sword, grievous destruction on one side while cleansing potential strife in race relations on the other. With the resumption of school openings in late 1969, everything was peaceful and has continued as such ever since.
In 1972, George was appointed Assistant Superintendent for the Pass Christian School District. The following year he took a sabbatical leave to pursue an advanced degree at the University of Miami where he was further recognized for his 4.0 grade point average and formally inducted into Epsilon Tau Lambda Scholastic Honorary Society.
Continuing his support of his Community, George was named Vice-chairman of the Municipal Democratic Executive Committee in 1977. The following year the business and civic community of the Pass recognized George for his devoted services and excellence to Education. The Rotary Club presented him the Outstanding Citizen of the Year award at ceremonies held at the Yacht Club.
George T. Watson is not without recognition throughout Mississippi. In 1980, Governor William Winter appointed him to the State Board of Trustees for Institutions of Higher Learning filling an at-large position. While holding this position he participated in and chaired a number of influential educational Committees. In 1981, Governor Winter made a talk at Pass Hi specifically to demonstrate his friendship with George Watson. It was kept a secret until the last moment.
Long a member of the United Way Campaign, in 1984, Watson accepted the lead position in heading up fund raising for West Harrison. In 1988, he was singled out once more with a Gubernatorial appointment. Governor Ray Mabus appointed him Southern District Commissioner for the State's Public Service Commission. In the same year Alcorn State University presented him with its Distinguished Achievement Award. In 1991, he was honored with the University of Mississippi's Annual Award of Distinction. In 1995, George was honored again by being named an Advisory Director to the Hancock Bank.
Currently serving on the Harrison County Tourism Commission, George reflects, "I think Pass Christian, today, has finally reached where we were prior to Camille. Camille set us back so far. Needless to say, we have, a long, long way to go. However, there's an attitude of moving forward and there is a togetherness to go forward."
Some people have the energy and grace to age with great quality. George T. Watson when 70+, remains one of these people. He has reached another apex of success in his life and continues to put his vast and noble community experiences, and his in-depth devotion to noble causes. Indeed, his City, his County and his State are greatly indebted to him.
Interview with George Watson
George Watson, is a community leader who has been active on many civic and County boards and State commissions. He is foremost in asserting that the current ethnic relations in the Pass are exceptionally favorable. George was one of the returning veterans following World War II who experienced the patriotic fervor of serving his country and had become indoctrinated with the American dream. In returning to the Pass, he looked forward to pursuing his educational benefits and performing the basic rights such as promoted by the Military Command as "something worth fighting for in achieving world peace in the performance of democracy for all".
Watson related that, "Pass Christian, during the 30's, was a laid back community with no pressure or concern in race relations. Some contributing factors were:
The Beach property residents were ultra rich whites from New Orleans who didn't concern themselves with provincial problems. They only needed their service requirements satisfied by local citizens, black or white.
All the other Whites were in the same economic level as the Blacks who had to forage for subsistence by fishing or providing services, resulting in their working side by side with each other.
The few natives or long time Whites, who were well-off financially, simply took life as a matter of fact and went their own way.
"For the most part, Blacks stayed in their 'place', not needing to rock the boat, but on returning home from serving their country, the Black veterans, including myself, were denied basic voter registration, election rights and representation", he stated. He found that he was being denied the very precepts and principles his country had told him he was fighting for. Awareness of such imbalanced justices and upon realizing a need for change, he became one of the leaders in forming the Progressive Civic League, a local support organization. When he went to vote, he was confronted by several Whites who asserted, "No Niggers are going to vote in this election!" In pursuit of these same basic rights the organization appealed for help from one of the local clergy who called in the FBI. It was through these endeavors that shattered the obfuscation practices of Governor Bilboe.
Another turning point in reaching some semblance of equality was an appeal to, and the assurance that the City officials would appoint a Black member to the School Board. Most of the citizens of the "Pass" realized the fairness in this proposal and were in favor of such an unprejudiced rationale. However, political imprudence resulted in the appointment of another white person. This severely offended the Black citizenry which eventually resulted in a boycott of local businesses and a fresh demonstration of unbridled frustrations.
The Pass community became altogether cognizant that the political authorities had made false commitments to the Blacks and had betrayed their trust. Even the newly appointed member of the Board in question offered to resign his position providing a Black person was appointed. Result, Bidwell Barnes became the first elected Black member of the Pass Christian School Board.”
In 1981, Governor Winter made a talk at Pass Hi specifically to demonstrate his friendship with George Watson. It was kept secret until he was introduced
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Note by Dan Ellis: George Watson has demonstrated courage and leadership in overcoming the throes of bias and discrimination by prevailing in spite of early adversities. He is a compliment to the city, the county, the state, the nation and to his people.