MURRAY COUNTY CHARACTERS
William Troy Beasley
Troy Beasley was born at home in 1942 in the small town of Whitestone. This area of Gilmer County is what Troy described as the holler. When he was a young boy his family moved to Ellijay. Troy describes the first teacher that had an influence on his life. He depicts his second grade teacher as a woman who smelled good, was beautiful and drew the most beautiful birds on the chalkboard. His love for teaching had just been ignited by this teacher whose name will probably never be known to anyone but Troy.
Growing up as a young boy in Ellijay, he began to develop his love for musicals and theatre. On Saturdays, Troy and his father would spend all day watching movies. In 1953 at one of these Saturday outings, he glimpsed Jane Powell appearing in the movie musical "Small Town Girl". It was her appearance that sparked his interest in the genre of movies known as musicals. This love for musicals would fulfill the acting dreams of many high school students when Troy began directing musicals himself.
Troy attended Gilmer County High School and it was there that he encountered another teacher that would fan the spark for teaching in his life. This lady was his high school teacher and he fondly recalled that when she read William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" in front of the class that she shed tears. This emotion for such critical reading would be something that Troy himself would express when he stood before so many high school classrooms sharing his own love for Shakespeare and other classics. Troy graduated from Gilmer High School in 1960.
Troy's desire to explore the world outside of his small town led him to join the United States Air Force, where he served from 1963 to 1968. After his tour in the military, he moved to Atlanta. While living there, he worked at Gresham's Florist and attended Georgia State College studying to become a teacher. After completing his studies, he returned to northwest Georgia to teach. It was this decision that would greatly impact the lives of so many students of Murray County for years to come.
Larry Sampson described seeing Troy Beasley for the first time as he walked the halls of Murray County High School in the fall of 1974. All he remembers seeing was a young man with an afro and a polyester suit. He laughed to himself and said this youthful fellow would probably not even last until Christmas. Troy and Larry soon became fast friends and would begin a friendship that would last some 30+ years.
Although there had been senior school plays in the early years of the school's history, Murray County High School had never had a drama department or produced what would be considered Broadway type productions. Troy, Larry, and Linda Lunsford brought this idea to life when in the spring of 1974, they produced their first full scale production. The show was Li'l Abner about a group of hillbillies from Dogpatch, U.S.A. This production brought out young high school girls in cutoff shorts and gingham shirts tied at the waist and young men in overalls. The play took place in the Murray County Junior High School gym to a packed crowd.
Many students have auditioned for the spring musicals produced at the high school. Over the years there have been many classics presented in the Gladden Middle School gym as well as the high school auditorium. These have included "Guys and Dolls", "Camelot", "Bye-Bye Birdie", and "South Pacific" just to name a few. Numerous diamonds in the rough have donned theatre make-up and stood before the stage lights even for a brief moment. Other students' talents were showcased through performing in the orchestra, being a part of the stage crew or as an assistant. Everyone who wanted to be a part of the production always seemed to find a niche. William Boling, one of the most talented actors featured in some of these productions is also in this book.
Troy was very demanding when it came to these productions. He wanted everything to be perfect. He said that he could see the way he wanted the scenes to play out in his head and he worked diligently to help his actors see his vision. The week before the spring performance was known as "Hell Week". Practice began not long after school and continued until sometimes midnight. Scenes would be gone over numerous times until the lines were perfect and each cue was met. It did not matter how tired the students were, they always seem to find deep within themselves that little bit more to give to make the production a success. Mr. Beasley felt he had reached an apex of sorts when the high school auditorium was named in honor of him and Miss Linda Lunsford. He described that moment as the cherry on top of his ice cream sundae.
Mr. Beasley's love for the classics was very evident when he taught. He uncovered such hidden treasures to his students from such authors as Homer, William Shakespeare and Anne Frank to name a few. To keep his students engaged, he would pace the rows between the desks, stand on his desk and sometimes even stand on his head. His love for each piece was evident in the way he presented it in the classroom. His wife Debbie said that each year when he began to teach a novel, he read it once again himself. He told her that he did not want to short change any child.
Every high school senior who had Mr. Beasley probably remembers the Advanced Composition they were made to write for his class. He assigned a topic to each student and forewarned them that cheating was unacceptable. The scare tactic that he used was that he had kept all the papers from past years and would know if any student had plagiarized another's work. When most of these student wrote their papers in the 1970's and 80's it was before the use of computers, internet and even the correction key if you were lucky enough to have an electric typewriter. This was a laborious task and he told the students his guideline for grading these papers would be as if the writer was a college student. Needless to say, most students were nervous after that.
The author of this book asked Mrs. Beasley if her husband's threats were true about the papers from previous students. She assured me with a smile that up until his daughter commandeered his study for her own private room that boxes and boxes of these term papers existed. Troy's passion for his profession was also evident through the eyes of his students. He was chosen "Star Teacher" ten times while at Murray County High School. The star student is the pupil with the highest Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score. This student is allowed to chose the teacher who he or she feels has had the greatest impact on his/her academic career.
Mr. Beasley was a bachelor until he was 42 years old; it was then that he married his wife Debbie. When asked if he was different at home then he was in the classroom, Debbie describes how he was with their girls. His students seem to perceive him as a grizzly bear type and jumped when he spoke to them. On the other hand, his daughters thought their father was a giant teddy bear. Troy would bite the web skin between his thumb and first finger in frustration, because the girls wouldn't mind. He couldn't understand why his students jumped at his commands and his daughters just giggled when he gave orders.
His love of literature is evident in the names he and his wife chose for their children. Their oldest daughter Flannery is named for Flannery O'Connor. Miss O'Connor was considered the greatest short story writer ever and called Georgia home.
Their second child was Annelies Marie and her namesake was Anne Frank, the young girl who wrote about her experiences during the Holocaust while in hiding with her family. The youngest child Amelia Katherine was named for two women. The first was Amelia Earhart the famed female aviator and Katherine Hepburn the silver screen legend.
Troy's passion for teaching is what kept him alive according to his wife. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he still continued to teach almost until the end. It was only when his illness spread and began to affect his memory that he began to shy away from his previous students. The quote that comes to mind when thinking of Mr. Beasley is a Latin phrase "Carpe Diem" which simply means "Seize the Day". This is something that he encouraged his students to do on a daily basis and they work to conquer the world in front of them. Mr. Beasley's legacy will continue to live on, not only with his family but with the many students that he influenced over his career.
Murray County Characters
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