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‘Life changers’ honored by Athens ISD

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Murphy, Jones, Johnson inducted into Hornet Hall of Fame

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ATHENS–One hundred of Athens’ leading citizens turned out Sept. 19 to celebrate a decorated Air Force sergeant, a witty accountant with a dual vocation in the ministry and a beloved local dentist who helped start a low-cost healthcare clinic. Each are graduates of Athens High School and the newest members of Athens ISD’s Hornet Hall of Fame.
Dr. Joe Mike Murphy (class of 1970), Randy Jones (class of 1975), and United States Air Force TSgt Timothy Johnson (class of 2003) were inducted during the fourth ceremony since the annual event was launched. Its purpose is to celebrate former students and employees who are, as one attendee put it “life changers.”
Joe Mike Murphy credits his 42-year career in dentistry in great part to a counselor at Athens High School, Lamoine Young, who paired him as a freshman with a local dentist who became his mentor. Murphy watched his dad, Joe B. Murphy, coach at Athens High School through most of the ‘50s and into the ‘60s, a period which included the likes of Hornet gridiron legend Duke Carlisle. After graduating from AHS in 1970 and eventually from Baylor College of Dentistry, he returned to Athens to open his practice in 1977. He continues to work part time.
In addition to having served on the Athens ISD board of trustees and the Athens Municipal Water Authority, Murphy was instrumental in establishing the dental program for the Disciples Clinic in Athens, which provides low-cost health care to the working uninsured in Henderson County.
Randy Jones was the salutatorian for Athens High School’s class of 1975, known as well for his sense of fun as for his academic achievements. He was also known for being the son of Pete Jones, who served as Athens Fire Chief from the ‘60s through the ‘80s.
Jones is bivocational. In addition to his 19 years of valued service as the business manager and chief financial officer for Athens ISD, he has provided pastoral services throughout the area for 34 years and counting. He is also a longtime active member of the Athens Rotary Club, routinely volunteers with Labor of Love on construction projects in Henderson County, and serves on the board of the Athens Economic Development Corporation.
Tim Johnson is currently stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England, from where he was interviewed live via FaceTime during the event. Johnson graduated Athens High School in 2003 and entered the U.S. Air Force, where he specializes in air traffic control.
In 2016, while stationed at an airbase in Turkey, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his service as the air traffic control watch supervisor during a Turkish national coup. Three days after power had been cut to the base, a generator under the control tower caught fire. Johnson vacated all other personnel, then stayed behind in order to guide three aircraft safely to the ground before leaving the building himself.
The inaugural members the 2016 Hornet Hall of Fame were the late Vivian Castleberry, AHS class of 1940 and member of the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame; Drew Douglas, AHS class of 1977 and founder of the Athens Thrift Store, which donates all its profits to Henderson County charities; and, posthumously, R.C. Fisher, who between 1914 and his death in 1932 held positions of school teacher, principal and athletic trainer in Athens public schools.
The 2017 inductees were John Glover, an employee of the school district from 1968 to 2004, during which time his positions included, band director, assistant high school principal and assistant superintendent; Steve Grant, who graduated from AHS in 1975 and, in addition to his successful real estate business in Athens, has made a lasting impact with his civic and charitable involvements; and Katie Leatherwood, a 2005 graduate of AHS. She lives in Riga, Latvia, where she serves people affected by disabilities with her skills in prosthetics and orthotics.
The 2018 inductees were Eugene Buford, class of 1967 and former AISD teacher, coach and principal, as well as the longtime “Voice of the Hornets”; Kaci Koviak Wesp, class of 2005, KETK primetime anchor, and 2018 Volunteer of the Year for the East Texas Region of Make-A-Wish Foundation; and, posthumously inducted, William Wayne Justice, class of 1937, a federal district judge nationally recognized for his landmark reform decisions.
Plaques for the inductees were graciously donated this year and the past three by Athens Screen Printing.