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SMITHFIELD — Former Johnston County Board of Education member and longtime educator Butler Hall was surprised at the April 9 school board meeting with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Awarded by the governor, the honor named for the official state tree is among the most prestigious awards in the state. It is presented to those who have a proven record of extraordinary service.
Hall’s educational preparation began at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but he completed his degree at Welch College. His teaching career began in Coward, South Carolina as a seventh-grade social studies and English teacher and coach.
He also taught U.S. history and continued coaching throughout his career as an educator. In between his teaching and administrative assignments, the last of which was as principal of North Johnston High School, Hall said he saw and experienced things that changed his life.
After his retirement, Hall returned for six months as an interim principal.
“The things that these teachers do for children, I could write a book on that semester there,” said Hall. “I gained a deep, deep appreciation for elementary school teachers.”
“I’ve never had a bad job in education,” said Hall. “Every place I’ve been, the Lord had me there for reasons that he had. Education was a great job — education involves great people.”
After a 34-year career in education, Hall ran for a seat on the Johnston County Board of Education and served for 12 years.
Hall said receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is a tremendous honor.
“It’s just something I never even dreamed about. I’ve known a lot of really outstanding people who have received this award, didn’t put myself in that class,” said Hall. “But I’ve enjoyed immensely a lot of blessings in my life, a wonderful family, my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, just lessons in love and responsibility, sacrifice, the woman that God gave me and the opportunity to work with kids.”
Hall said he’s known some wonderful people throughout his career.
“I’ve always had wonderful places to work with wonderful people and I always felt that wherever I was, I was there because I needed to be there because God had something for me there. But this is such a wonderful thing.
“And I just thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mr. Superintendent, and all the people that were involved in this, it’s a tremendous honor and a blessing and I truly thank each and every one of you. Thank you,” said Hall.
Hall’s letters of recommendation for the award were submitted by Superintendent Ross Renfrow, North Johnston High School Principal Ben Williams and Johnston County educator Cary Lane Cockrell.