By Tiffany Boatright
September 25, 2005
Joe Mack Hazelrig is a 1964 graduate of Locust Fork High
School. As a highly respected and popular educator, he dedicated his
career to be a positive influence on the lives of Blount County youth.
This culminated in a fifteen year term as the Superintendent of Education
for Blount County Schools. Mr. Hazelrig said that attending Locust Fork
greatly influenced his life, and that he would not change anything about
his high school experience.
Mr. Hazelrig started the interview by introducing himself and shaking
hands. This began a very nice conversation with a very interesting man.
Starting in 1952, Mr. Hazelrig attended Locust Fork when it was much
smaller which resulted in the students forming close bonds. His friendly
demeanor reflects how school then was different from school now.
During his high school years his time was spent mostly in athletics.
He was number 85 in football and his team was the first winning team
at Locust Fork since World War 2. He was number 31 in basketball when
Locust Fork won their first county championship since the war. When
asked to share a humorous story he had to think a while and then began
to tell about the new coach who would make them run numerous laps before
practice. There was a place where he and his friends could slide under
the fence so they could run to the creek to steal a drink of water.
After getting a drink they would wait until a group came running by
and rejoin the runners. Immediately after sharing this story, a big
smile came over his face and he said, “Wait, no, I have a better
than that!” The dressing room for the football team was in what
is now known as the old gym. The football team would sneak in to the
lunchroom and take ice cream sandwiches after practice. Eventually,
all but one of the team members stopped stealing from the lunchroom
when the lunchroom ladies got suspicious. They finally caught the guy
who was stealing them by hiding someone in the lunchroom. When caught,
he told on the whole team.
Although he had many memories from his experiences with athletics, his
memories were not limited to just those. During his tenth grade year,
in 1962, the school mysteriously burned to the ground. The students
were forced to attend classes in chicken houses, school buses, or wherever
else they could meet. They did not get a new building until the next
while he was in school the fashion was very different. All the guys
dressed in slacks and a button up shirt. There was no such thing as
wearing tennis shoes. Everyone wore loafers. In addition, the girls
always wore dresses.
When he arrived at Locust Fork almost all of the teachers were female.
During his high school years, however, all of his teachers were male.
It was his high school teachers who inspired him to attend college.
Of all his teachers, his favorite was Leonard Brown. Mr. Brown was his
English teacher who went on to become the principal of Hayden High School
while Mr. Hazelrig was coaching there.
After graduating high school in 1964, Mr. Hazelrig attended Jefferson
State for two years. He then went on to Jacksonville State for two years
where he would receive his Masters as an Educational Specialist.
first job after college was at Hayden High School where he coached basketball
and football. He also taught Social Studies and Physical Education.
After nine years, he moved to Cleveland High School where he was the
head football coach for four years. Mr. Hazelrig brought both Hayden
and Cleveland to the state playoffs.
After coaching, he was elected as the Superintendent of Education for
Blount County Schools. He was the second superintendent to hold the
office for four terms, or fifteen years. One of his most memorable moments
of being superintendent was dedicating Cleveland’s football field
to Michael Dixon. On August 29, 1979, Mr. Dixon, as assistant coach
to Mr. Hazelrig, was tragically struck by lightening on the field. Mr.
Hazelrig stated that he enjoyed the superintendent position, but doesn’t
agree that the higher you go in education the more money you should
make. He believes that it is not right that educators more money the
farther away from the students they go. He thinks that the teachers
should make more money than the administrators to discourage them from
wanting administrative positions, so that the students get the best
Interestingly, during high school Mr. Hazelrig and a friend, Ellie
Glasscock, wanted to finish college and coach the same team together.
Although they never did coach together they became superintendents at
the same time, but in different counties.
Hazelrig said that attending Locust Fork greatly influenced his life,
and that he would not change anything about his high school experience.
The advice he gives to high school students today is to get as much
education as possible and to specialize in whatever you want to do.
It is clear that Mr. Hazelrig is very passionate about education. He
stated he always wanted to be a coach because he loved the kids and
coaching. We are thankful for his service to our county and we are proud
to have him as part of Locust Fork’s alumni.