Alumni Spotlight: Joe Hazelrig

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 one 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 fall.

Also, 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.

His 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 education possible.

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.

Mr. 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.