Farewell to a Mentor

Monday was the start of a new era in Jefferson County as doors opened at the brand new high school. It turns out Monday was also the "end of an era". Former principal Kelly Kilpatrick died that same morning.

Bill Brumfield, a teacher for 35 years, says, "He was 100 percent Jefferson County Tiger for the community and the school. His wife told me the other day and she said his blood ran orange, and I think that's true."

Kilpatrick was principal of Jefferson County High from 1969 until his retirement in 2000, leading students and faculty through the tumult of integration and beyond. His Flying Tigers program of the 1980's brought the school national acclaim with some of the highest test scores in the state.

Despite his many achievements it is Kilpatrick's personality and ability to bring people together that his students tend to remember most.

Gene Hall, class of 1976, says, "He knew how to reach out to all the students. He made us all feel good about ourselves and he let us know we had a future ahead of us and he was in our corner."

Carmen Cummings, class of 1980, adds, "He would embrace the kids and you knew that it was real. You could not only see it here, you could see it in his eyes and that's what we're going to miss."

Kilpatrick retired in December of 2000 and the words he spoke that day still echo: "I can't say goodbye to my faculty and students, so I won't, I'll just say see you later."