Beloved local man leaves legacy behind

After we at the Shelby County Reporter received the news that former long-time Shelby County Schools superintendent Elvin Hill had passed away Sept. 14 at the age of 94, our editor, Jan Griffey, began the process of gathering information and quotes for a story.

She didn’t have to hunt long.

Everyone she spoke to had nothing but glowing things to say about Elvin Hill, a well-known and well-loved figure in Columbiana and Shelby County. Hill was a teacher, principal and school superintendent for 40 years, and spent every day of that time changing local lives.

Fellow former superintendent Evan Major is one such example of a changed life.

“He was my very first superintendent when I came to Shelby County to be a teacher in 1966 and he certainly was a tremendous influence on me,” Major said.

Hill focused on changing the culture of Shelby County schools through integration — indeed, so steadfast was his leadership that Shelby County’s schools came through integration with few problems, especially when compared to the maelstrom of controversy and danger throughout the rest of the state at that time.

Through his leadership, Shelby County’s schools today reflect his passion for ensuring educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of race.

Hill also worked diligently to improve the community around him through civic activities, such as founding the Kiwanis Club and helping to develop the Shelby County Fair — both of which led to scholarship opportunities for local teenagers and donations to children’s causes.

Perhaps the greatest compliment to Hill’s influence in our county is the fact that Columbiana’s elementary school is named after him — and his daughter, Peg, was once the school’s principal and now is a long-time member of the Shelby County Board of Education. The Hill love for education runs deep.

As Major said so eloquently, “You search for the right words to say at a time like this. He was a great man and so we should celebrate a long and beautiful life.”

Thank you, Elvin Hill, for all you did. May you rest in peace.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.