Sharp W. Banks

(February 24, 1924-December 9, 2011)

 

Sharp W. Banks Jr. talks about his years in the education system. Photo by Meredith Spencer-The Vicksburg Post, February 7, 2010

Article written by Tina Banks Henson, Sharp Bank’s daughter.

When Sharp Banks retired from the Warren County Schools in June 1987, the Vicksburg Evening Post called him “The father of the county schools.” His 38 year career in the Warren County Schools started at Redwood High School.

Sharp Banks was born in Neshoba, Mississippi in 1924. He was the oldest of three children growing up during the depression in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He started working at the young age of twelve in a combination restaurant/ grocery store called Saxon’s on Saturdays. He continued to work throughout his high school years. Banks continues to visit Philadelphia yearly for the Neshoba County Fair.

Mr. Banks graduated from Philadelphia High School in 1942. The following fall he attended East Central Jr. College, where he played football. In January 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy where he served as radar man 3rd class in World War II. Of the three and on-half years spent in the Navy, two ½ were spent on board the U.S.S. West Virginia.

Upon discharge from the Navy, Mr. Banks returned to East Central Jr. College, where he married Joy Alford in 1948. They had their first child, Tere, while they were in Philadelphia. They ventured to the University of Mississippi where he graduated with a B.A. in Education and a Minor in Business Education. He continued his education at Ole Miss, graduating with a M.A. in Education majoring in School Administration and Principalship.

In 1950, the Banks’ moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Mr. Banks was approached by Mr. Opperman about coming to work as a coach and teacher at Redwood High School. He looked so young that Opal Setaro, the music teacher, assumed that he was a student.” Teaching at Redwood was a real learning experience,” Banks said. “The Redwood Community took me in and guided me through the rough spots.”

While at Redwood he had his second child, Sharp III, called “Bussie” by the family.

In 1952, Mr. Banks had the opportunity to become principal at Jett School. This was an opportunity that he couldn’t let pass. Jett had a little bit of a wild reputation back then and his task was to change that. “Back then, you weren’t just the principal of a school; you were likely to coach and teach too. I coached girls basketball’, Banks said.

Sharp Banks started a new endeavor at Jett that would last throughout his Warren County years; he began to announce the home football games from the press box. He had no idea that he would be doing this for the next 35 years.

Banks had three more children while he was at Jett, Paula Glen, Tina and George. In 1959, his oldest son Bussie developed a grave illness from a blood clot in his head. He was eight years old. Bussie spent nine months in the Baptist hospital in Jackson and was then moved home. He developed encephalitis and was able to communicate very little until he died in 1964. It was a real tragedy for the family. Sharp and Joy Banks would eventually divorce.

In 1962, Noel Nutt decided to retire from his Warren County Superintendent position to run for a position as Circuit Clerk. He suggested to Banks that he run for County Superintendent. Banks decided he was up for the job. At 37, he became the new Superintendent of the Warren County Schools.

Mr. Banks stated that ‘There have been more dramatic changes in Warren County Schools in the past 25 years than all the years of public education in this county. With each change, we have become a stronger and closer school system."

In 1975, Sharp Banks married Winnie Rogers. Winnie also worked in the Warren County School System, at Warren Central.

When Sharp Banks became Superintendent of Warren County Schools he had the biggest challenge in his life. Warren County was growing, enrollment went from about 2300 students in the entire district, to 2000 students at Warren Central High School alone, and the influx of students required additional facilities and additions to existing facilities. The schools involved in the changes were Warren Central High School-Building A, Warren Central High School- Building B, Warren Jr. High School, Bovina Elementary School, Culkin Elementary School, Jett Elementary School, Cedars Elementary School, South Park Elementary School, Warrenton Elementary School, Central Office Administrative Building, School Services Maintenance Building, Transportation Bus Stop Garage and the Athletics Field House.

The first challenge was combining Jett, Culkin and Redwood and moving them to Warren Central. Mr. Banks was instrumental in promoting a bond election in the amount of $1,250,000 in 1963 to build Warren Central High School-building A and for $1,000,000 in 1966 to build Warren Central High School-building B and Warrenton Elementary School. He developed plans and disseminated information to the citizens of Warren County for consolidating smaller Warren County Schools into one Jr. High and one High School.

Mr. Banks developed plans and implementation for Instructional Management Program for Warren County Schools. CAT scores of students in the Warren County School District improved 12 points after implementation of this program.

When Sharp Banks retired from the Warren County Schools in 1987, school enrollment was about 7,500 students.

While growing the Warren County School System, Banks continued to work with other state educators to better all Mississippi Schools. Mr. Banks worked with Hinds Jr. College and Utica Jr. College to satisfy Federal requirements of a U.S. Justice Merger of the two educational institutions. He helped to establish the Vicksburg-Warren Hinds Jr. College Vocational-Technical Center. A cooperative effort of Hinds Jr. College, Warren County Board of Supervisors, Vicksburg Public Schools, and Warren County Schools. He requested that Warren County Board of Supervisors dedicate one-mill ad valorem tax levy, released by the State of Mississippi, for the construction of Vicksburg-Warren Hinds Jr., College Vocational-Technical Center. The Sharp W. Banks, Jr. Building, located at the Vicksburg-Warren County Branch of Hinds, was dedicated in his honor.

He developed a procedure that coordinated elementary and secondary evaluations for Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. He worked on simplification of checklists for school evaluations under Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. He worked actively in PREPS (Program of Research Evaluation for Public Schools, Inc.), and worked on the development of a statewide test-item bank for problem identification, research study design, data collections, and data interpretation. In addition, he served on elementary and secondary school evaluations throughout the state of Mississippi.

Mr. Banks has always been involved in the community. As a member of Gibson Memorial Methodist Church, he taught the Men’s Bible class on WQBC radio station for 20 years. He was a Past President of the Optimist Club, a member of the Mississippi-Warren County Historical Society and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was on the board of Directors of the YMCA for 25 years and on the Board of Directors at First Federal Savings and Loan for 15 years. He also served as President of the Vicksburg Country Club.

He held professional memberships in the Warren County Association of Educators and the Mississippi Association of Educators, for which he served on a six person committee to implement the successful merger of the Mississippi Education Association and Mississippi Teahers Association. He has served as a delegate to the American Association of School Administrators, President of the Mississippi Association of School Administrators, President of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents, chairman of the Mississippi Secondary Committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, served on the Mississippi Commission of Proprietary School and College Registration. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for Hinds Jr. College, President of the Mississippi Organization of Business, Industry and Education. He is listed in “Who’s Who in the South and Southwest” for outstanding achievements in education.

Banks received professional recognition for many achievements. He was First President of the Magnolia Athletic Conference; Chairman of the By-Laws Committee for the Magnolia Athletic Conference; Mississippi High School Activities Association, District VI Representative of the Executive Committee; Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, Mississippi Committee of the Secondary Commission from 1973-1979, serving as chairman from 1974-1979l; Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, Appeals Committee for 4 years and the Presidential Council for 2 years; Mississippi Education Association, Representative MEA, Merger Committee for Mississippi Education Association and the Mississippi Teacher Association; Mississippi Counseling Association-Meritorious Service Award.; Peabody College, Advisory Committee, ”Problems of Integration and Methods of Solving Them”; Governor William Winter’s Committee on Education Reform, Advisory.

Mr. Banks says that his biggest honor in education was to receive one of the first Golden Lamp Awards for his years of service to education by the Mississippi Association of School Administrators. Upon retirement, he became a lobbyist of legislators for the MASA. Banks said the new school buses, increased funding for textbooks and improved buildings across the state were all high on his list of priorities in lobbying legislators for the MASA.

After 54 years in Vicksburg, his children talked to him and Winnie about moving to Mandeville, Louisiana. Not only did they want him to move closer to family, they had picked out a 27 acre tree farm as their new home. Next came the tractor and the four wheeler and a lot of manual labor. They cleaned up the farm to a picturesque retreat. “We were still living on the farm when Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Even though our damage was minor, we had to evacuate for about a month for them to get the roads cleared and medical services back into the community.” Farm living was great, but lots of work.

Not too long after Katrina, Banks sold the farm and moved closer to town. Health reasons dictated more doctor appointments and he wanted to get closer to a golf course. He moved into a golf community and lives down the street from his youngest daughter, Tina, and her family. Paula Glen and her family live in Walker, Louisiana, only about an hour away. Tere is in Columbus, Ohio with her family and George is in Monsanto, Washington with his family.

Life today is about taking it easy.