Decatur Community News — Billy Pierce credits God and hard work given for success

By L. AGNES RUSSELL,

I asked Mr. Billy Pierce — also known as Newton County School Superintendent Pierce for 12 years, retired Army National Guard General Pierce, and Chairman of Deacons at Clarke-Venable Baptist Church — how he accomplished so much in his life.  He had already told me that he and his wife Linda believe that “everything we have comes from God.”  He added that his parents taught him to work. 

“You earned your keep.  I almost consider myself at times a workaholic.  I have to be doing something, even in retirement.” 

Billy Lamar Pierce was born Feb. 4, 1947, to Lamar Pierce and Hazel Glenn Pierce, who were both from the Little Rock/House, Mississippi, area.  He has an older sister Carolyn Pierce Carroll, and a younger brother, Earl Pierce. 

After graduation from Decatur High School, he earned degrees from East Central Junior College and the University of Southern Mississippi, and in 1968, while in college, he joined the Army National Guard.

In 1970, after they both graduated from USM, Sherry Crane and Billy Pierce were married. They became employed at Newton County Schools, where she became the librarian and taught English until her death from cancer in 1995.  Mr. Billy was employed there for 15 years, teaching biology and chemistry, also serving as assistant principal. A number of his students have gone on to become doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists.

During the years 1973 to 1982, they had three children, Christy, Jason, and Jacob. From 1985-1995, he worked full-time with the National Guard. Having learned that he had earned a Master’s degree in School Administration from Mississippi State, many people urged him to run, and he was elected as Newton County Superintendent of Schools in 1995.

Being elected for three terms as superintendent, he had 12 years to accomplish a lot. In 2000, we, Royce and Agnes, moved here and I was blessed to become a Newton County teacher.  I was impressed to see what had been accomplished without raising taxes or having to pass bond issues!  During that time, Mr. Pierce told me they experienced a lot of growth, and they built about $20 million worth of buildings and athletic facilities, including the football stadium, without going into debt.  He spoke of the “excellent School Board that supported everything.  We worked together.”  He also asserted, “I attribute the success of Newton County Schools during those days to strong discipline, strong administrators, good teachers, and understanding, supportive parents.”

His success in education did not hinder his military career, which spanned over 36 years. He was commissioned an officer in 1974.   He didn’t see military action overseas but served in domestic events, such as hurricanes, floods, and even riots during the 60s.  During two summers, while serving as school superintendent, Mr. Pierce earned a Master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

Even while Mr. Pierce was superintendent,  he was commanding military units. His first command as a lieutenant, was over a field artillery battery in Morton, in 1978.  He went on to commands over Decatur, Newton, Grenada, and finally Laurel in 2002.  Finally, in 2004, he retired from duty with the Army National Guard as General Billy Lamar Pierce!

Sherry Pierce’s friend Linda Baucum, also an English teacher at NCHS, was married to the Newton County School Superintendent, when in 1983 he suddenly died of a heart attack.  Linda was left with two children from that marriage, Wayne Baucum and Cheryl Amis, and she went 13 years refusing to date anyone else.  After 1995, when his wife Sherry died, Billy Pierce had also refused to consider dating.  He says, “I felt I’d never be happy again.”  However, a man pointed his finger at him one day to challenge, “God might have someone out there for you!”  So he started praying.

Speaking of the spiritual aspects of his life, he recalled becoming a Christian when he was 12, at the altar of the Central Assembly of God Church, with his praying, believing mother on one side and another old saint, Sister Johnson, on the other side.  He says, “I remember it well, and it did change my life. I was raised in a strict, religious home. I haven’t always walked the walk like I should have. As a teenager, I went over Fools’ Hill a time or two. But I always feared God. As an adult, I got stronger in my faith, especially in raising a family.”

He was reared from a young child in that denomination, while living on the Coast for a few years; but when they returned to live in Decatur, young Billy became a Baptist. He has been a member of Clarke-Venable Baptist Church for many years, and has served as Chairman of Deacons several times.  He became a Gideon in 1985, and he strongly believes “you can’t outgive God.” 

Shortly after beginning to pray about a mate, though it did not occur to him at the time that Linda Baucum could be a possibility, he asked her to proofread some memos he planned to send to the teachers. He realized after the fact that, if he had asked her for a date, she would have refused. As it was, this particular encounter was the beginning of a marriage in 1997, of which they agree, “God put us together!”

You may contact me at lagnesrussell@gmail.com or 601-635-3282.