“If you want to know what is going on in the school, talk with students and faculty. But if you really want to know what is going on, talk to William Jernigan.” That wasDottie Hammond’s sage advice to Headmaster John Tucker when he came to North Cross in 1970.
The new headmaster took Dottie’s advice and soon discovered that William was a fount of wisdom and good advice. Mr. Tucker later recalled, “He was a man to follow—a natural leader.”
William Jernigan came to North Cross School when the campus was opened in 1961. His official title was “Property Manager,” but his 1974 obituary in The World Newssaid that those who knew William considered him “an unofficial guidance counselor, cheerleader, peacemaker, alumni secretary, and parent for just about every kid in the school.” Jack Ross ’75 remembered Mr. Jernigan was never in a bad mood, “except when he had to straighten someone out, and he always showed up at practices, football games, basketball games—anything that involved the school.”
There are two framed portraits in Slack Hall. The first is of Thomas A. Slack, whose name graces two buildings on campus, and one of the most important figures in the history of our school. Mr. Slack’s portrait hangs in the lobby near Logan Gallery. The second portrait is of William Jernigan (photo above), which hangs in the hallway just outside the headmaster’s office. William died suddenly of a heart attack on January 5, 1974, 41 years ago this week. His death left the students and faculty in a state of numbness. In his comments to the school, John Tucker remembered that William always went the second mile. “Often we are asked to go the one mile because it is required of us, but that is as far as we go. William went with every task in the spirit of the second mile, concerned not with how small it was but with how big he could make it. It was not a task, but an opportunity.”