Former GWA headmaster passes away

By Stephen Milligan - the Walton Tribune

Billy Nicholson remembered for his positive impact

William “Billy” Nicholson, longtime headmaster at George Walton Academy, died Saturday. Nicholson was well known in the Walton community for his nearly three decade tenure as the head of school for the Monroe private school, which he led from 1990 until 2017.

He oversaw a period of significant growth for GWA, watching enrollment rise from 316 when he began to more than 1,000 students at its highest point.

GWA officials issued a statement recognizing Nicholson’s many contributions to the private school during his time there.

“During Mr. Nicholson’s 27 years of service, GWA experienced impressive growth and success in academics, athletics and the arts and added a wide range of extracurricular opportunities,” the statement read. “We are grateful for Mr. Nicholson’s leadership, his love for our school and for the legacy he leaves behind at George Walton Academy.”

Nicholson, 77, was born on July 7, 1945, in Cairo, Georgia, and began a long career in education in 1968, teaching in Dodge County after earning his degree from Georgia Southern University. He would also earn a masters and specialist degree from the University of Georgia while continuing to teach and later served as principal in both Dodge County and then locally here in Walton County at Loganville High School.

Dessa Morris, workforce development director for the Development Authority of Walton County, worked
at GWA for several years under Nicholson and said he was a great leader for GWA and the county’s educational system as a whole via the countywide Walton Proud program.

“He was an experienced, one-on-one leader who took pride in giving people second chances,” Morris said. “However, his wisdom and actions went beyond individual students. His friendship with Walton County School District’’s then-Superintendent Gary Hobbs strengthened the whole community through their belief in Walton Proud.

“The friendship of Billy Nicholson and Gary Hobbs inspired community leaders to get past their differences, look at the big picture and understand public and private schools must work together to benefit the entire community. George Walton Academy partnered with the Walton County School District to inform voters about ELOST/ESPLOST and many additional projects to underscore the importance of strengthening schools for a thriving community. Billy inspired our community to work together to champion the education of all children in Walton County.”

Nicholson was remembered fondly by GWA employees and parents, as well.

“Mr. Nicholson was a man of great character, a great boss and role model,” Matt Reynolds, a GWA alumnus and current boys basketball coach at the school, said. “He inspired me to pursue a career in education and administration. He loved the students, faculty and staff here at George Walton and will truly be missed.”

Tina Jordan, whose own children went to GWA and now works at the school as an administrative assistant, also had fond memories of the former headmaster.

“Mr. Nicholson was truly one of the kindest and most generous people that I have ever known,” Jordan
said. “He helped so many of our GWA families behind the scenes through his integrity, encouragement and his strong faith. He was so dedicated to his employees and students. I will always cherish my experience working with him and the love he had for our school. He wanted everyone to be successful. So proud that my children got to grow up in his village. He will be missed and never forgotten.”

Funeral services for Nicholson took place Wednesday afternoon in the Nicholson Center named for him on the GWA campus. His interment followed at Hill Haven Memory Gardens.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply