The word “lifetimer” has come to have a special meaning in Buford; it refers to a student who attended Buford City Schools from kindergarten through the 12th grade. However, for Linda Murray, it has a much more literal meaning.
Linda is the oldest of the three children born to Maebelle and Walter Murray. Having lived all her childhood in the house Maebelle and Walter still live in on Latimore Street, Linda, Dennis and Deborah all attended Buford City Schools from start to finish.
“When I started at Buford,” Linda recalled, “there was no kindergarten, so I started in the first grade.”
In the years prior to integration, Linda attended the Greenard Watson School through the seventh grade. She fondly spoke of the teachers who made an impact on her life.
“We integrated the schools when I was in eighth grade,” she recalled. “My first teacher after integration was Pat Nash, also a Buford graduate.”
“Linda was a great student,” Mrs. Nash said. “She transitioned very well from the Greenard Watson School … I would become one of her first white teachers.”
With great affection, Mrs. Nash recalled the baby shower Linda and another student gave her when her son was born.
In those years, BHS was comprised of eighth through 12th grade students. Linda would spend five years at “the old BHS,” which, in more recent years, was used as Buford Middle School before the new Buford Community Center was constructed on that site. In those five years, Linda participated in Future Homemakers of America, chorus, drama club, pep club and science club and was an office aid. Little did she know at the time that she’d be seeing that same office again years later.
Linda graduated in Buford’s class of 1975 and was named in the Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
“If I could go back to high school,” Linda said without hesitation, “I’d probably want to go to Mr. Hopper’s algebra class because I struggled with math in college, and if I had paid attention a little more, I might have majored in math!”
As she fondly recollects her high school years, she recalled the excitement of her junior-senior prom.
“It was at Peachtree Plaza,” she said. “As a young teenager, going to the city was exciting because that was just something you didn’t do, and the excitement of going to Atlanta was huge.”
Thinking back to her favorite teachers, she named Elizabeth Puckett, who taught home economics.
“She made such an impact on me and gave me skills I still use today.” Linda said. “There was also Willie Mae Brookins, who taught typing. Think about if she hadn’t taught us how to use those typewriters! That has really helped me with my own computer skills.”
After graduation from BHS, she received an associate degree from Truett McConnell College and then a bachelor’s degree from Piedmont College. After graduating from Piedmont in 1979, Linda returned home to Buford and accepted a position as a world history teacher at Buford Middle School — in the very same building she stepped into as an eighth grader just nine years prior. It would begin a 34-year journey that carried her through the halls of five schools while holding a total of eight positions and earning four more college degrees.
As the history teacher made history, Linda completed a master’s degree at Brenau University, where she graduated cum laude. She went on to teach P.E. at BMS before becoming the school’s counselor. While working full time at Buford, Linda made the arduous 90-mile, one-way drive to West Georgia College two days a week after school to earn a counseling degree.
She went on to become the counselor at Buford High School before being named assistant principal at Buford Academy. While still working full-time at BHS, Linda drove to Athens every Saturday, braving Bulldog traffic, to complete a supervision degree from the University of Georgia.
When Buford High School introduced its Ninth Grade Academy to help its youngest students acclimate to the rigors of high school, Linda was named as its first principal. Still working full time, Linda capped off her education with a specialist degree from Piedmont, where she graduated summa cum laude. She retired from Buford City Schools while serving as assistant principal at BHS.
As Buford saw its explosion years, there was always Linda Murray, who faithfully served with a dignified loyalty and love for all things Buford that was — and still is — so deeply felt from her unique journey through those halls.
Since her retirement, Linda has continued to work for the school system part time as the SAT testing and Saturday School coordinator. She also continues to work for the athletic department, taking tickets at the gate for each home game, working in a supervision capacity and doing whatever else she is asked to do to help the coaches and the kids.
As one of Buford’s longest tenured African American women, with 43 years of service to date, Linda is arguably one of Buford’s most treasured employees to all who know and love her. This is further evidenced by Linda having been chosen by her peers to represent Buford City Schools as its System Teacher of the Year, which she says remains one of the highlights of her career.
“I have known Linda all of her life,” said Phillip Beard, chairman of the Buford Board of Education. “She was born here in Buford. She loves Buford, its schools, and the community as a whole. She has dedicated her life to Buford.”
That loyalty and dedication Linda still shows is firmly rooted in the lifelong memories she made from the time she first sat behind a little first grade desk — to now, as she sits behind a ticket table on any given Friday night. After 12 years as a student, 34 years as a full time employee and now nine years (and counting) in a part-time capacity, Linda continues to go to school 55 years after she first walked into a Buford classroom.
“I had done my student teaching at Buford, and when I walked in the first day as a teacher, I remember having a feeling of coming home to family,” she said. “That’s what Buford is — family.”
And to Linda, it really, truly is family. She quipped back, “How many of my family members went to Buford? Goodness … all of them!”
Linda and her husband, Rufus Smith, live next door to Maebelle and Walter, who are now both in their mid-80s. She is a lifetime member of Union Baptist Church in Buford and serves as the church announcer and works in the youth department.
“I spend so much time with church work and with the schools, and there’s not a lot of time left over for specific hobbies,” Linda said. “But now I do enjoy traveling with my church family! We may go to Callaway Gardens, or we may just go down to the church and pray for hours at a time, but that’s quality time with friends I cherish.”
In the moments she finds herself alone, she said with a smile, “I enjoy reading historical fiction and am known to binge watch on Netflix! I also discovered the solitude from putting together puzzles.
“I love spending time with God. When I put that puzzle together, I find myself deep in prayer, thanking God for where He’s brought me from and where He’s taking me to,” she said. “The pieces remind me that when all I see is pieces, He sees the finished product, and each of those pieces are important to the whole picture.”
How could that little first grade girl have known what a tremendous impact she would make on generations of students to follow? As she reflects back at the puzzle pieces that make up her lifetime, Linda is quick to give all praise and honor to God.
“I hope my life can inspire someone coming up and show them what the Lord can do,” she said. “I want them to look at my life and say, ‘If He can do it for her, He can do it for me!’”