Alma Lee Rice, A Vintage Vignette

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Alma Lee Rice
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
May 30, 2010

From 1936 until around 1951 Alma Lee Rice was a highly respected principal of the school in Madison. He was a teacher from New Market who taught in Huntsville for several years at a “library school” according to the census records of 1920 and 1930. At that time he lived on Randolph Street in his parents' Huntsville home. His father was clerk of the circuit court while his mother was also a teacher. Rice was born in August 1889 in New Market. He married Miss Jessie Rich in 1936.

An article by Lorene Haine in the Madison County Record newspaper of June 10, 1970, recounted Rice's life story. According to Haine, “Mr. Rice is the 5th generation from Hezekiah Bayles, the first landowner in Madison County. Bayles received the first land deed in Madison County in 1809. His only daughter, Johanna, and Joseph Rice were married. Their son Francisco Rice was a captain in the Confederate Army, a County Probate Judge and a practicing medical doctor. He was Mr. Rice's grandfather and third generation (from Hezekiah). Fourth generation of (the) first landowner was Carter Rice, and fifth of course, is Mr. Lee Rice.”

Haine's article described Rice as an expert pool player and athlete, being famous for his “out-drop” ball that curved at the plate. It was stated that he played in 1918 on the Maysville Baseball Team, when he was 29 years old. Haine wrote, “During his 37 years as teacher, he started at Sulfur Springs, arriving for his first school on horseback. Taught at Owens Cross Roads for 4 years, Central Jr. High at Maysville for 18 years. Madison was a High School then, and he taught there for 9 years. He retired then for about 5 years, and in 1949 the board asked him to pinch-hit for the principal. Mr. Rice completed his 'pinch-hitting' over 2 years later.” It is known that while he was principal in the early 1940s he also taught Agriculture, Physics, Algebra, and Geometry at Madison.

When interviewed in 1970 by Lorene Haine, Rice spoke of many of his students. She wrote that “While teaching at Madison High, he asked several boy students to go into town and fill Mrs. Warden's car (another teacher) with gas. The boys took advantage of the free time, stayed too long playing a pinball machine, and were very late getting back to class. They all received a paddling, despite the protests. Imagine who he recalls in the group. Carl Allen Williams, James Schrimsher, George Wilkes, Tommy Whitworth, and Alonza Tribble.” Haine also quoted Rice as saying “Respect for teachers and the paddle is something we had when I taught school. I never had any trouble with my students. I loved them all. Teachers do not have the respect that we had. That's what is wrong today.”

Rice retired to his farm near New Market, a holding of about 663 acres in 1970. Haine wrote that “His pride and joy includes his full blooded line of cows. As with all others, his cattle come quickly when he calls.” As Haine quoted Rice, “We think of cattle as dumb brutes, but they are smarter than most people.” He was also reported to have instructed “every outstanding farmer in Madison County” with few exceptions. He was likewise said to be instrumental in getting school buses to all areas of the county and to have helped set up a clinic in New Market. Haine wrote that “All of his students remember him in many ways. He receives letters, cards, and many invitations. Recently some of his former students took him to lunch to be with him.” Rice was active in the New Market Baptist Church and worked to establish a trust fund for the maintenance of the Rice Cemetery near New Market. His wife Jessie passed away in 1964, and Lee himself died in 1974. He is buried in the Rice Cemetery at New Market, along with others of his family in the history of the county. Several of the older residents of today's Madison area still recall Lee Rice fondly.

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