The patriarch of the Ingram family of educators – Johnny Ingram – died Sunday morning following a long battle with heart issues. He died Father’s Day surrounded by his wife and sons.
Ingram spent more than 35 years in education, as a teacher, coach and administrator in the public school system as well as Alabama’s two-year college system.
He served as principal of Arab High School from 1988 until 1995. He also served as assistant principal at AHS, principal of Albertville High School and director of the Arab campus of Snead State Community College.
He and his wife, Suzanne, their two sons and daughter-in-law, are educators.
Suzanne is a retired teacher, son John is principal of Arab Junior High School, his wife Cindy is assistant principal at Arab High School, and son Joel is head football coach at Washington County (Ga.) High School.
The Ingrams also have three grandchildren – Joel’s children Khelton and Hillaree Ingram of Georgia, and John’s daughter, Ella Ingram.
In 2016 Johnny Ingram was inducted into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame, after his sons were inducted into the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame.
Johnny’s father was a furniture salesmen and his mother was a homemaker.
Johnny and Suzanne met at the University of Georgia, where he played football for legendary coach Vince Dooley.
Ingram told the Tribune a few years ago he leaned on many of the traits he learned under Dooley in his own coaching career, which included stints at Walter Wellborn and Anniston in an 18-year career in Alabama.
He also coached at Wrightsville (Ga.) High School for two years.
The school became much more famous after Ingram left.
“Herschel Walker was in the second grade when I was there,” Ingram said in 2016.
In 1987, Ingram was at Anniston High School and was looking to get out of coaching and into administration.
Arab High School just happened to have an opening for an assistant principal’s position after Wayne Washam was promoted to the central office.
Later, when AHS principal Don B. Richards was promoted to the central office, Ingram was named principal, a title he held for seven years.
Was coming to Arab a good move for the family? The Tribune asked Suzanne Ingram.
“Oh, God yes,” she said. “When he later became principal in Albertville, he had to live there. But when he retired from there, we moved back to Arab. It had become home.”
When he retired from education, Ingram went into real estate sales for a while, but education came calling again when he became the director of Snead State’s Arab site for a few years.
One of Ingram’s former players, Allen Dial, who played college football at UCLA, visited the family Sunday.
He played for Ingram at Anniston High School.
Dial told the Ingram family that without Johnny Ingram’s help – sending game film and making calls on his behalf – he never would have been able to play college football.
“He told (the family) that (Johnny Ingram) also brought class and an expectation of class to the program,” Cindy Ingram said.
Allen said that getting to UCLA was one step in making him who he is today, and that it was all because of Johnny Ingram.
Another of his players from Walter Welborn High School, in a phone call to Suzanne Ingram later that day said the same thing.
“I think it’s just a testimony to (Johnny Ingram) that two players from two different schools said the same thing – that he brought class to the programs,” she said.
The Ingram family has received many calls, notes and messages in the days since he passed from former students and friends. One that maybe best sums up the way his former students feel was from former AHS student Brad King…
“I’ve always said I grew up in the greatest neighborhood. The Ingrams were a big part of that world. When I heard about Johnny Ingram’s passing today, my first reaction was to go back to that time... go back to the Ingram house where I was a frequent guest after school and on the weekends.
“There was Johnny – in his chair – with that big smile on his face and that distinctive laugh. There are so many emotions I’m feeling right now, I know I’ll never be able to put them into words, or come close to giving this great man the tribute he deserves because of the huge impact he’s had on so many lives. This impact can be seen through the overwhelming response to his passing.
“Mr. Ingram was an incredible educator, a mentor, a father figure and a friend. He molded futures. He molded doctors, lawyers and teachers while also molding people who are impassioned about what they do. He was an unyielding example of class, discipline and integrity – characteristics that not only defined him, but his incredible family.
“Without a doubt, he was one of the finest educators I will ever know, and the same can be said of the generation of other students whose lives he changed. While he was changing lives and pushing students to be successful and realize their potential, he never asked for anything from anyone. Endlessly he helped others, believed in others, and supported others. That will be my lasting memory of Johnny Ingram – his selflessness, his passion, and his drive.
“Thank you, Mr. Ingram. Thank you for believing in others. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for all the verbal jousts, the joking around and silly nicknames. Thank you for aiding the direction of countless careers.
“Thank you for your positive influence on the Class of 1993, the classes before, and all the classes since. Thank you for gracing my life with your presence in it, thank you for the memories, and thank you for your lasting impact.”