John Pierce Blanchard ran Columbia County schools for 30 years


John Pierce Blanchard wasn’t just the face of Columbia County schools in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

He was the whole head – the ears, the voice, the vision.

As the county school superintendent for more than 30 years, Blanchard took over a once rural school system and energetically led it in the decades following World War II, watching it grow.

Blanchard is generally credited with transforming the county’s system from one-class schools to comprehensive high schools with extracurricular activities. His tenure saw the planning, financing and contracting of 43 separate construction projects for the county school system.

“January 1, 1949 will likely be called the birth date of modern public education in Columbia County because that is when John Pierce Blanchard became superintendent,” said Jim Davis of Georgia. Federal Bank, at an event in 1989 celebrating Blanchard’s career.

“He had a knack for doing the right thing in education,” said Ray Hicks, principal of a Columbia County school, and later school board member. “He always helped others. He had more vision, more compassion. He was hands down the best person I’ve worked for.”

Principal John Pierce Blanchard at his office in Columbia County.

Blanchard’s history in Columbia County was undisputed. Born to a well-known family in Appling in 1919, he graduated from the former Leah High School in 1936, graduated from the State Teachers’ College, now Georgia Southern, with an education degree, and then earned a master’s degree. from the University of Georgia.

After teaching with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Oregon for a year, he returned home to teach and coach at his old high school and was appointed principal in his first year.

He joined the Merchant Navy during World War II and found himself in charge of the Camp Gordon disciplinary school, which he directed from 1945 to 1948. It was then that he ran for office. successfully served as Columbia County School Superintendent, a position he would hold for the next 31 years. years.

Things started to change under Blanchard’s leadership. New buildings were constructed, sports teams were created, and a transportation system was extended and improved on the county’s often narrow country roads.

The heart of the system, its pupils and its students, began to improve in a variety of state test measures. Blanchard has always said that teachers are at the heart of academic success, although he himself has been credited with introducing an innovative reading program that has paid off.

Improved reading spurred success in the classroom, Blanchard said, and he had the numbers to prove it.

He would become a leader in various educational groups across the state, helping to organize the Georgia School Superintendents Association. He also served on a legislative committee responsible for reviewing state laws on minors.

Former Columbia County School Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard Sr. stands outside a former one-room school in the county.  Blanchard ruled the county school system for more than three decades.

Blanchard was equally vibrant in his community, demonstrating an impressive list of activities.

He was chairman of the county health board for decades. He supported the Boy Scouts, ultimately receiving his Distinguished Citizen Award.

He was an active Mason, assuming several leadership roles, and did similar extensive work with the Woodmen of the World and with the Georgia Game and Fish Commission, where he was a longtime promoter of Lake Thurmond and its recreational potential. .

Blanchard has been a member of the historic Kiokee Baptist Church for over 35 years, serving as a Sunday School teacher, Sunday School superintendent, and chairman of its deacons council. He was a lay lecturer and served on the history committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention. He was later a member of the Baptist Church in Damascus.

Blanchard was even a reporter, president and editor of the Columbia County News-Times.

After retiring as a school principal, he became a businessman as president of the Blanchard Co., which dealt with real estate and insurance companies. He died of cancer in 1992.

“He was a humanitarian who loved people and wanted to help everyone,” said Tucker Vaughn, a school principal who followed him. “He was my teacher and my friend.

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