CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Longtime Kanawha County school board member Bill Raglin, a steady presence and outspoken leader in the county school system for nearly 20 years, died early Monday morning.
Raglin had knee surgery several weeks ago and had been dealing with health problems. He attended the last few school board meetings by telephone, or missed them entirely.
Raglin was a vocal champion for career and technical education -- the importance of these schools and programs, and his wish to bolster them, were a constant refrain when he spoke about education.
"He was one of those board members who truly understood the role of the student and fought for the student; he had a passion for the student," fellow board member Robin Rector said Monday. "And not just for the student who wanted to be college ready, but for the student who wanted to be career ready. He wanted to see that become an integral part of the school system."
That alliance was recognized by those working in career and technical education: Jim Casdorf, principal at Carver Career and Technical Education Center, said than in losing Raglin, "We've definitely lost a friend and an ally in the world of career and technical education."
"He was very interested in that type of thing and interested in the success of our students and understood the role that career and technical education played for our students and the local economy."
Dawn Mahon, principal at Garnet Career Center, said that was because he had a level of respect for career and technical education that isn't always rampant in education circles.
"He saw technical education as a first choice for students as opposed to an alternative choice," she said. "That translated into a strength of support for technical education."
Becky Jordon, another board member, said that support stemmed from his faith in students to perform well, if given the chance.
"He was always concerned about every child," she said.
Raglin was elected to the school board in 1994, at the age of 57, and served more than 19 years. He was the longest serving member of the board when he died.
An African American, he grew up in Huntington and attended a segregated school where, he told the Daily Mail in earlier interviews, he wasn't handed many opportunities. He worked as a cook to put himself in college at Marshall University, where he earned a degree in chemistry.
"The opportunities were few and far between for African-Americans in my neighborhood," Raglin told the Daily Mail in 2002. "I found out real quick that the key to getting out was an education."