Charles Craft, ex-chief of VWSD, dies at 76

Published 11:28 am Thursday, November 8, 2012

Charles C. Craft, the superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District for five years in the early 1990s, died Tuesday in Ridgeland. He was 76.

“He was a very caring person with the kids,” said Donald Oakes, a retired educator who was principal at multiple schools during Craft’s tenure. “He always wanted the best for kids and he was easy to work with. His whole attitude was ‘What’s best for the students?’”

Craft became superintendent in the then-10,000-student district in 1989, two years after city and county schools consolidated to make the county’s single district in place today.

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“We all lived through it, basically because everybody worked through it,” said Oakes, himself a former VWSD superintendent and interim superintendent. “It was tense, especially when you take kids that had been used to being in one district or the other. We had an awful lot of people in the system working at that and he was one of them.”

Craft replaced Dr. Ed Gilley as the superintendent in 1989 and held the position until 1994, when he retired and became headmaster of All Saints’ Episcopal School.

He later moved to Tennessee and then to Madison, said his daughter, Barbara Watson, who lives in Arlington, Texas.

Oakes said Craft served as a good model for subsequent district officials.

“He always had an open door,” Oakes said. “He was not insulated from the public.”

Watson agreed, saying her father “was really committed to the education of all the young people in Warren County.”

“He was really proud of Vicksburg as a city and was proud of the kids,” she said. “He wanted them to have the best chance possible.”

Zelmarine Murphy joined the Board of Trustees, representing District 2, in 1990 and worked with Craft for four years.

“He had a personality that, once you had a conversation with him, you knew he was genuine,” Murphy said this morning.

“If Charles Craft told you the sun would be 30 minutes late today, the sun would be 30 minutes late.”

She said his gentle disposition made him an excellent superintendent during a tumultuous time for education in Mississippi.

“Charles Craft was a superintendent who had a love for the students and education,” Murphy said. “He came at a time in Mississippi when there were changes coming in academics, but he was very instrumental in setting up programs that would enhance the school district.”

Robert Bernard, a retired research physicist with the Waterways Experiment Station, was Craft’s close friend and a former brother-in-law.

“Charlie sacrificed himself on the altar of other people’s lives,” Bernard said. “He took on other people’s problems. He took up slack for other people, he stepped in for other people all at the expense of his own convenience. He could have had a lot less responsibility in his life than he did, but he would do anything for you. That’s Charlie.”

In 1973, while Bernard was facing some personal challenges while living in New Mexico, he traveled back to Vicksburg where he met up with Craft.

Craft was a 1955 graduate of Carr Central High School. He received his master’s of education from Mississippi State University.

He returned to Vicksburg and spent more than three decades in the district, the final five years as superintendent.

In addition to his daughter Barbara Watson, Craft is survived by his wife, Beverly Craft of Madison, and three other daughters.

Services are scheduled for Saturday at The Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal, with Sebrell Funeral Home of Madison in charge.