Shelby County

Before the farewell party ends, one woman stands to say, “You were always there for my boys, you helped’em become men. God bless you, Mister Latham.”

Shelby County High School is quiet. It’s summer. Kids are on break. Classrooms are empty, halls are vacant, the school office is a tomb.

Today, the library is the only room with lights on. Inside are people wearing nice clothes.

There are tables with finger food. Chicken salad is the star of this show. There are sugary items galore. Sweet tea. Lemonade.

The occasion: Mister Latham’s retirement party.

Behind the library desk sits the man himself. A bearded fella in a straw hat. He’s got a happy face, and a personality that could light up a Friday-night home game.

“Mister Latham’s been in this school system thirty-two years,” says one woman. “Been here since before some teachers were even born.”

Ask anyone. Mister Latham is the face of this county. Almost everyone in the region knows him.

His job description isn’t even worth mentioning—because this was more than just a job. It was his home. His church. His family. His world.

Nobody here can articulate how much he means. But they try.

“Describing how we’re gonna miss Mister Latham,” says one man, “is like describing how much you’d miss water or air.”

He’s taught it all: English, academic research, he’s been a shoulder for crying into, a sounding board.

And he writes. Mister Latham is, and always has been, a writer’s writer. He’s written since his early days. Not long ago, he started a blog. It began as a way to share meaningful stories.

The blog took off like a souped-up Pontiac, and his words have become the voice of his own people.

One woman tells me, “I always knew he was talented, but he’s always just been so humble.”

Humbleness. Another of his afflictions.

Today, his friends are eating chicken salad, sipping tea, taking turns reciting favorite memories.

After each person speaks, the air gets misty. There are enough tears in here to turn this room into a public pool.

“You were my rock,” says one woman. “I’ll miss you.”

“Mister Latham was a blessing,” says another. “Kind of guy who made sure your kids knew he cared.”

“Thirty-two years,” says one woman. “Don’t meet many who survive in this business for that long. Not unless they’re special.”

The other day, a friend visited the library. A girl. She had a retirement gift for Mister Latham. A book.

“This was the first book I ever checked out,” she told him. “I want you to have it. It made me love reading.”

Niagara falls.

Before the farewell party ends, one woman stands to say, “You were always there for my boys, you helped’em become men. God bless you, Mister Latham.”

Mister Latham gives her an “I love you, honey,” in return.

He doles out a lot of those. I ask why he does this.

“Life’s too short not to tell people you love’em,” says Mister Latham. “It’s not something people say much anymore, but they should.

“‘Cause even if we said ‘I love you’ one hundred times per day, it still wouldn’t be enough.”

Fair enough.

I love you, Mister Latham.

And so does Shelby County, Alabama.


  1. Susan in Georgia - June 3, 2017 1:19 pm

    Sounds like Mister Latham is a gentleman everyone should have in their life. I sure do like the way you wrote about him…now I want to search for his blog site. Sean, thanks for another gem of a story you’ve shared with your readers today.

    • Steve Latham - June 4, 2017 2:38 pm

      I thank you for the sweet words, Susan, and I also thank you for your interest in my blog.

      Stretchin’ from Here to Pletcher can be found through its public Facebook page ( – feel free to like and follow) or on its web page (

  2. Jon Dragonfly - June 3, 2017 1:52 pm

    Can you give us a link to his blog?

    • Steve Latham - June 4, 2017 1:57 pm

      I appreciate your interest in my blog, Jon.

      Stretchin’ from Here to Pletcher can be found through its public Facebook page ( – feel free to like and follow) or on its web page (

  3. Laura Young - June 3, 2017 2:05 pm

    I lived in Shelby County a long time back and, as I read this, I wondered why I hadn’t heard about Mr. Latham. Then I realized I lived there before he was there. My son was too young to be in school when I lived there, but I would have loved for him to have a teacher like Mr. Latham. And Mr. Latham is right- you can’t say enough I love yous, but every one counts!

  4. Michael Bishop - June 3, 2017 2:26 pm

    Perfect time of year for the tribute at the Shelby County school and also for your own tribute to Mr. Latham. Most of us, if we were lucky, had a teacher like Mr. Latham somewhere along the line, and your piece not only eloquently honors him, but also prompted me to conjure up in memory a couple of the teachers I had who were his counterparts (or forerunners) in my own public education back in the early Pleistocene. Blessings on all such folks. They deserve their laurels.

  5. Nita Wright - June 3, 2017 2:47 pm

    Now we need the site for Mr. Latham’s blog!

    • Steve Latham - June 4, 2017 1:59 pm

      I appreciate your interest in my blog, Nita.

      Stretchin’ from Here to Pletcher can be found through its public Facebook page ( – feel free to like and follow) or on its web page (

  6. Helen McClure - June 3, 2017 3:42 pm

    Especially significant to me at this time because this community in Tullahoma, Tennessee lost a teacher of that caliber this very week. Rosalie Covino Jackson, a transplanted Bostonian, who inspired countless young people and co-workers, with her compassion, wisdom, generosity, and so many other admirable qualities. It was my privilege to work with her for many years, and more important, have her as my friend. My life is richer for her having passed my way.

  7. Kathryn Lee - June 3, 2017 4:12 pm

    The world needs more people like “Mister Lawlis”!
    Enjoy your daily stories …. From Bakersfield, California!

  8. Tim Bradshaw - June 3, 2017 7:28 pm

    Steve as I’ve known him has always been truly upstanding in and out of character. His dedication to craft and sense of humor (mostly shared in appropriate time) demonstrate true professionalism and love for everyone he comes contact to. Haven’t seen him since college more than five times, but have heard of his impact on coworkers, friends and the community and state. Congratulations Steve!

    • Steve Latham - June 4, 2017 2:35 pm

      Lord have mercy! Tim Bradshaw, thank you for those too kind words and for the congratulations. We sure did enjoy our days at Montevallo, didn’t we, brother? I’m glad you honestly qualified your remark about my humor…”mostly shared in appropriate time”…let’s not elaborate on the inappropriate. Deal? I think it’s nigh time for a reunion!

  9. Jack Quanstrum - June 3, 2017 10:37 pm

    Another great story. Down to earth. Reminding us what is real and important in life. Can’t get enough of this ” Right Stuff”, what an authentic life is all about. Thank you again Sean for your writing and Mr. Latham!

  10. Steve Latham - June 4, 2017 6:34 am

    And I love you, Mister Dietrich…and Missus Dietrich.

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when you and Jamie walked into the library on Thursday. As I told you – I couldn’t have ordered a more perfect surprise from the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wish Book.

    I also couldn’t believe my eyes when I logged on and saw this posr. I thought I was about cried out…and then you just had to go and post this. Lord have mercy.

    I treasure it.

    I treasure my thirty-two years as an educator.

    I treasure Jamie and you…as far as I’m concerned, y’all are family.

    Since you mentioned my blog and since some kind souls have asked, I hope I’m not out of order by providing the link.

    Stretchin’ from Here to Pletcher can be found through its public Facebook page ( – feel free to like and follow) or on its web page (

    This is a new adventure for me, and I look forward to having y’all go with me.

    Once again, Sean, I thank you kindly for your words, your support, and most importantly your friendship.

    To my fellow Sean of the South readers…well…I love y’all, too. Thank y’all.

  11. Phil Benton - June 4, 2017 5:17 pm

    When the dreams that your dreaming come to you
    when the work you’ve put in ‘s realized
    Let yourself feel the pride but
    Always stay humble and kind…..

    Lori Mckenna

    Thanks Sean ; with my family coming from and with me having been raised in and around Shelby county , the folks are , like for the most part all people , good and kind. Thanks for articulating what most of us think.

  12. Joann Wilson - June 20, 2017 1:08 pm

    I also believe in I love you.

  13. Judy Harris - July 24, 2017 1:14 pm

    Too often, it seems, I go to funerals. Family and friends gather to share memories and to comfort each other. It is sweet when one is remembered and cherished while alive. Thank you Mr Latham for a life well lived even as it continues. And, thank you Sean for spreading his fame and making his mark a little bolder. I will be checking out his writings also.

  14. Billie Ann White Usry - July 24, 2017 4:12 pm

    Love the article went to school there before Mr Lathsm we had great teachers then too and classmates we keep in touch not like a lot of schools to day

  15. Ben smith - July 25, 2017 12:31 am

    What more can a man

  16. Cyndia Montgomery - July 25, 2017 9:03 pm

    When I reposted your blog on FB, one of my dear friends said that she had worked with Mr Latham when she taught at the high school. Another friend chimed in to say that Mr Latham had passed away this week, ostensibly from a heart attack. So sad that he didn’t get to spend more time in his retirement years writing, and yet so happy to know that he touched so many lives. As I said to my friend, perhaps the best way to honor his memory is to be more like him; more giving, more loving. Thank you, Sean, for sharing this kind man with us.

  17. Connie - November 3, 2017 10:28 am

    I love you Sean. I believe in saying that too. And I try to live in such a way that people know I love them, not only family but friends, coworkers, and every child I spend time with. I may not make a difference in anyone’s life, but when I’m not around anymore, I want to be remembered as someone who loved and wasn’t afraid to say so.


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