Rufus Hagood Bethea Jr.


Rufus Hagood Bethea Jr.

Jan. 5, 1927 - Sept. 2, 2019

Preceded in death by parents, Rufus Hagood Bethea and Frances Bruce Bethea Dudley; sister, Frances Bethea Parham; and stepson, Charles Perry McCleskey Jr.

Survived by his wife, Betty Jo McCleskey Bethea; his three daughters, Lucie Bethea Earhart (Phil) of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Elizabeth (Libby) Bethea Patterson (David) of Nashville, Tennessee and Emily Bethea Foster (George) of Mobile, Alabama; his stepdaughter, Karen Cole Dean (David); three granddaughters, Carolyn Earhart Whittington (Daniel), Elizabeth Foster Self (David) and Bethea Patterson Schoenfeld (Richard); four step-grandchildren, Jessica Hood Mahle (Scott), Casey Hood, Hannah McCleskey and Tucker McCleskey; and three great-grandchildren, Nathan Whittington, Emma Whittington and Charlotte Self. He is also survived by his sister, Lucie Bethea Barnes; and his brother-in-law, Charles Dubose Cole (Nancy).

Rufus was born in Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Ramsey High School then the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Later he received his MA in psychology and administration at Furman University.

He was an Army Intelligence Officer during the Korean War, serving with the First Marine Regiment in Korea.

After a brief career in banking he found his true calling as an educator, becoming a teacher, coach, assistant headmaster, headmaster and Independent School Association administrator.

For many summers he was the program director at Camp High Rocks in North Carolina. He moved his family to Greenville, South Carolina in 1959 to become a teacher at the newly formed Christ Church Episcopal School (CCES) and then moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serving as assistant headmaster, teacher and coach at Summit School before returning to Greenville to become headmaster at CCES.

Subsequently he was headmaster at Christ School, Arden, North Carolina, St. Paul's Episcopal School, Mobile, Alabama and Bayside Academy, Daphne, Alabama.

During his distinguished career he was president of the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES), president of the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) and on the board of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

He also served on the board of trustees at The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

After retiring, he became director of the Alabama Association of Independent Schools (AAIS), continuing to work until the age of 88.

In 2004 he was named Headmaster Emeritus of Christ Church Episcopal School for his leadership and vision in creating the high school and developing the new school campus. He was headmaster at St. Paul's Episcopal School when it was named a School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and became the largest Episcopal school in the nation during his tenure.

As one of his former colleagues said upon learning about his imminent death, "so many have so much to thank him for. Our Lord is ready to share personally with him 'well done good and faithful servant.'"

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Canterbury Chapel, 924 Plantation Blvd., Fairhope, AL 36532.

Arrangements by Wolfe-Bayview Funeral Home, Fairhope, Alabama.