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VISD board member dies after battle with cancer

By KBell
Aug. 23, 2010 at 3:23 a.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2010 at 3:24 a.m.

James Murphy Sr.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTSWalk-in visitation - Wednesday 10:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Barefield Funeral Home Chapel, 1505 S. Laurent Street,

575-6180

Funeral Services - Thursday, 10 a.m.

Palestine Baptist Church, 608 E. Convent

Colleagues of James Murphy Sr. said the community lost one of its biggest advocates for equality.

Murphy, 72, was beginning his third term on the Victoria Independent School Board when he died in his home Saturday.

Murphy had been battling leukemia since 2002, but board president Tami Keeling said his dedication to the schools never wavered.

"Even when he wasn't well enough to drive himself there, he'd make it," Keeling said of board meetings. "It's very fitting that he continued until his last day to serve the district."

Murphy attended F.W. Gross school when it was segregated, which served as a backdrop for his convictions on the school board.

"He was an advocate for the underdog," board vice president Bernard Klimist said. "Not only for minorities, but for all students. He looked at everybody the same."

Before joining the school board for a second time in 2007, Murphy was a police officer, detective and school teacher and coach, said his son James Jr.

His son said Murphy emphasized education to his four kids and eventually 16 grandkids along the way.

James Jr., 51, said his father always expected him and his siblings to bring home books from school, whether or not they had homework.

"There's always something more you can learn," the elder Murphy would say.

Murphy had a way with wise words, his son said.

"The dog barking at you already bit me," was something Murphy would tell his kids when they thought they were outsmarting him.

Murphy's wife, Dorothy, passed away two years ago after 50 years of marriage.

While Murphy was struggling with his disease, James Jr. said his father told doctors, "I'm not afraid to die. My wife taught me how to die."

James Jr. said he was able to spend the last two weeks with his father and, as hard as it was, he knows Murphy left content.

He also left a legacy at VISD, one Keeling says will be hard to fill.

"His service is a great loss to the district," Keeling said. "He had such a huge heart."

Keeling said the board will decide at its September meeting what steps they need to take to fill Murphy's position.

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