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Willie Fort

Willie Fort

Principal of Valley View Elementary School

Born: Nashville, TN, United States
Heritage: African American

Get your education and get as much of it as you can. Education opens up doors. You get one shot at it, grade by grade.

Willie Fort

Principal of Valley View Elementary School

My name is Willie Fort. I was born December 30th, 1950. I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. I was named after my grandmother. I have one brother who is six years older than me. He served in the military for 13 years. My father operated a printing press; he was called a bindery operator. My mother was a high school teacher. She taught social studies, US history, and English.

My aunt is still alive and lives in Nashville. She was also a school teacher for many years. When she retired she came to teach at my elementary school. I go visit her every year in Nashville.

I attended Catholic schools throughout my education. My elementary and middle schools were all-black schools. When I went to high school it was an integrated school. I went to school in the south in the 1950s and 1960s and was directly impacted by segregation. In 1964 there was a law passed that said segregated schools were illegal. So by 8th grade we had integrated schools. Even though the law changed, some people were determined not to change their attitudes or thoughts.

I was a good student in school. I was in what they call an A-class. My brother inspired me to start playing basketball in fourth grade. In 8th grade the coach chose me to be captain of our basketball team. I played basketball on an all-metro basketball team.

I went to Bradley University my freshman year in college. I played on the basketball team there for a semester. I was the second leading scorer on the team. I had a 17.7 point average. I had to quit basketball because I had signed up for too much at one time.

After a semester, I transferred to Mankato State University. I played basketball there for two years. I graduated from college and moved back to Tennessee to teach elementary physical education for four years.

I went back to Mankato State after that to work on my graduate degree. I have a Master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling. After teaching I had some odd jobs before pursuing my administrative degree.

I wanted to be a teacher so I could impact the lives of students. Being a principal allows me to impact a greater number of students every day. One lesson I have learned is every student is important and your relationships with them are as well. How you impact them is important because it might make a difference in their lives.


Let Justice Roll Down Like Water

Honoring Willie Fort

Let Justice Roll Down Like Water
(Honoring Willie Fort)

Let justice roll down like water
And righteousness like a mighty stream
With great determination
To be all that you can be
My name is Willie Fort, I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.
I have one brother who is six years older than me.
Mom was a teacher, Dad ran a printing press
I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next
My name is Willie Fort, I’m the principal of Valley View
In my early years, I learned to memorize.
Every morning in the paper my dad looked at the headlines
When he saw my name, it made him proud
He was a quiet man, yet would shout out loud
When he saw me doing good playing basketball.
As you know from your social studies,
I grew up in the time of Dr. Martin Luther King
Went to a Catholic school that was all black
Until ’64 when a law passed
That said segregation was, against the law
Yet through it all some people would not change
But I never let them folks get in my way
Became the captain of my basketball team
Went to college, got my degree.
At Mankato State University
I taught four years, and came back to pursue
Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling, it’s true
I got a job at the YMCA
Then twenty years ago today
Started working administration in the public schools.
Find one thing that you love to do
Then do it good, it will help you through
Education will open doors,
Who on earth would want more
Than to get an education and have good self-esteem

Words & music by Larry Long with Kathryn Hale’s 5th Grade Class of Valley View Elementary School, Columbia Heights, Minnesota

© Larry Long Publishing 2012, BMI