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Hough feted with legacy bench

Posted: November 1, 2018 4:47 p.m.
Updated: November 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Leader’s Legacy bench honoree Aaron Hough (sitting) is surrounded by members of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, along with his son, the Rev. Matthew Hough (third from left) during a dedication ceremony on Friday, Oct. 26 at Camden City Hall. The bench is installed in Monument Square.

A soaking rain didn’t deter at least 100 people from crowding into the Camden Fire Department at Camden City Hall on Oct. 26 to honor retired long-time educator Aaron Hough with the dedication of a Leader’s Legacy bench. The actual bench is now installed at Monument Square near the site of the new, nearly completed Camden Elementary School.

City Manager Mel Pearson started things off by not only welcoming those in attendance, but recounting a story that exemplified why Pearson said it has been a pleasure to know Hough for about 30 years. They worked together -- as businessman and educator -- when Pearson was at the New South (now Canfor) mill and Hough was principal at North Central High School (NCHS).

“It involved your compassion and your dedication to students and young folks that maybe they graduated from high school, but they still had some growing up to do,” Pearson said. “Some of you and your staff were dealing with what was an awful situation with students who had some fights out there and some ex-students that kept coming back -- I think there were some girls involved, too -- but they kept coming back. It was a situation that could have gotten out of hand. Now, part of the crowd had become employed and part of them were working with me at the saw mill, so I had a little insight of your situation. You guided us through what I believe could have been a terrible high school calamity. But it was your compassion and your efforts and insight, your personality … that kept us on track in dealing with growth problems, maturity problems. It was your wish that nobody got into any serious trouble, but it was there, it was serious. You kept that whole issue in check and I have respected you for 30 years for that.”

Pearson said watching his wife work with Hough at Lugoff-Elgin High School and in other settings has shown him the benefits of having Hough associated with youth in the community. He called working with Hough on the NCHS issue the first example of a public-private partnership to solve a problem in the community in which he could recall being part.

Pearson then introduced Hough’s son, the Rev. Matthew Hough, who gave the invocation, explaining how the story of Noah related to his father.

“One of my favorite passages comes from Genesis, Chapter 6 … and it says Noah was a righteous man, and he was just or blameless and he walked with God, he walked with the Lord. And it says, ‘These are the generations of Noah.’ Generations talks about legacy, and what is a man’s legacy?” Rev. Hough asked. “We are here and my father has been awarded the legacy bench and I think about Genesis and I think about Noah. And I think about how you’ve impacted not only my life and my siblings, our children, but the people we see here today (from) different phases of your life -- as a child, as a young teacher, as a husband, as a teacher, as an assistant principal, as a principal, as a mentor, as a fraternity brother, as a lodge brother, as a counselor. So many things, so many phases you’ve been involved in. So I just want to say ‘thank you’ for being a model to not only me and my siblings and my mom and kids, but to everyone here. You’ve impacted so many people.”

Rev. Hough said his father made that impact as an educator for 46 years as well as at New Hope Baptist Church and through his lodge and fraternity.

“I’m proud to be your son. I’m proud that you are my father,” he said, before giving the benediction.

Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Graham, whose mother taught with Hough, said it didn’t take much to see how much passion the Hough family has for public education and people in the community.

“I thought about the dreary day that a rainy day can be, but then I realized this person is not dreary; this person is passionate. He’s got a joy about him,” Graham said. “That’s what my mom said not thinking about the weather, not thinking about the ceremony, but that’s the legacy, the life in which you have lived and will continue to do.”

Graham said that legacy hasn’t stopped with Hough himself, but that it can be seen through his children in the community.

“The passion for education, the passion for dealing with situations, problems and issues that we all face in our life. When you have that constant reminder, that constant encouragement, success happens,” Graham said, describing Pearson’s story as an example of how Hough changed lives. “When you look into this audience, you see real people (who) care; people who are doing the same work in their classrooms -- people who are doing this in the principal’s office, people who are doing this in their organizations, their fraternities -- this legacy is something to smile about.”

He called Hough’s life and legacy ones worth telling and, combined, one worth living.

Hough’s career included serving at the old Baron DeKalb High School (BDKH) where he met Joan Young, who said they started a long relationship that continues to this day.

“I met Mr. Hough in August 1970. I was a wet-behind-the-ears secretary and he was a math teacher,” Young said. “During those years at Baron DeKalb, a lot went on that a lot of people don’t know about. Different things that made the years go by. Mr. Hough is a loving and faithful husband; he’s a father, he’s a grandfather. He’s always been consistently loving to his family whether it was his children, whether it was his Aunt Florence, whether or not it was his sisters up in New Jersey, or brothers in Bethune, he still loved his family. And the youngest of however many there were of them, he always felt he needed to take care -- make sure they had plenty to eat, made sure they had money to pay bills.”

Young said Hough’s students always respected him even if they didn’t always agree with what he said or did. She also told a story about a time when he didn’t return to BDKH when he was supposed to.

“The house he went to, while he was talking with the mother and father, he got four flat tires and he had to wait to have someone come to bring him some new tires and then he could come back. Those are the things that nobody knows about; only the secretaries sometimes know those little things, are the wife knows those little things that happen like that,” Young said.

She said she also helped Hough with church work and that he is as committed to his church family as his actual family. When Mrs. Hough introduced her to the new church secretary, her last name turned out to be Young, too, she said.

Young said Hough had two “statements” he always told to her, including one she thought applied to moving the ceremony from Monument Square to the fire house: “You’ve got to monitor and adjust.” The other relates to angry parents coming into a school and saying hurtful things: “Don’t worry about what they say, because they will get their just rewards someday.”

Family member Rufus Hough talked about how Aaron Hough responded to a situation involving a young man.

“I asked (him) one time, ‘Have you ever lost it?’ because he’s always quiet (and) genteel. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and shared an experience with me where a young man said something and he collared him, and the young man was about as shocked as he was. In other words, the young man looked at him like, ‘You must be crazy! You’re not supposed to do this,’” Rufus Hough said. “But he carried the young man home and told his grandmother what he did, and she said, ‘You did right. You did right because no one else would have done that,’ and they developed a great friendship.”

Rufus Hough said the Leader’s Legacy bench is a fitting honor for Aaron Hough.

Local businessman Ronnie Bradley spoke briefly about his relationship with Hough.

“When I saw these other names appearing in the paper and these benches being done for them, I said, ‘We’ve got one person in the community who really deserves this, a lot of people don’t know what he did over the years,’” Bradley said.

He said he often had prospective employees who came from the North Central area and all he would have to do is ask whether he could contact Hough about them.

“Most of them didn’t object,” he said, but that, “if they frowned, I knew they weren’t going to be working for me. If they broke into a big smile and lit up like a Christmas tree I knew things would probably be OK.”

Reading from some notes, Bradley said, “Thank you for showing us what to do and how to do it. Thank you for always being there for your friends from Camden. You have gone beyond what we could have expected from anyone and never wanted any credit for it. This is our small way of letting you know how much we appreciate what you have done for our city, county, state and nation, making it a better place live work and play.”

Bradley ended by thanking Hough for being his friend.

Speaking from a wheelchair, Hough thanked everyone for coming to the ceremony, saying it gave him “pleasure and comfort” to hear the good things others had to say about him. Despite saying he had no words to express his appreciation for receiving the Leader’s Legacy bench honor, Hough spoke briefly about how he had help along the way.

“Whatever it is you thought I did, I could not have done without you,” Hough told those gathered. “I didn’t do it by myself. I had you to help me. I always felt like everybody in the building had something to offer. So, it was good to listen to everybody because you’ve got something to say…. It’s been my joy in life, with every crook and turn in the road, to find the love of the comrade kind, (people) willing to help me carry my load.”

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