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John Godbee Sr. remembered as respected educator, lawmaker

Godbee dies at 87

John Godbee Sr. remembered as respected educator, lawmaker

John Godbee Sr. remembered as respected educator, lawmaker

John Godbee Sr.

Speak with anyone who knew former state Rep. and retired educator John Godbee Sr., and the word that comes up most often is “fair.”
With successful careers in education, insurance, and politics, Godbee treated all those he met with honesty, integrity, and fairness.
Godbee received an undergraduate education degree from Georgia Teachers College, a master’s Degree from Peabody College and an education specialist degree from Georgia Southern College. He taught in Statesboro and Portal before becoming the principal of Southeast Bulloch High School for 16 years.
Local businessman Frank Rozier remembers well when Godbee came to SEB High.
“I was a senior when he became principal,” Rozier said. “He called us all into the gym to outline his rules and principles.”
Rozier said that as a 17-year-old who knew everything, he tuned out some of Godbee’s words. But before the first day of school was over, Rozier, who prefers not to share the circumstances that landed him there, was called into Godbee’s office.
“Mr. Godbee said to me, ‘I don’t need anybody to help straighten you out, and if you come into my office again, I’ll string you up by the toenails,’” Rozier recalled. “Not that he would have done that, but from that day forward, we had a mutual respect and great relationship. He was one of my heroes, a man of exceptional integrity, principles and morals. He ran a tight school, but a fair school. Much of what he taught me that year, I’ve tried to emulate throughout the rest of my life.”
Rozier spoke fondly of Godbee’s compassion for students.
“He treated everyone fairly, no matter who you were, your background, the color of your skin,” Rozier said. “He was always looking out for students, particularly those that he thought needed a fair shot at the world.”
Rozier vividly remembers a time long after graduation, when he had established his automotive business, that Godbee approached him about a student.
“I’ve got a kid; you need to help me out. Frank, you’re going to put him to work,” Rozier recalled Godbee saying.
When Rozier said he didn’t currently need anyone,  Godbee simply said, “No, you don’t understand, you’re going to put him to work.”
Another former student, attorney Gerald Edenfield, said, “Mr. Godbee established an atmosphere that was conducive to learning. He was interested in each student and followed them into their careers.”
Edenfield said he also had the pleasure of working professionally with Godbee.
“Mr. Godbee was influential in getting the bypass and the four-lane road from Statesboro to Augusta,” Edenfield said. “He was known as one of the hardest-working people they had in Legislature. He wanted what was best for everyone, student or citizen.”
Fred Shaver, a former educator, coach and administrator, added: “John Godbee was just about as fine of a gentleman and friend as I’ve ever known. He was a straight shooter; the kids loved him. He was a good disciplinarian. When they were wrong, he helped them get on the right track.”
Another educator and administrator, Ed Wynn, spent professional and recreational time with Godbee. Besides family and community, Godbee’s passion was fishing, and Wynn and Godbee spent much time at the coast and at local freshwater ponds.
“He was a great supporter of education,” Wynn said. “He and (state Rep.) Bob Lane were instrumental to get legislation passed that would enable the county to overwhelmingly vote to get local option sales tax to go towards the Board of Education.”
Echoing others, Wynn said, “He was a good, strong disciplinarian, but a very fair one.”
Following his education career, Godbee spent time as a legislator. In 1980, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and served 16 years. During that time, he was instrumental in bringing university status to Georgia Southern.
Sen. Jack Hill, elected in 1990, expressed his pleasure in serving with Godbee.
“He was one of the most sincere men I’ve met. He was, through and through, an educator, a rock-solid education man,” Hill said.
He added that Godbee’s heart for students showed through in all of his policies.
“He liked to say, ‘Let’s do something for the chillin’s,’” Hill said.
Somehow in his busy career life, Godbee found time to be a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and community advocate. Preceding him in death was his wife of 64 years, former Laura Brady. Godbee was the father of one son and two daughters.
His daughter Kittie Prosser said: “He was totally devoted to our mother and all of our family: children, grandchildren. He was such a hard worker. Bulloch County and the whole state of Georgia meant so much to him.”
“He was a friend, as well as a father,” John F. Godbee Jr. said. “He had a great relationship with his kids and would do anything for his kids and grandkids. And he did.”

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