‘Poppa D’: A true legend in Thomas County education
THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - Black history has been made in a Thomas County High School for years now. In the early 1990s, Frank Delaney, Jr. became the first African American principal at the high school.
Ever since then, he’s touched plenty of people’s lives by simply being himself.
“Cuz I’m the oldest thing here. I’m the oldest thing in the county,” Delaney said.
Delaney has made many names for himself in the Thomas County School System: principal, dean of students, and what most students and staff know him as, “Poppa D.”
Born and raised on a plantation in Thomas County, Poppa D rose through the ranks after graduating from Albany State University with a bachelor’s degree in Middle School Mathematics and Science. He later went on to study at Valdosta State University to receive his certificate in Educational Leadership. Throughout his time in the school system, he’s inspired his students and supported them by doing little things like driving some of the football team homes after practice in his famous green Ford truck.
“I’m not brave but it’s kind of hard to be a principal at the same school for 15 years now. Black, white, blue, green, it’s kind of rough but if the people love you. I had no rough spots because I was in love with the community, community’s in love with me,” he said.
It’s because of the many things Delaney has done for the school system that the community has done things like naming the road in front of the school after him as a way to honor him. The school gym is also dedicated to Poppa D.
In 2008, Poppa D retired from the school system but returned as the dean of students in 2011. At the age of 79 years old, he says he’s still doing what he loves.
“The greatest thing we as individuals can leave is not so much what we did while we was living, but it will sure be beneficial to those lives that we touched while we were living, then your legacy will go on,” he said. “I work because the school system knows I love it and because of that they keep me around.”
Students at Thomas County Central High School are showing their appreciation for the man they look up to the most.
“I am really grateful I have met Poppa D,” said Aniya Underwood, a junior at Thomas County Central High School. “Every time I see Poppa D he be like ‘hey pretty girl,’ and it just makes me feel so great inside that somebody like Poppa D like gives you confidence.”
Delaney has taught generations of students — some now his co-workers. Something the students say is so unique about him is how he makes everyone his family. His fun-loving demeanor is what students tell me makes him their favorite administrator.
“Poppa D my dog. Cuz he knows all my family members. I’m talking about everybody,” said Adam Hopkins, Thomas County Central High School senior.
Something Delaney said he stays true to is the family-like atmosphere throughout the school system.
“You’ve got to change. When you come through these doors, we have to change and that’s one of the things I preach to the faculty. We teach for success, not failure,” Delaney said.
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