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Ribbed at roast

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Good-natured fundraiser puts Reginald James in the hot seat

By Robert Allen

Laughs were in no short supply at the Roast and Toast of Superintendent Reginald James on June 14 as one speaker after another delivered monologues about the superintendent’s finest achievements and idiosyncratic quirks. The event at East Gadsden High School was designed to honor the school official through comedy and anecdotes shared by some of those closest to him. 

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James and his wife, Betty, sat at a table on the far said of the stage, where the superintendent had a clear view of the crowd — and the crowd had a clear view of him, waiting to watch his reaction to even the most embarrassing jokes. 

Curtis Richardson, one of the toasters and the district’s science specialist, reflected about his family’s long-standing friendship with the James family, remembering years ago when he would visit James’ guidance office and the two would sit down together in the tiny chairs for a chat. 

“We would always run things by each other,” said Richardson.

With all humor aside, Richardson spoke sincerely about James’ performance as a superintendent: “I’ll leave you all with this — because this is one of the things that Reginald tells all of us all the time — and those people that are still around, you must be on that winning team — because he’ll tell you in a heartbeat, ‘I don’t lose twice with the same team,’ and those of us who work with the school district know what he means by that. He expects the best out of all of us for the kids of Gadsden County.”

Willie Johnson, one of the roasters and a former business associate of James, joked about the difficulty of writing his monologue. 

“No, actually, I’m telling the truth,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. In fact, I said, ‘What great thing can you say about a man like Reg — who has not already said it himself?’ I couldn’t come up with anything.”

School Board Member Isaac Simmons, a former classmate of James’ and another roaster, was one of several speakers who made punch lines about James’ marriage as well as his own.

Simmons said, “My wife and I were talking about our marriage. I’ve been married 40 years. But Reg has me beat by a couple years, I think. But my wife and I were talking about our marriage — and how long we had been together. And she looked at me and she said, ‘Man, I’ve had to deal with you for over 40 years — I’ve had to put up with your mess for over 40 years.’ And I kind of dropped my head. I kind of felt a little bad — and then she smiled. She said, ‘My God, what about Betty James?’”

Other speakers throughout the evening included Shaia Simmons, Bonnie Wood, Morris Young, Bruce James, Jackie Pons, Betty James and the superintendent himself. 

Dinner was served during the course of the entertainment and every table in the hall was occupied. Proceeds from the event went toward the Gadsden Homeless Foundation and the Gadsden Education Foundation. 

If crowd reaction can be read as any reliable benchmark for performance, the evening was a clear success. 

Robert Allen can be reached at 850-627-7649 or rallen@gadcotimes.com.