Cover photo for Dr. Molly Evelyn Parish Howard's Obituary
Dr. Molly Evelyn Parish Howard Profile Photo
1955 Dr. Molly 2024

Dr. Molly Evelyn Parish Howard

April 13, 1955 — February 14, 2024

Wrens, GA

Dr. Molly Evelyn Parish Howard cooked and taught and fought and loved with the conviction that when it comes to serving others, you never hold back even an ounce of the good stuff. A teacher, a wife, a mother, a public servant, her life was a testament to her undying faith in people, their worth, their potential, and the duty each of us has to fill the needs of others with whatever it is you have to give. Throughout her life she received both state and national recognition as a champion for public education and the right for all children, everywhere, to receive equal, equitable and quality educational opportunities.  

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, after having been surrounded all day by her family and close friends, she passed away in an Augusta hospital.  

Molly was born April 13, 1955, in San Antonio, TX, the third of what would be the five children of Reeves and Betty Parish.  

At 5-years-old, on her first day of first grade, she walked up to her new school alone and did not know where to enter. Scared and lost, she sat on a swing on the playground. An older child told her to go away, she did not belong there. She decided that day she would never be intimidated by anyone ever again. She chose a door and went inside. There a young woman approached her, knelt down to her level and asked who she was.  

“I’m Molly Parish and I don’t know where to go,” she said. 

“Well, aren’t I the luckiest teacher, you’re in my class,” the lady told her. That teacher’s compassion and demeanor made an impression on Molly.  

The family moved back to Wrens, both of her parents’ home, in 1963 when she was 8-years old.  

About five years later she met Lex Howard, a dark-haired boy at the city pool who threatened to dunk her. Little did she know it was the start of a love affair that would last the rest of her life. They were married in December of 1973, the year they graduated from high school.  

As a student at Wrens High School in the early 1970s, she toured Central State Hospital for the mentally ill in Milledgeville. The atrocities she saw there, such as a child with Downs Syndrome confined to a cell with a catatonic adult, stayed with her forever. It cemented her desire to see that no child in her power to free was ever caged, physically or metaphorically, again. She decided then she wanted to teach special education, before there was even a program for that in most Georgia high schools. 

In 1990 she was honored as Georgia’s State Teacher of the Year. During her acceptance speech before the State Board of Education she lobbied for societal acceptance of handicapped students, expansion of preschool special education and additional funding for existing special education programs.  

She then spent five years as director of a psycho-ed service center for seven counties before taking the job as the first principal for the newly consolidated Jefferson County High School which opened in 1995.   

That year less than 50 percent of the county’s adult population had a high school diploma or its equivalent. 

“We made a promise...that we would be the economic future of Jefferson County,” Molly told a reporter at that time. “And we realized that we were going to improve the economic status of our community and raise the standard of living...that a high school diploma wasn’t enough.” 

She emphasized collaboration, the dual-track curriculum was eliminated, and all students were expected to succeed in college-preparatory curricula and given the tools and support to do so. She insisted the school provide an adult advocate for every student. 

In 2008 she was chosen as the National High School Principal of the Year. Even with 80 percent of the student population considered to live in poverty, Molly increased graduation rates and improved test scores. She believed enough in students to eliminate remedial courses.  

Current School Superintendent Sam Dasher has said that under Molly’s leadership, Jefferson County’s graduation rate grew from 52 percent to 90 percent, surpassing state averages. 

The national distinction recognized the culture of hope she created in the school.  

“Without hope, why try?” Molly told a reporter. “And so that’s what we do: try to create hope.” 

In 2010 she became the Superintendent of all of Jefferson County’s public schools where she worked to build a team of educators who embraced her vision for inclusion and a student-first school system, ensuring that future generations of students have access to excellent academic resources and facilities.  

As a mission statement for Jefferson County, she coined the phrase, “Every Child, Every Day,” and what that meant to her is that every individual child is important every single day. 

She officially retired in 2022. 

Her greatest loves were spending time with her family, sharing stories around a crowded table brimming with dishes she had prepared. Close seconds were fishing and gardening. 

She will be forever missed by her husband of 50 years, Lex; sons, Parish (Amanda) and Matt (Andrea); her seven grandchildren, Trevor, Mandolyn, Hayden, Kamry, Lexie, Clementine and Evangeline and great-grandson Jax; her siblings, Randal Reeves Parish Jr. (Susan), Joy Belding (Billy), Jerry Howard (Mark), John Huff Parish (Janice) and Sue Weede Hester; nieces and nephews, Randall Reeves Parish III (Maura) and their children Rudi and Baker, Abigail Mathur (Vivek) and their children Shreya and Ravi, Sarah Martindale (Justin) and their children Mira and Rowen, Aquila Wright (Kevin) and their children Jackson and Will, Jamie Williford (Keisha) and their sons Nate, Ben and Lucas, Dixie Pearson (Tom) and their children Tiffany and Jaylynn, Marcus Howard (Jenny) and their son Camden, Elizabeth Molly Rado and her daughter Clari; her aunts Evelyn McGahee and Joy Parish Young (Parker); as well as all her cousins and other family and friends. 

A service honoring her life has been planned for Monday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. at Jefferson County High School following a visitation that begins at 1 p.m.  

In lieu of flowers, those wishing to further support Molly’s legacy, can make donations to a scholarship through the Georgia REACH Foundation in her name.  

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. Molly Evelyn Parish Howard, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Monday, February 19, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

Jefferson County High School

1157 Warrior Trail, Louisville, GA 30434

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Memorial Service

Monday, February 19, 2024

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

Jefferson County High School

1157 Warrior Trail, Louisville, GA 30434

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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