ANDERSON – The people who knew local community leader Primus Mootry best remember him for the wealth of knowledge he brought to everyone.
Mootry first came to Anderson in the 1970s as director of the Geater Center and educator with Anderson Community Schools.
Janice Nolan, Primus’s younger sister, said Saturday she has so many fond memories about her brother.
“He was amazing,” Nolan said. “He was an educator, funny, and I enjoyed playing golf with him. For the most part, he liked for you to laugh. ”
Nolan said that in the days since Mootry’s death at age 76 in a March 31 fire at his Anderson residence, the family has come to learn the impact he had on Anderson.
“For the newspaper to continue to allow his voice to resonate through the end of the year says volumes about how well respected he was in this community,” she said. “He was very thought-provoking, but not in a way that would ruffle feathers. He made you think. ”
Mootry was a long-time columnist for The Herald Bulletin, writing on social, cultural and political issues. As a tribute, the newspaper announced soon after his death that it would publish selected columns by Mootry each week through the end of the year.
Nolan said her brother developed the Corporate Schools of America in Chicago before it was even thought of in the 1970s and 1980s.
“He was an important person wherever he lived,” she said.
Jeffrey Johnson, Mootry’s brother in-law, praised his insight and knowledge.
“He had a wealth of knowledge,” Johnson said. “I knew how important he was to this community. I think he brought a lot of things to the table, a lot of things that made people feel uncomfortable, but bringing things to the air that we needed to have a discussion about. ”
He said being an educator was a big part of Mootry’s life.
Johnson said Mootry always said “have a nice day,” which was his favorite line.
Sam Nolan, Mootry’s nephew, said his uncle was always positive and upbeat.
“He was very inspirational, just a good man and a good role model for me,” he said, noting that Mootry had intellectual conversations with his family members. “Anyone who was around him knew him to be an intellectual person.”
Nolan said his mother had been telling him how important Mootry was to this community.
“He expected people to be uncomfortable with whatever topic was being discussed, but in a way that people wouldn’t be sensitive about it,” he said.
Mildred Powell first met Mootry when he came to work at the Geater Center.
“He was involved in everything, and so I was at the time,” she said. “A very intelligent man, very committed to his way of thinking, and he was someone that this community looked up to.
“He brought some ideas to the community that needed to be here at that time,” Powell said. “He talked to everybody, which made him well known and appreciated.”
Ken Ryden said he spent a lot of time talking to Mootry, who was instrumental in the creation of the Jumping Johnny Wilson statue. Mootry made people think about issues in a diplomatic way, Ryden said.
“It’s a bigger loss to the community than I can say,” Ryden said. “I still can’t believe it. His death still hasn’t sunk in. ”
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.