By golly, Molly helps me navigate Fort Mill

October 30, 2013 

It is truly amazing how well we can get around today.

I remember as a child driving with my father and how he would have to use a traditional map to navigate to his destination. Things have certainly changed with all the technological advancements. The advent of personal computers has so dramatically changed the world over the past two decades that we can scarcely imagine how we existed in previous decades without these technological benefits.

Back to navigation. When you find yourself in an unfamiliar place it is quite normal to feel disoriented. They say that men are too stubborn to ask for directions when they’re lost. Well, that’s the beauty of having a GPS navigation system in my car. On any of the numerous occasions that I find myself totally lost I can ask directions from “Molly,” the lady that lives inside my GPS system. No one but the two of us ever needs to know that I was lost in the first place.

Believe it or not, I occasionally find myself to be lost even while being assisted by Molly. But that is the exception rather than the rule, because 99 percent of the time Molly keeps me right on track and I arrive at my destination point unharmed and unflustered.

Whenever any one of us chooses to relocate ourselves in regard to a future destination point we wonder who might come alongside to help us or guide us when we feel lost or uncertain about the next best step to take. I know that I can think of the names of people who have been there for me as I have navigated several personal transitions over the past five years. Along the way I have sought out persons who have been noteworthy in the contributions they have made into the lives of others seeking to make significant changes in their lives. Some of the influential people in my life have been people from the annals of history. Other times those influential people have been persons still living and still impacting the world around them.

In conducting some local research I recently learned about a man who was obviously an influential leader in the Fort Mill community. About six years ago this leader was honored by having a street named after him, the A.O. Jones Boulevard. As I navigate the city I often find myself on A.O. Jones Boulevard. Before long my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to find out just who this A.O. Jones was.

This column is dedicated to a man who obviously greatly impacted this community for the good through his strong leadership and vision.

A.O. Jones started out as a teacher and completed his professional life as superintendent of the Fort Mill Public School System. He is accredited with setting the foundation upon which many of the successes of Fort Mill schools were built. A.O. Jones dedicated 43 years of his life to the education of Fort Mill’s young people. The Central School, where A.O. Jones was once principal, was eventually renamed A.O. Jones Middle School in honor of his legacy.

A.O. Jones was a man of direction, purpose and passion. He was a man of integrity and character. He was a man people could trust to take care of the future needs of the school system so that young minds could continually be developed and flourish. A.O. Jones didn’t just think of the needs of today, but he also focused on the needs of the future. The effects of his leadership reach on into future generations as the Fort Mill Schools continue to benefit from the innovations of this great leader in the field of education. It is quite fitting that he would be honored for the work that he did.

When I heard of this gentleman being honored by being inducted into the Fort Mill Hall of Fame, it inspired me and gently reminded me why any of us is here.

As I looked at the current mission statement and core values of Nation Ford High School I couldn’t help but imagine the voice of A.O. Jones’ legacy resonating throughout:

“The mission of Nation Ford High School is to graduate students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and the workplace and to become lifelong learners who value and contribute positively to self, family, and community.”

It is important not only to recognize those who pioneered the educational system that is serving our community to this day, but to also recognize those that currently provide leadership. All of those that serve our children’ educational needs, from the Board of Education to the teachers and support staff that keep our schools running year after year, we owe a deep debt of gratitude. It is a great challenge to educate children in today’s culture, where once-assumed values and norms simply aren’t the standard anymore. Our teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors and staff all have numerous opportunities to be the “Molly” in the lives of some of our students. Our children need those special people that will take the time to get to know them and help them navigate the twists and turns of the 21st century as they search out their destinies and chart courses in those directions.

I suppose this particular subject matter is on my heart because in the work that I do I focus on ways to “leave a legacy of leaders” in the world. And the more that I have navigated my own destination point, the more I have come to realize that the shaping of future generational leaders must start during school age and the earlier the better.

As Cherie and I continue our journey deeper into this very special community we continue to discover those attributes that define and distinguish the city of Fort Mill. We are continually inspired as we have been introduced to the community leaders and influential people who are shaping Fort Mill to this day. Fort Mill is a city on a hill, its light shining to the world around it. We sincerely hope and pray that others will see the beauty of this community and join hands together as we work to keep the light of Fort Mill shining brightly to the world around us.

Cherie and I are endlessly thankful for the many people that have visited us and expressed their appreciation for the little bit that we are doing to make a contribution to Fort Mill through our monthly articles. We deeply appreciate your every act of kindness and thoughtfulness.

We all have a road to travel through this life. We all have a destination point by which we navigate. Just maybe our destinies are ultimately not as different as we think. And, just maybe, the roads we travel will cross more often than we expect. Until then … Happy trails to you!

Reach William Winship at

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