Hill served 18 years on the Cartersville City School Board and during his 32-year career in education he was a teacher, a coach and an assistant principal. Hill began teaching at Summer Hill, where he attended school as a child and moved to the city school system following integration. Hill was also a minister at St. Luke AME Church and served as sergeant at arms for the Georgia State Senate.
School Board President Linda Benton said, “Any time we were discussing an issue Matthew would always say, ‘We have to stop and think about the little boys and the little girls in our school system and what is best for them.’ He brought things back to the real reason we were here. He was always so positive and respectful of everyone. I cannot say enough good things about Matthew. He was legend in Cartersville and for good reason.”
After he retired from the school system, Hill worked as the director of recreation for Advocates for Children for nearly two decades and served a plethora of other organizations.
James “Bibby” Morgan said Hill was always seen with a van load of children from the shelter. He took them to football games, basketball games and even to school board meetings.
“He was my coach, my teacher, my mentor. If there was someone kids wanted to be like, in addition to their parents, it would have been Coach Hill. Folks could call him anytime of the day or night. He would get out of bed to go help people,” Morgan said. “He was very sincere with people and children were his passion. He was a giant with the heart of lamb and just an awesome individual.”
Joy Hill-Watson, Hill’s daughter, said he related deeply to children who endured challenging circumstances.
“He and his siblings grew up in a time before foster care was available. They would have been in foster care if it had been available. There were times when they ate out of trash cans because there was no other food. They were shuffled around from pillar to post until his father remarried and his stepmother became his mother. His biological mother died when he was 6.
“He always had a sympathetic heart for kids, especially the ones who are seemingly thrown away because he realized that could’ve been him if it weren’t for God. That was one of his favorite sayings, ‘But God.’”
Hill-Watson said her family appreciates the tribute paid to her father by the city school board.
“When Daddy was on the school board, he talked about the other board members like they were his best friends and family,” Hill-Watson said. “To have them honor his memory in this way is really an extension of how he felt about them and his love for kids. Even after he retired he still had his hand in the lives of children in the community.”
Michael Dean served seven years on the city school board. A graduate of Cartersville City Schools and Tennessee State University, he was known as a man who balanced professionalism and fun.
“Michael was our IT person because he was a consultant for IBM. Anytime we had a question about technology, we asked him,” Benton said. “Michael loved being on the school board. He was an excellent board member. His untimely death came while serving on the school board. He was a great father who adored his two children. Both of he and Matthew represented their constituents very well and both encouraged the recruiting of minorities.”
Dean also served as president of the New Frontier of Bartow County, an organization Morgan is affiliated with as well.
Morgan said, “There have been so many pillars in our community that have just stood out, not just in the black community but in the community at large. Michael is one of those kids that climbed up on the shoulders of those other icons that went before him. He emulated them and accepted the challenge that they gave. He rose to the challenge.
“He also cared about folks. Even in his illness, he was still helping folks.”
Anissa Cooley, sister of Dean, said the first time she saw the purple street sign on the CHS campus bearing her brother’s name was in a text from her nephew. While it provoked emotion, Cooley said she was thrilled to see her brother honored.
“He loved being on the school board and constantly stressed the importance of education and being respectful. He always told our children to put grades first. Michael was a straight-A student and I remember one time he made a C. It was like he was going to die then; it tore him up to make anything other than an A.”
Dean succumbed to cancer in 2011 at the age of 46.
“When you speak of Coach and Michael Dean, you realize those are the men you want leading you,” Morgan said. “They were quiet; they did not need to be out front and boisterous. They were just silent giants who walked in a way that made folks want to emulate them.
“If I had to describe them in one sentence, it would have to be that they were good men.”