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Three Alumni Recognized with Homecoming Honors

The Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association is honoring three graduates who will preside over 2019 Homecoming festivities. Parade Marshal Gary Lillard (CHS 1959), Coming Home Queen MJ Fulbright Larrison (CHS 1972) and Wall of Fame Inductee Barney McClire (CHS 1970) will be among the entries in Thursday's Homecoming Parade and will be recognized in pre-game ceremonies Friday at 6:55 PM at Jacket Stadium.

Gary Lillard-Homecoming Parade Marshal

     When it comes to cheering for the black and gold, Gary Lillard has always been one of the first on their feet.

      That love for all things Yellow Jacket has prompted members of the Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association to honor the 1959 graduate as the 2019 Homecoming Parade Marshal.

        “Mr. Lillard is known by all as a major Jacket Backer,” Ex-Students Association Homecoming Committee Chairman Stephanie Philips said. “He rarely misses a football game and can always be counted on to cheer for Cleburne in any sport or activity. We are very honored to have him lead this year’s Homecoming parade.”

          Lillard went all through Cleburne schools, starting in first grade at Adams Elementary. One of his favorite grade school memories is, not surprisingly, linked to football.  At that time, the district’s elementary schools went through sixth grade. At the second ward football game of 1952, the Adams Cubs tied with the Irving Tigers 6-6.

                “That may have been the first time for organized football in the elementary schools,” Lillard said. “I still have my football helmet and uniform.”

                Future classmate Pat Culpepper was on the opposing team from Irving. The two would later meet up in junior high and were football teammates through to graduation. Lillard said they argued about the score of that sixth grade game for 25 years.

                “I promise that argument went on that long. Pat always said Irving won,” Lillard said. “Eventually Virgil Ward found an article on that game that ran in the newspaper, with the headline showing it was a tie. I will always be grateful to Virgil for that.”

                Lillard competed in football for the Jackets all four years of high school, including his senior year when Cleburne ended the season as Class 3-A State Semi-Finalists. His second sport was track.

                “I could play any position and was moved around a lot to fill in when a player was injured or couldn’t play,” Lillard said. “Coach (Hugh) Higgins called me a utility player.”

                One of his biggest fans was CHS sophomore Patricia Stewart. She and Gary first met at a Johnson County Sheriff’s Posse Association family night event. Lillard said meeting Patricia is his favorite memory of high school.

                “I had to have something new to wear for every football game,” Patricia said. “Gary would send me a mum each week and at the end of the game, those of us who were dating players walked them off the field. That’s what we did back then. They were great times.”

                In addition to his participation in athletics, Lillard was a four-year member of Cleburne FFA. A great part of his time in high school was spent working a variety of jobs.

                “My coaches kept me going with work and studies,” he said. “We all worked—all my friends had jobs. We didn’t have time to do much running around.”

                Following graduation from CHS, Lillard enrolled in Tarleton State University, later attending Hill College. He and Patricia were married in the spring of 1962.

                “I think Gary took every course they had at Hill except PE and nursing,” Patricia said. “He eventually got his real estate license.”

                A career as a business and management executive, which included the buying and managing of commercial property, has been a great part of Lillard’s life in Cleburne. For 41 years the couple has owned and managed Cleburne Lawn and Garden, with Patricia serving as bookkeeper. Their eldest son now runs the operation.

                Lillard has been a member of the Cleburne Masonic Lodge for 50 years, and is a 32nd Degree Mason and a Shriner. His introduction to the service of others within the fraternal organization came as a CHS freshman when he was invited to join DeMolay.

                He also helped bring and organize Pee Wee Football in Cleburne. A special memory from those years is working to raise $15,000 for uniforms.

                The Lillard family now extends to multiple generations of Yellow Jackets including sons Kelly (CHS ’88) and Patrick (CHS ’92). Both included football among their high school activities. Gary and Patricia have since celebrated the achievements of a third generation with the graduations of granddaughter Adrian Lillard in 2016 and step-granddaughter Cheyenne Green in 2019.

                They are now seeing a fourth generation enrolled in Cleburne schools. Great-granddaughter Annabelle Lillard is a pre-kindergarten student at Adams Elementary.

                The Lillard’s have their tickets ready for Friday’s Homecoming football game. The season ticket seats his parents first bought in the early 1950s, in anticipation of their son’s future playing days with the Jackets, have never left the family.

                Gary grows emotional when he talks about the black and gold and the pride he has as a Cleburne Yellow Jacket. When asked about those who had great influence in his life in his high school years, he quietly points to a newspaper photo of legendary Cleburne football Coach Brooks Conover.

                “The best thing about football for me, was the people I played with—and for,” he said.

Coming Home Queen MJ Larrison

If the 2019 Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association Coming Home Queen had a theme song, it would have to be the Beach Boys hit “Be True to Your School.”

                MJ Larrison (CHS Class of 1972) has spent most of her life dedicated to “her school” and school district as a student, parent, supporter and school board member.

                “We had some wonderful candidates this year, but we believe the recognition of MJ Larrison is long overdue,” Association Homecoming Committee Chairman Stephanie Philips said. “As a graduate and an involved parent and community member she has supported Cleburne High School in so many ways. We are thrilled to be honoring her as Coming Home Queen.”

                Evidence of Larrison’s pride in “letting her colors fly” in being true to her school is documented in the 1972 CHS yearbook in which classmates voted her “Most Spirited.” She displayed that spirit in numerous ways, from four years on the CHS tennis team to Barton House Song Leader to selection by the campus faculty for Who’s Who.

                Larrison’s roots in Cleburne schools run deep, starting with a great-aunt who was a member of the Cleburne High School Class of 1913. Her mother, Helen Lee Fulbright, graduated in 1932.

                “I believe I went to CHS in the best of times,” Larrison said. “It was one of the last years of the House system before the new high school opened in 1976. We had excellent teachers, great school traditions and I had a wonderful group of friends. All our mothers graduated from Cleburne High School and served in PTA. I think we learned from them—it was instilled in us—to be involved in school and to volunteer.”

                “I have such treasured friendships from my high school days and they have been long-lasting,” she said. “I’ve known many of my friends since first grade. I was a member of a great generation and grew up in a great community. Cleburne then and now is a good place to raise kids.”

                As the mother of four Cleburne students, Larrison found herself active in multiple PTA units at one point, from the kindergarten program at Santa Fe to Coleman Elementary and Cleburne Middle School and CHS. Volunteers In Public Schools is also on her involvement resume along with numerous terms as a parent representative on site-based decision-making committees at the campus and district levels. Working the concession stands at football and basketball games and athletic booster are also on the list, along with a term as president of the CHS Ex-Students Association.

                Larrison also served on several citizens’ bond committees, most recently the community group which formulated the 2016 bond package to include the construction of the new high school. The 2016 bond passed by voters included facility improvements to Cooke Elementary and Coleman, her elementary alma mater.

                “I served on the bond committee that provided replacement campuses for Santa Fe, Adams and Irving,” Larrison said. “The construction of a new high school was way overdue. It is so state of the art. You can go anywhere and hear people talking about our high school facilities and how great they are. I wish everybody who drives by the high school would stop and go in. It’s phenomenal.”

                Larrison decided to take her years of involvement in CISD and her “true to her school” attitude to the next level in choosing to run for the Board of Trustees in 2008.

                “I think it was always in the back of my mind to serve on the school board,” she said. “People knew I was passionate about education—and education in Cleburne. When my youngest graduated, I became more serious about running for election. It was Donna Boles, who had served as a trustee and board president, who came to me and said, ‘it’s time.’”

                Larrison’s support for teachers, coupled with her appreciation for the education she and her children received as products of Cleburne schools, was the basis for running for the board and the two terms she spent as a trustee.

                “Teachers have so much to do,” she said. “They are responsible for their students eight hours a day. I wanted to give them that support as a trustee. My kids also received an excellent education here in Cleburne. While I believe your child’s education is what you make it, as a parent, you also need great teachers and schools.”

                “Being on the school board was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done,” Larrison said. “The best part of it was watching kids excel, succeed and achieve.”

                Larrison, with her husband, Larry, are now watching a special pair of kids excel—granddaughters Campbell Jane and Charley Ann Hall--who represent a fifth generation of Cleburne students within the family. Both attend Gerard Elementary.

                The fourth generation includes Tracy-CHS ’95; Jeri-CHS ’98; Molli-CHS ‘2003 and Kyle-CHS ‘2005. They were all raised to be “true to their school,” says Jeri Larrison Hall, whose career resume includes teaching, coaching and serving as an administrator at CHS. She was named the district’s athletic director last spring.

                “My mother’s pride in Cleburne ISD and all its traditions have been passed on to us,” Hall said. “I think that with her mother graduating from Cleburne, her great experiences in growing up in a one high school town and how special that was, and then seeing us go through Cleburne schools are all factors in her devotion to CISD.”

                “Her school pride played a big influence in all of us as CISD students,” Hall said. “The importance of education is also something she instilled in us. Last week my youngest child said, ‘I love school and don’t want to come home anymore.’ That’s a reflection of how my mom felt—and still feels—about going to school in Cleburne. My daughter is a ‘spirit animal’ just like she is. Being a part of CHS and CISD are super important to my mom.”

                MJ is also a member of the Cleburne business community as co-owner of Castle Collection. The Larrison’s are active members of First United Methodist Church and have a total of seven grandchildren. MJ is also involved in alumni activities at Sam Houston State University.

Barney McClure CHS Ex-Students Association Wall of Fame Award   


            Barney McClure, Class of 1970, has been named the 2019 Inductee into the Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association Wall of Fame in conjunction with Homecoming festivities underway this week.

            The retired Cleburne High School agriculture teacher has just retired for a second time following eight years as executive director of the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas.

            McClure spent at total of 29 years at Cleburne High School, which included faculty advisor of Cleburne FFA. He began his teaching career in 1974 at Gatesville High School. His service record also includes three years at Grandview High School from 1979-82.

            McClure, who grew up on a small livestock farm east of Cleburne, said he developed an interest in agriculture in the eighth grade after A.D. Wheat came to the junior high campus and “made a pitch” about the high school program to incoming freshman.

            “The older kids I rode the bus with said ag with Mr. Wheat was what I needed to do,” McClure said. “Mr. Wheat went on to become my mentor. Pete Hobby was another. He was my high school science teacher and I later taught both his sons. I still miss him.”

            McClure has lots of happy memories of his years as a student at CHS. He describes himself as a ‘participant’ in baseball, with two years on the team. While his school activities are numerous according to the 1970 yearbook, it was obvious he was more than a “participant” when it came to Cleburne FFA. McClure’s four years in the Cleburne chapter included the office of president and District president. In addition to all the knowledge and he skills he gained, FFA also provided him with some memorable experiences.

            McClure was in the Cleburne delegation that attended the 1968 National FFA Convention in Kansas City, Missouri where Richard Nixon was among the keynote speakers. It was McClure’s first time on an airplane—something he had in common with Mr. Wheat and his wife, who also made the trip. As a freshman member of FFA, he stayed in a hotel for the first time when he was among Cleburne students attending the Houston Livestock Show.

            “I had great teachers in high school,” McClure said. “They were people who had our best interests at heart.”

            Fred Sarchet, who is a fellow Wall of Fame honoree from the 1970s, was a year behind McClure in school and a teammate on the Jackets baseball team. They would meet up again years after graduation, when both were on faculty at CHS.

            “Barney’s always been a great friend,” Sarchet said. “He was the perfect person to follow Mr. Wheat as ag teacher after he retired. I also remember Barney as the voice of Cleburne football as the announcer at our home games.”

            “Barney is an ideal selection for the Wall of Fame,” Sarchet said. “He’s done a lot in bringing honor to CHS and Cleburne as a student, a teacher and through his involvement and advocacy for career and technical education and Texas agriculture.”

            Following graduation, McClure enrolled in Tarleton State University where he spent his first two years of study before transferring to Texas A & M University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974. He earned a Master of Education degree from Texas A & M in 1978.

            In 2007, he was honored by his alma mater in being named the Distinguished Former Student of the Year by the TAMU Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. The recognition is among many presented to McClure for his dedication to agriculture and education. He received the Superior Service Award from Texas Agrilife Extension Service in 2004; Range Management Teacher of the Year from the Texas Section, Society for Range Management in 2002 and was twice honored as the Teacher of the Year by the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

            McClure was also honored by his colleagues who named him campus Teacher of the Year in 1998. He was recognized as the outstanding agriculture teacher in north Texas in 2007, receiving the Bayard H. Friedman Foundation Hero in the Classroom Award.

            “Mr. McClure had a huge influence on me as a young man at CHS,” Rep. DeWayne Burns (District 58) said. “He, along with Tommy Webb, challenged us as students to go above and beyond what we believed was possible. He taught us about work ethic and commitment in following through in matters relating to academics, the work force and all aspects of life’s journey.”

            “He provided us with practical lessons about leadership, public speaking, working as a team and attention to the details, along with the lessons of life, such as making our own luck,” Burns said. “Mr. McClure led by example in instilling in students that nothing can replace hard work, nobody is too good to get their hands dirty and the importance of doing what you say you’re going to do. These lessons made a lasting impact on my life and the lives of countless students. I’m thankful that God put Mr. McClure in my life.”

            McClure was also impacted by educators who helped him begin his teaching career. That list includes the late CISD Superintendent Don Smith and retired Career and Technical Education Director Donald Bennett, whom he describes as “good men.”

            “They were instrumental in my work at Cleburne High School,” he said. “They hired me and were a great source of help to me. I am also grateful for Grandview agriculture teacher Herbert Lubke. He was a veteran of World War II and had been captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. He was such a positive person and it was an honor to know him.”

            McClure also mentions retired Godley ag science teacher Jack Rowland, who he describes as a good man and mentor.

            “If I could have taken the best part of Mr. Wheat, Mr. Lubke and Jack Rowland and taken on those qualities, it would have been a dream for me,” he said. “They each reflected a picture of the ideal teacher in their work with kids.”

            Now that McClure has closed the book on his second career, he is contemplating what comes next. He is not one to sit still for too long.

            “I’ve already experienced about three weeks of retirement,” he said. “I’ve gotten some things done at home. But I’ve worked since I was 15. I like working—I never had a day not liking what I was doing. All the grandkids’ activities are keeping me busy, but I think something will come along that I might do.”

            Following 45 years relating to teaching, McClure has already taken on a new project involving those new to the field. He is giving his time to an initiative sponsored by the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas in which he is mentoring two first year agriculture teachers. He knows well the importance a veteran teacher can have on those beginning their careers.

            “As a mentor, I’m helping them get inducted into our profession,” he said. “We have 43 new ag teachers statewide and we are helping them adjust to being in the classroom. I’m prejudiced I know, but serving as an agriculture teacher is one of the most challenging. We expect them to teach content and maintain classroom management, along with preparing and taking kids to contests, on field trips and other activities on top of those traditional classroom duties.”

            “We want our first year teachers to be successful and stay in the profession,” McClure said. “If we can help these ’kids’ survive that first year and gain the skills to manage all that comes with the job, we want to do that.”

            McClure and his high school sweetheart, Debbie (Moore), a member of the Class of 1971, have been married for 47 years and raised two Cleburne graduates. Their daughter, Amy, is an attorney in Houston. Their son, Mark, is the director of Career and Technical Education for CISD. They have three grandchildren and are members of Field Street Baptist Church.