Dozier to be recognized as IAHS Patron of the Year

Melba Dozier may not have graduated from Itawamba Agricultural High School, but the school and its students have been an important part of her life for more than 20 years. Dozier will be recogized as the school's Patron of the Year this Friday night. (Photo by Adam Armour)

Melba Dozier may not have graduated from Itawamba Agricultural High School, but the school and its students have been an important part of her life for more than 20 years. Dozier will be recogized as the school’s Patron of the Year this Friday night. (Photo by Adam Armour)

By ADAM ARMOUR
News Coordinator

Melba Dozier has a gift for being frank. Take, for instance, when she received a phone call last Friday.

“When I saw it was the high school, I wondered, what do they want now?” she said, her face a mock scowl.

Turns out, what they wanted was to name her their Alumna of the Year. The 87-year-old Fulton resident was somehow simultaneously shocked and completely unsurprised.

“I don’t know how I feel about it,” she said, just hours after being told. Dozier joked that the designation is well-deserved. “I do everything for that high school. I do everything for them.”

But here’s the kicker, a not-so-secret secret that’s bound to generate some controversy as genuine as Dozier’s consternation as receiving that aforementioned phone call:

“I didn’t even go to school there,” she said.

OK, so technically, Melba Dozier isn’t the school’s Alumna of the Year. School officials are calling her the “Patron of the Year” instead. But the title is basically the same and will be bestowed upon her in the usual manner: prior to Friday night’s homecoming game.

But just because Dozier didn’t scramble down the Fulton high school’s hallways on the way to class doesn’t mean that the school isn’t important to her. Or vice versa.

Dozier graduated high school in Floyd, Arkansas, where she played basketball on a dirt floor. (“If it got messed up, we’d have to go sweep it up,” she said.) She moved to Fulton when Kennedy was president and eventually took a job at the city park, where she worked for generations overseeing hundreds of young athletes. On Friday nights, she’s in the stands shouting for the Indians. Ditto any time there’s a softball game.

“I’m just a sports freak. Always have been,” Dozier said. “I reckon I just live to be around ball playing because that’s all I ever knew.”

For the past two decades, Dozier’s kept score at the high school’s basketball games, a tradition that began in 1995 when the usual scorekeeper didn’t show up. Coach Teresa McNeece knew Dozier was reliable and gave her a call.

The rest is, of course, history.

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” Dozier said. “You have to know what you’re doing if you’re going to score basketball. So, they just kept asking me.”

And each time they do, she obliges. Here’s the thing about Dozier and IAHS: They kind of love each other. She may not have attended classes there, but the two of them are as linked as a fence around a baseball diamond. Dozier lives just a few houses down from the school; both her kids attended school there; she attends every ballgame, sometimes as scorekeeper, but mostly as just a fan. She loves it.

“It’s just a wonderful school,” she said.

As for being named the school’s Patron of the Year, Dozier said she’s honored.

“I’m surprised,” she said. “I knew nothing about it.”

Asked if it means a lot to her, she nodded.

“It does,” she said, then loosed a hearty laugh. “Of course, as much as I do for them, they ought to appreciate me.”

adam.armour@journalinc.com
Twitter: @admarmr

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 18 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.

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