Students honor retiring Mill Creek HS principal - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Students honor retiring Mill Creek HS principal

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -

A popular Gwinnett County principal and longtime educator is retiring, and his students thanked Dr. Jim Markham for his contributions.

Markham spent 22 years in the military, and more than 40 years in the classroom. He recently got a chance to see just how much his life's work has meant to others.

Markham is a fixture at Mill Creek High School. He's been Mill Creek's principal, a school that boasts the largest student body in the state, since it opened in 2004.

"I know most of these concrete blocks by name. I watched them all go in," said Markham.

"He's always been fair. When he makes his decision, he makes it and then we abide by it," said head football coach Shannon Jarvis.

Making decisions is not new to Markham. He's been in education for 44 years. But before becoming a teacher and administrator, he was in the US Army.  

"I did two tours of Vietnam and was blessed to survive it," said Markham.

He spent most of his career teaching and coaching football in public schools. He survived the end of corporal punishment in schools, the rise of cellphones, even a health scare that threatened to end it all -- an incurable cancer. It turns out that decision to join the US Army came back to haunt him.

"It's Multiple Myeloma Type D, which is directly related to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam," said Markham.

Fifteen years after his diagnosis, Markham is still making all the decisions at Mill Creek. But the cancer has come back so he's decided to retire.

"It's pretty painful. It's going to be a very sad day," reflected Markham.

But a man with his history wasn't able to go quietly into the night. On a recent Friday night, during Mill Creek's home game, the student body made a decision Markham wasn't able to control.

"As of tonight, August 31st, 2012, the playing surface of Mill Creek Stadium will forever be known as Markham Field," said the announcer prior to the game.

For the first time, Markham, a man of many stories, was speechless.

Markham says he's looking forward to spending more time with his wife of more than 30 years, Ruth. An upcoming fundraiser, the Dr. Jim Markham Golf Classic , will raise money to benefit Relay for Life and cancer research. For more information, click here!

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