The photo on the right is when he was sworn in on December 11, 2006.
And right now, on top of everything else that's happened over the past few days, my heart's a wreck after hearing this news.
From the moment Jim and I met during the election in 2006, I liked him immediately. We had a long conversation following a school board meeting a few months before election day, and I thought then that he was going to be a fine addition to the board. It came as no surprise that he not only won a seat, but came in first place.
And when he began his term of office, Jim brought the same warm demeanor and affirming logic to his post. Whether you agreed with him on everything or not (and admittedly there were times when we disagreed) no one ever doubted that wherever Jim stood on a position, it was only because he sincerely believed in it for the good of the people he was serving.
Personally, I think that Jim's definitive hour on the board happened last July, during the meeting about the school uniforms in the Reidsville schools. Austin had voted for the uniforms a few months prior to the meeting. But then he wound up as one of those who voted to rescind the original vote. "People change their minds," he observed. So simple and yet something so far beyond the ken of too many elected officials these days. Jim not only voted to rescind, but he was the one who made the motion to vote on the matter. If he didn't have it already, Jim gained a lot of respect across the county for how he handled the issue that night.
There wasn't a meeting that I attended where Jim and I didn't get a chance to talk. And we wound up talking about an awful lot. I'm going to miss those moments.
J. Brian Ewing has written a story for the News & Record with more information about the life of Dr. Jim Austin.
EDIT 11:12 p.m. EST: Heather Smith has written a VERY good article about Dr. Austin for the Media General newspapers.