LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez Athletic Director Fred Butcher saw his dream of owning a classic car come alive when he purchased his 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass approximately one year ago.

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His driving passion: Butcher loves cars, loves guiding students more

Published 12:01am Monday, November 26, 2012

FERRIDAY — Most people know Fred Butcher as the athletic director at Natchez High School and, previously, long-time principal at Ferriday High School.

Few know, however, that he has a love for classic cars, and for the longest time wanted to own one.

“Four to five years ago, my wife, mother-in-law and children gave me a gift that would enhance my dream to get a fancy car,” Butcher said.

And he eventually purchased a 1972 Cutlass Oldsmobile, which Butcher said came with original equipment.

“I actually had it in the (NHS homecoming) parade,” Butcher said. “My plan is to have it in a condition to where, when I retire, I can go to car shows.”

His love for the ’72 Cutlass is one of many hats Butcher wears. He is also a member of the Concordia Parish School Board.

Butcher said with the help of mechanics Eric Stewman and George Barber, he’s able to keep the car in good condition.

“Finding parts is not easy,” Butcher said. “I have very good mechanics. With them, we can either figure out the problem or almost make a part.”

Butcher said he tries to rub the car down at least once a week to keep it looking spiffy.

“If the weather is nice and I’m riding around in it, I might rub it down a couple of times a week,” he said.

If Butcher has a first love, though, it’s not his classic car, but the many students he’s been able to impact over the years. A life-long resident of Concordia Parish, Butcher spent 24 years as principal at Ferriday High School before taking over NHS athletics five years ago. During his time in Ferriday, Butcher said several things he did helped prepare him for the job he has now.

“Being principal calls for a high level of organization,” Butcher said. “You’re trying to hire a staff that can take care of all the programs.”

That includes Ferriday athletics, which Butcher said he stressed the importance of while he was over the school.

“When I went to Ferriday High, the athletic program wasn’t very good,” Butcher said. “We hired some good coaches there.”

The biggest thing, though, was instilling discipline in the student body, and Butcher said the key there was being fair and consistent.

“You have to impose discipline to a certain point until they hopefully become self-disciplined,” Butcher said of the students.

And Butcher said one of the most rewarding things was seeing a young student come into high school and leave as a mature young adult with dreams for their lives.

Academics and athletics both provide a means for discipline to be instilled in young people, and Butcher said the two complement each other well when it comes to discipline.

“If you can improve your discipline in the classroom, you can improve it in athletics,” Butcher said. “A lot of people see sports as a strength-and-conditioning game, but a lot of times you have to make decisions in a split second (when you’re playing).”

After so many years in Concordia Parish, Butcher said he was ready for a change when the NHS athletic director position came open.

“I felt I had the background and administrative expertise, because we had some success with athletics and band (at Ferriday High),” Butcher said. “I thought it would be a good fit for me, the students and the coaching staffs.”

NHS’s athletic programs have seen good success under Butcher, but Butcher said the credit doesn’t go to him alone.

“If you’re surrounded by good coaching staffs, it helps with your academic program and with discipline,” Butcher said. “For most good coaches, time on the clock doesn’t mean anything to them, because most are workaholics.”

In addition, the NHS Booster Club also plays a big role in the success of the programs.

“They’ve always been important, but for the last three years since the funds have gotten short, they’ve stepped up and gone above and beyond duty,” Butcher said.

“They’re few in numbers, but they make a bold statement. They always support us and come up with new ideas, and that’s what we need, not only for fundraisers, but discipline- and academic-wise.”

NHS head football coach Lance Reed said Butcher’s been a positive influence in the entire athletic department since taking over.

“He’s done a great job,” Reed said. “He’s the ultimate professional. He’s the kind of guy you can learn a lot from, and he’s all about the kids doing things the right way.”

Reed also said Butcher’s previous administrational experience has been invaluable for the position Butcher is in now.

“He has a wealth of knowledge and experience,” Butcher said. “He knows the best methods to handle certain situations, and he’s really an asset to the program.”

Since Butcher enjoys helping students mature into young adults, Butcher said being over athletics is a good venue for him.

“It helps mold character in young people,” Butcher said. “Good coaches probably do 50 percent coaching and 50 percent counseling. Teaching is an important part of that also. When you combine coaching and teaching, you have the opportunity to mold character.”

Butcher also has the unique perspective of observing both Natchez-Adams and Concordia Parish school districts, since Butcher is a board member in Concordia.

“It’s a challenge,” Butcher admitted. “I can learn from both situations, but the common denominator is the kids are the No. 1 focus in both places.”

The size of the student population and the need to develop character in both student bodies are two major similarities between both districts, Butcher said.

“Character building is something that’s important for all kids in this day and age,” Butcher said. “You also have to work hard to get the parents involved.”

Even with all of his time as an athletic director, school board member and classic car owner, Butcher still has a surprise or two up his sleeve.

“I do landscaping on the side,” Butcher said. “I like playing around in my yard. I do a few jobs in the fall, but I concentrate on it in the spring when the plants are fresh and the weather is warmer.”