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"Coach" Ernest L. Chism, longtime Germantown High School principal, who later served the suburb as an alderman and also was elected a county school board member, died Friday, September 2, 2016 . He was 77.
Mr. Chism, who worked in then-county high schools such as Westwood and Hillcrest, became principal of Raleigh-Egypt when the high school opened in 1969. Four years later, he was named principal of Germantown High, where he would remain until he retired from the county school district in 2002, a leadership role spanning 28 years.
Mr. Chism's tenure at Germantown High spanned the suburb's growth from a small city to a upper-class suburb. His leadership contributed to award-winning theater and television programs at the high school and success in athletics at the local, state and national level. There was a concentration on accomplishment in academics as well as extracurricular activities.
The list of alums who graduated from Germantown during his time includes local politicians, professional athletes, actors, actresses, broadcasters and journalists. Short, squatty and built like a bowling ball, Mr. Chism would walk the campus greeting students and teachers along with other employees, his basset-like jowls jiggling as his facial expression moved from a stern look of discipline to a radiant laugh after a joke. " His often irreverent attitude, coupled with his great sense of fun and humor, is near legend across the state and has helped to make Germantown a vibrant, creative and ever-changing community," the family said in announcing his death.
During Mr. Chism's tenure, President George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and an official delegation from the People's Republic of China, toured the school. In honor of his accomplishments, and perhaps as a nod to his humor and colorful personality, the driveway on the west side of Germantown High's campus is called Chism Alley.
"No matter what role he assumed, (Mr. Chism) had a unalterable determination to give every person he met the means to be the best they can be, to do the most that is possible, and to perform to the highest standard," the family said.
In addition to his tenure as principal, the Hayti, Missouri-native ? the youngest of 12 children, served as a member in Shelby County Board of Education before he was elected to a pair terms on the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen beginning in 2004. He never lost an election during his political career. "In politics, he always voted his conscience and for what was best for the community, despite any political fallout," the family wrote, later adding: "He was a rare, genuine, one-of-a-kind human being who will be mourned and missed by thousands."
Mr. Chism is survived by his wife of 53 years, Alyce Ann Barnes Chism; two children, George Chism (Tracy) and Lee-Ann Kight (David); and four grandchildren, Barnes and Anna Chism and Max and Jacob Kight. The family requests that memorials be sent to Methodist Healthcare Foundation, "Ernest Chism Fund."