John B. “Skip” Bassard III, 65, who served as principal, assistant principal and teacher at Manning High School for a total of nearly 30 years, passed away on April 3.
Bassard was remembered by many as a fair, well-respected and caring principal who truly loved his students and faculty.
“You can ask any student, any teacher who worked or studied under him and they would tell you that he defined the school,” said Clarendon School District 2 Assistant Superintendent Dr. Danny McCathern. “He would always say that he was the #1 Monarch and he had the respect of both the teachers and the students.”
Bassard was born on May 15, 1947 in Columbia. He was the son of the late John B. Bassard II and Christina Williams Bassard. Bassard graduated from C. A. Johnson High School in Columbia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Benedict College and master’s in education from South Carolina State University. He also pursued studies at the University of South Carolina.
After graduating from Benedict College, Bassard taught social studies at Manning Training High School and MHS. In the late 1970s, early 1980s he served as MHS’ assistant principal and then took over as principal.
Mike Shorter became assistant principal at Manning High School the same year that Bassard was appointed principal.
“John was a great friend to me and an excellent educator,” Shorter said. “He was devoted and loved Manning High School. He seemed very tough on the outside, but had a big heart for his students and would go out of his way to help them.”
Bassard served as principal from the early 1980s until 2000, when he retired and Dr. Danny McCathern took over as principal. It wasn’t long, however, until Bassard came back to his beloved Manning High.
“People in the community had so much respect for Mr. Bassard that we asked him to come back as an assistant principal,” McCathern said.
Bassard served as an assistant principal under McCathern and then under Shorter.
“You always knew what to expect from Mr. Bassard. He was very well-respected and supported and guided me in everything that I did,” McCathern said.
Coach John Franklin Thames, who taught at the school for more than 50 years, described Bassard as someone who was always fair.
“He treated everyone the same,” Thames said. “To John, no person was different from another, regarding his relationship with either students or teachers.”
Manning Mayor Julia A. Nelson, who was a student when Bassard served as assistant principal, described Bassard as a father figure.
“He was a mentor to many students at the school,” Nelson said. “There were few disciplinary problems because of his leadership. He was a strong and effective disciplinarian.”
District 36 Sen. Kevin Johnson said that Bassard was a great educator.
“He was a great leader and school administrator and had a positive impact on all of the students who studied under him,” Johnson said.
Clarendon School District 1 Superintendent Dr. Rose Wilder, who served as CSD2 Superintendent from 1994-2001, said that Bassard truly cared about the students.
“I remember when I was appointed superintendent, the next morning Mr. Bassard came to me and said that I didn’t have to worry about the high school, he had it under control,” Wilder said with a smile. “He was a true Monarch and epitomized the Monarch spirit.”
CSD2 Board Member Bobby Fleming was a student at the school when Bassard was principal.
“Mr. Bassard was Manning High School. He shaped the lives of many during his tenure,” Fleming said. “He was famous for his morning announcements of students who were in disciplinary trouble. Oftentimes I was a one of those students. Mr. Bassard would give you an appreciation for what education was all about with a paddle. Years later when I became a member of the school board, Mr. Bassard came up to me and told me how proud he was. That was a great feeling, to have a mentor say ‘I never gave up on you.’”
Bassard served as director of student affairs for CSD2 and as a South Carolina state constable, volunteering in many capacities across the state. After retiring from MHS, he worked for several years as a magistrate judge for Clarendon County.
Sen. (Ret.) John C. Land III knew Bassard for 40 years.
“John Bassard was a great teacher, assistant principal and principal. He was held in high regard, knew all of the children by name, and did everything he could in fostering education and improving children’s discipline,” Land said. “He took his disciplinary skills from the school to his job as a magistrate judge and was a capable and compassionate judge.”
Bassard was heavily involved in the community. He served as a member of the Striped Bass Festival Committee, Manning Rotary Club, Bank of Clarendon Advisory Board and Clarendon County Disabilities and Special Needs Board. For many summers he coordinated the Feed-A-Child Program for Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties.
Ron Wall, past president of Manning Rotary, knew Bassard for many years and served in Rotary with him.
“He was not only an outstanding high school principal, but also was a strong community advocate who had the respect of everyone who worked with him,” Wall said. “Because of him, our high school and community is a better place.”
Jake Buddin, Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce Board Member, served with Bassard on the Striped Bass Festival Committee.
“John was very dependable and always volunteered for any task that we needed to get done,” Buddin said. “One of his sayings was ‘I’ll take care of it, don’t worry, you can worry about something else.’”
Bassard was the husband of Mary Ann Bassard for 44 years. He is also survived by his two children, Marti Bassard Spry of Charlottesville, Va. and Dexter (Tracey) Bassard of Blythewood, S.C., a special nephew raised as a son, Damon White of Charlotte, N.C., five grandchildren, Jordan and Schuyler Spry, Aryana Bassard, D’Nia White and soon to arrive grandson “Bumblebee” Bassard. He also is survived by two brothers, Kenneth Bassard of Clinton, Md. and Wayne (Debbie) Bassard of Bouie, Md. Services for Bassard will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, at John F. Thames Arena, Manning High School in Manning. Burial will follow in the Taw Caw Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery in Summerton.
The family will receive friends at the home, 3879 Rev. J. W. Carter Road, in Manning.