For the better part of three decades, Charlie Mason has walked the halls of Indianola Academy.
The Jackson native and Magnolia Academy alumnus is also an alum of Hinds Junior (now Community) College as well as Mississippi College where he got a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
The Choctaw alum went back to his alma mater and got his master’s in Education. He then jumped into the world of Mississippi academy education and began his career as a teacher/coach. And even though most of his time is spent on the administrative side of the desk, he finds his way back to the classroom and athletic surroundings as teacher and coach.
“I started at Brookhaven Academy in 1985/86 as an assistant basketball coach. Then I went to Porters Chapel Academy as a head basketball coach,” Mason said.
Mason taught the fundamentals of basketball but also taught the “fundamentals” of business, so to speak, as he taught Business and accounting as well as Typing and Computers.
“We had Commodore 64 computers and we had IBM Selectric typewriters,” he recalled. “I’m not old enough to be manual.”
His wife Suzanne worked at Mississippi College in the financial aid department and that helped him have time to work on his master’s there. By 1991, he was selected to be the Headmaster of Rebul Academy for five years. After that, his adventure in the Delta in Sunflower County began.
“I coached a little basketball here and there and then in 1995/96, I came to Indianola (Academy) as the High School Principal and junior high girls’ basketball coach,” Mason said. “That was some of my favorite teams I ever had.”
In 2001, Dr. (Homer) Burns left the school and Mason took over coaching golf. Or at least that was his title.
“Not that anybody really coaches golf,” he said with a laugh. “And I coached boys’ basketball for a few years when we were between coaches.”
His love of golf has spanned much of his life though he doesn’t get to the course as often as he would like.
“I’m pretty good at the country club (a three-time club champion) but not outside of that,” he said. “I think a few years some good players didn’t play and I got the win. I had back surgery a few years ago and life is busy with my son being a sophomore at (Mississippi) State so I don’t get to play as much.”
The golf fan went to the Masters at the invitation of Buster Holloway back in 2002.
“I still dream about it sometimes,” he said.
These days, Mason has moved from high school principal to Headmaster of the school.
“I oversee the whole staff – elementary, junior high and high school. It’s a broader look. I support the principals and oversee the budget and finance for the whole school. We have wonderful principals, Mrs. Spivey, Coach Putnam and Coach Nester does a great job as athletic director. We just have a great staff. A lot of our teachers have been here as long as I have or longer. It’s just a wonderful place and we’re really blessed that we have the support of the community,” he said. “We have some dedicated folks, professionals, teachers and coaches who have invested a lot over the years.”
It’s not always an easy job and the challenges come about in varying degrees.
“There’s always things to be done. And it’s just a very special place with a lot of special people. I feel lucky to have been here all these years. The faculty and the sports folks – they do all the work,” he said.
Looking over his tenure at IA, he has several favorite memories of working with great leaders.
“When I was working for Dr. Burns we had actually first met when he was at Tri County Academy and I was playing ball. We’ve been friends a long time and I had the opportunity to come up here and spend five years with him. Then Dr. Strickland came and had many, many years in the public school system and I learned a lot from him. All those guys included me in a lot of situations so I’d be ready when I took over.”
But it was a former favorite IA teacher/coach/principal/headmaster who knew the foundational values of the school and knew Mason would be the right man for the job.
“When I was at Rebul, I was blessed when I got there. I was elected by the district to serve on the AC. And Mr. Jernberg was there and Tommy Thompson was there,” he said. “I would go down to AC meeting and visit and in-between breaks I would sit and talk to Mr. Jernberg and he would give me a bunch of wise advice. When I got this job, he was the first to call me and was excited about it. He’s just a prince of a man. A really good guy and no matter where I see him, he’s always asking about this school. He loves this school. He’s always taken an interest in me since those Rebul days. Mr. Jernberg always remembers. He helped me a lot when he didn’t have a reason to.”
Mason’s wife, Suzanne, also works in education - at Lockard Elementary for the past two decades. His son, David, is a sophomore at Mississippi State. As a member of First Baptist Church, Mason has been a Deacon there for several years. He’s also a Lions Club member and has served as president, Zone Chairman and State Sight Screening Chairman “until I escaped.” (Laughing)
His hobbies including fishing some with his wife and hunting, but he doesn’t get out to hunt as much as he did growing up as a kid.
“I’m just not as mad at them anymore (laughing),” he said. “I grew up (deer) hunting with dogs. You don’t have to get out there at four in the morning. You get out there at six and you’re home by 8:30 a.m. And I’ve got a little wood shop I fool around in.
He’s not ready to slow down anytime soon as Charlie Mason keeps that Colonel spirit moving forward at Indianola Academy.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great kids over the years and coaching has been fun and teaching has been fun,” he said. “Just working with kids is a lot of fun and very rewarding in itself.”