James Richard Carroll, known to most as Richard Carroll, Coach Carroll or J. Richard Carroll, died Saturday at 78. He spent nearly five decades as an educator in the Bloomingdale community and was a devotee of North athletics. Although he retired more than five years ago, he maintained his commercial driver’s license and drove buses to athletic events as recently as this football season.
“He absolutely loved North High School,” Sullivan County Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski said Saturday night, recalling that she worked with Carroll as a teacher and coach at North when he was a teacher and athletic director.
“I worked with him from 1980 to 1990 while I was there (at North),” Rafalowski said. “He was very good to me.”
In June 30, 2013, at the age of 73, Carroll retired as the principal at North after a career that spanned 47 years in Sullivan County, 19 as a teacher and 28 as an administrator. Born Jan. 29, 1940, he began working for Sullivan County Schools in 1966, Rafalowski said.
“I remember Richard Carroll as being a very kind person, a person who always put the students first,” Rafalowski said, adding that he was dedicated to education in general, a good math teacher and “exceptionally supportive of students.”
Rafalowski recalled that she and Carroll took the North Key Club to conventions in California and Kentucky while they served together at North and co-sponsored the student club. He had come from Ketron High, while she had taught at Lynn View High, the two schools that came together to form North High in 1980, when he arrived at North.
Decades later, Carroll openly and proudly before his retirement spoke out against any options that would close North, which in recent years became a split high school and middle school campus. Ultimately, the Board of Education decided on a plan to merge North, South and much or all of Central high schools into a new school, West Ridge, to open in 2021, with Sullivan East the only other county high school.
Kingsport City Schools has purchased the North building and plans for it to become the new Sevier Middle campus as early as 2022.
Carroll was a fixture at Golden Raiders athletic events. During his time, Carroll was a track and football coach, drove the football team bus to games and was North’s athletic director, assistant principal and principal, the latter a position he assumed in 2001. He retired on June 30, 2013, but he still attended many North athletic events.
Rafalowski said she understands he attended the basketball game at North Tuesday night.
That game was in a gymnasium named in Carroll’s honor while he was still working at the school.
“He drove the bus. He was the principal,” Rafalowski said of Carroll.
“He’s still been driving the bus this year,” Rafalowski said. “I thought an awful lot of Richard. He was a good man.”