The first time I met William R. Brewster, Jr. was in the fall of 1957. I was a new cadet at Georgia Military Academy in College Park, Georgia, and he was the superintendent. He was Commander Brewster then, a retired Navy officer. When I graduated from GMA, Commander Brewster had become Captain Brewster and he had taken over as president of the school.
The last time I saw Captain Brewster was over Memorial Day weekend in 2011. My class of 1961 had our 50th reunion, and one of the events was a trip to the nursing home where Captain Brewster lived.
His memory was slipping, he was in a wheelchair, and he tired easily. But the 20 or so members of my class who came to the nursing home would probably have stood at attention had the man in the wheelchair told us to. He was, you see, still Captain Brewster.
Like many of the guys who graduated in 1961, I have stronger ties to GMA than I do to my college. I still wear my high school ring, and I’m not the only one.
GMA was a highly regimented military school. We drilled, had parades, saluted officers, learned military tactics, could field strip and reassemble an M-1 blindfolded, and sometimes spent hours walking around the bull ring when we earned demerits.
In 1966 Georgia Military Academy became Woodward Academy. And because of the hard work and vision of Bill Brewster, our classmate Ben Johnson and other alumni and supporters, Woodward has become one of the premier private schools in the country.
Captain Brewster cared more for us than we probably realized at the time. But looking back from the other side of the hill, I think we can see what he meant to each of us, and the significant role he played in shaping our lives.
Rest in peace, sir.