Cecil Houston was more than a band instructor.
He was a mentor. He was a counselor.
He was the rare soul every parent hopes will touch the life of his or her child in school. Not only because he was a dedicated teacher, but because he also taught them and guided them through those life lessons that would make those children grow into solid, productive adults.
Mr. Houston, 36, was the band leader at Jackson High School. He died Dec. 30 after collapsing at a friend's home. He is survived by his wife of 10 years, Fantara; four sons, Cecil III, 10; Christian, 9; Cahron, 6, and Colin, 5.
He also is survived by his parents, Cecil Houston Sr. and Loretta Houston, and three sisters, Ramona, Rhonda and Rhesa Houston.
A native of Brownwood, Texas, Mr. Houston moved to Atlanta as a teen and is a 1994 graduate of North Atlanta High School.
He received his bachelor's degree in music education at Clark Atlanta University in 2000. He met his wife at CAU in the marching band that both had joined.
He was member of Kappa Kappa Psi Honorary Band Fraternity, as well as a member of Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity.
"The 5th Quarter" — the Wake — will be held at CAU's Cornelius L. Henderson Student Center at the corner of James P. Brawley Dr. SW and Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard, on Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m.
The Celebration of Life Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Elizabeth Baptist Church, 4245 Cascade Road SW.
Parents and students at Jackson said he was a special teacher and a blessing to the school.
"He was one of those rare teachers who really loved the kids and they knew it," Jackson parent Kari Lovell said, explaining he was among the first teachers she met at the start of the school year.
Despite the external challenges of being in a new building temporarily and other factors, she said he was a steady and calming force who looked out for the kids and cared for them as if they were his own.
He made the band, which he had been rebuilding this school year, come together like a family, she said.
'You don’t get that many teachers in life that are the kind that you’ll remember forever' - Kari Lovell, Jackson High School parent.
Lovell's daughter, Caston Noorullah, a Jackson freshman, is a trumpet player and member of the band.
"He really cared about his students," Caston said. While a disciplined teacher, she said he made sure to reach out to all of his students to ensure that they were not only learning, but that they were also having fun.
"You don’t get that many teachers in life that are the kind that you’ll remember forever," Lovell said. "I couldn't be sadder for his family — our family could not be more sad right now. It's a tragedy for the whole high school."
Mr. Houston, who also was percussion instructor at CAU, was the type of teacher that gave his students tough love when they needed it, said parent Santina Cambor, whose son was in the band last year.
She said he could always be counted to pull students aside and get on them to be achieve to their fullest potential live up to their responsibilities as students.
Just the Wednesday before school let out for the Christmas break, she said he had a heart to heart with her son over letting his grades slip.
"He was 'Mr. Tough Love,' " Cambor said, adding even though he could be hard on his students, pushing them to be their best, they didn't mind the tough approach because they knew he cared about them.
"He was a very good teacher," she said. "He really cared about his kids."
Ramona Houston, his oldest sister, said her brother valued family, valued education and particularly as a black man, fatherhood.
"He's had great examples in the family of uncles and grantparents," who instilled in them the value of education especially since they came from a long line of educators, his sister said.
"He understood his responsibility as a father, an educator and community advocate," Houston said. "What his role was as a man and more specifically, his role as a black man."
She said saw that in how he doted on his four boys and cared for them.
Her brother, she said, was a happy man and had great sense of humor that endeared him to his family and friends.
That humor factored in how he related to his Jackson kids.
Myla Miller, one of his former students at Jackson, wrote to Patch that Mr. Houston really understood kids.
"I will truly miss him — his jokes," she said. "He made me smile when no one else could."