Jefferson Davis starts graduation season with its Class of 2009

Jefferson Davis Academy started off the season of graduations this year when it graduated 16 students May 25.

This was the 44th graduating class from the private school located in Blackville.

All the graduates have been accepted into colleges or technical schools, said Tommy Taylor, the assistant headmaster and the senior class advisor.

A crowd of about 160 parents, friends and family attended to see the Class of 2009 close out their high school years.

"We made our memories here," said salutatorian Mary Grayson Garrick Creech in her address.

Valedictorian Burt Wells Croft echoes similar thoughts.

"I though this day would not come," he said. "Looking back on it, I had some of the best times of my life. I had some great teachers, certifiably the best parents in the world and a bunch of cool friends."

Croft said he plans to become a paramedic.

Croft in his valedictorian address reiterated some of life's lessons and maxims that his teachers and parents imparted to him.

JDA also awarded two of the Class of 2009 with its annual Hall of Fame recognition.

This honor goes to a male and female graduate who have kept a 90 or above grade average; participated in extracurricular activities; were involved in service projects and showed loyalty to the school.

This year's Hall of Fame awardees were Katherine Brooke Morton and Croft.

The keynote speaker was the Rev. Johnny Muller. Muller is director of leadership development for the Lexington Baptist Association and director of missions for the Edisto Baptist Association. Previously he had been pastor of the First Calvary Baptist Church in Leesville for 27 years.

Muller spoke on the lessons that failure can bring.

"Failure can be a crushing experience," he said. "We can fail without being failures."

Muller drew from his love of history to give examples of historic figures who failed in the beginning, but learned from them and achieved greater things.

In illustrating his point, Muller said Ludwig Beethoven's childhood teacher saw no musical talent in the child and people questioned Albert Einstein's mental abilities as a child because Einstein didn't learn to talk until he was four years old.

Muller also noted that Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times in the course of hitting his 714 home runs.

"But you don't remember those," he said. "And that was before steroids."

"Failures provide the raw material for success," Muller said. "Sometimes you have to go through the fire but in the end, a blessing awaits."