A line of cars snaked through the parking lot of Atherton Elementary School, out onto Rawley Street, and stretched toward nearby Boyce-Dorian Park—horns honking as they made their way to the front of the line.
But on this sunny Friday afternoon, the cars were not a part of a student pickup line or another traffic jam. They cheered from their cars with signs and balloons to celebrate Dr. Albert Lemons, who was retiring as principal of Atherton after 55 years with HISD.
Faculty and staff at Atherton organized a drive-through parade to celebrate, with countless community members participating, as well as Mayor Sylvester Turner and Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan.
“Dr. Lemons has devoted 55 years of his life to HISD,” Lathan said. “He knows how to build relationships. He nurtures not only his staff members, but his students as well. He has been an outstanding principal.”
A product of HISD himself—he graduated from Kashmere Gardens High, about four miles down the road—Dr. Lemons dedicated his life to HISD and the Greater Fifth Ward. He started his career as a fourth-grade teacher and worked at various schools throughout Houston before becoming principal at Atherton Elementary—or, as he calls it, Atherton “University” Elementary School.
His motto of “Children First” has become a guiding principle for everyone at the school.
“He is Atherton,” third-grade teacher Fidella Thompson said. “He has always been dedicated and motivated to help these children, giving them new experiences they would never have normally had outside of this community.”
Dr. Lemons’ efforts extend beyond the classroom. The list of organizations he has worked with is long, from the Fifth Ward Cultural Fine Arts Committee to the NAACP to the Houston Symphony.
That hard work in the community was recognized by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who officially proclaimed the day as Dr. Albert L. Lemons Day in the city. Turner presented the proclamation to Dr. Lemons at the parade.
“After a half century of service, I had to be here today,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “You’re a friend, not only to me, but everyone in this community.”
When asked about his plans, Dr. Lemons said he would be sleeping a lot, watching Family Feud, and doing some traveling. But though his time as a professional educator may be coming to an end, his passion for his community is ongoing.
“If you need me, call me. I’m right around the corner,” Dr. Lemons said. “I’m not really leaving. I’m just retiring to get some rest. But I’m always here.”