From the classroom, to the baseball field, to the kitchen or the dance floor, Gerald Peyton will always be remembered.
Yazoo City lost one of its treasures this week with the passing of Peyton. Peyton began his teaching career in the Yazoo City Municipal School District. Over the course of his 22 year career as an educator, he also taught at Yazoo County High School and Velma Jackson High School where he served in several capacities including Technology Discovery/STEM teacher, GED instructor, Personal Finance/Business Law teacher and varsity baseball coach.
After graduating from Yazoo City High in 1990, Peyton attended Mississippi Valley State University on a baseball scholarship. Upon graduation from Valley in 1995, Peyton earned a degree in Mortuary Services from Northwest Mississippi Community College with the intentions of following in his father’s, the late Judge A.J. Peyton, footsteps as funeral director at Century Funeral Home.
Something else, however, was calling Peyton and it was his love for our national pastime, baseball. He began teaching at his alma mater in 1998 and after serving as assistant baseball coach for two seasons, Peyton assumed the role of head coach with the goal of returning pride to the program where he once starred as a high schooler.
Peyton pushed his players to be the best they could be both on the field and in the classroom as well. He loved them with the type of tough love that is missing from today’s society, but Peyton knew that this type tough love was necessary in order for his players to escape some of their conditions.
Never one to show favoritism, Peyton would discipline his star player the same way he would the last man on his roster. His players knew there were no shortcuts with him and that they would be held accountable for their every action. They knew he was tough, but he was fair and they knew that everything he did was done out of love and a desire for them to succeed.
In the end, Peyton’s plan was a success. Not only were the Indians a competitive, respected team, the players were achieving their own individual successes. Countless players were awarded athletic scholarships after their tutelage under Peyton. He used much of his own money and resources to make sure his players and the facilities at Yazoo City looked impeccable. He left no stone unturned in making sure Yazoo City and the young men that represented the school and community were respectful and respected.
His former coach, Wardell Leach, remembers Peyton as an exemplary young man from a great family and with a desire to succeed.
“Gerald and I go back a long way, even before his days at Yazoo City High. He played Little League and Pony League baseball for me (with the Beavers),” said Leach. “He loved the game of baseball and was a dedicated young man even from an early age. In high school he became one of my best pitchers and was also a good hitter. After playing at Valley, he came back and took over the program. From day one, you saw his commitment and his desire to make the program the best it could be. Life was short for Gerald but he had a tremendous impact on the young men and women whose lives he touched. I was always proud of him and, like so many others, am going to miss him. The impact he had and the legacy he leaves behind will last forever.”
Peyton was preceded in death by his father, and two brothers, A.J. Peyton, III and Ronald. He leaves to cherish his memory one son, Darius as well as a host of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Graveside services are scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cypress Garden Cemetery.