The nurse knew the infamous Binion name from the great gambler stories of old. Jack Binion runs a Louisiana casino.
Wife Gloria of the Hurst Binions is used to the question. She answered the nurse, "That's the other Jack Binion. They have the money and the bad reputation. We have the good reputation."
The Jack Binion with the good reputation is 88 years old and one of the best-known retired Birdville school district educators. He is a small man, 5-foot-6, only 125 pounds, but his smile and twinkling eyes are like Northeast Tarrant County landmarks. He has been flashing them at children and parents for decades.
Jack opened Glenview Elementary School in Richland Hills in 1954 as the first principal. He stayed there for about 10 years. He was quite an unusual principal in that he actually made house calls.
Because it was a new school in a relatively new suburban community, Jack visited every family's home and got acquainted with the parents. When carnival time came around in the fall, he knew all the fathers by name and called on them to help with the carpentry, the electrical work, the setup and the tearing down.
"He convinced us poor husbands that we were just as important as the mothers," former Richland Hills Mayor C.F. Kelley remembers.
Those fall carnivals were the big fund-raisers for the PTA, and although it sounds quaint now, they also served as one of the biggest social events in town. Nearly everybody in Richland Hills attended.
The goal was to raise $400, and when it was done, the money was spent on portable fans in those days before air-conditioned classrooms.
Jack continued his home visits, getting children and parents interested in his next project, which was landscaping the prairielike grounds with trees and shrubs.
That old school is in the shade today thanks to all that work done a half-century ago.
Jack liked to say that "the three R's were our first priority," but in those early days, the school also adopted a mascot -- a bobcat -- and Janie Morrow won the contest for school song with her Glenview. Coach Tom Murray set up the school's winning sports traditions.
Jack never forgot the terrible day in 1963 when he had to announce to the entire school that the president had been killed in Dallas. He always remembered the thoughtful ways his teachers handled their students' confusion on that unforgettable day.
Not long after, Jack left to become principal at another Birdville school, then he joined the administration where he took charge of all elementary schools.
Through it all, he was always planting trees and shrubs in the schoolyards -- and planting thoughts of caring and learning in his principals, teachers and students.
Even after he retired in 1981, Jack helped organize the adult senior education program at Tarrant County College. You could say that Jack was interested in the care and learning of the youngest and the oldest in our area.
When a friend nominated him for the Star-Telegram Man of the Year award nearly 10 years ago, Jack's nominating letter stated: "There is no way to count the number of lives Jack has touched in his visits with the ill and handicapped. He is the one that people turn to for helping in finding a place to live, moving and proper care. The paperwork, driving here and there, all adds up. Translate the 2,300 hours Jack has spent in 1994 into hours per week and you get 44. In retirement! For others!"
We haven't seen Jack around much lately. He's been sick, and Gloria tells me she is preparing to place him in a nursing home so he can get better care.
That's why it was so gratifying one night last week when several dozen of Jack's friends and former Birdville colleagues showed up at the meeting of the Birdville school board to ask trustees to do one final kindness for their loyal man.
Led by former Mayor Kelley and current Richland Hills Mayor Nelda Stroder, the delegation asked the board to change the name of Glenview Elementary to Jack C. Binion Elementary.
There is already a courtyard in the school named after Jack, and he liked to call that gesture "a loving tribute to some of my happiest years."
Even after he left Glenview he was never shy about telling how, when it came to that little school, "my heart claims it still."
Eight of Birdville's 20 elementary schools are named after prominent members of the Birdville community -- David E. Smith, W.T. Francisco, Alliene Mullendore, O.H. Stowe, Grace E. Hardeman, W.A. Porter, Carrie F. Thomas and John D. Spicer.
Now it's time for one more. Jack Binion. THE Jack Binion. The one with the good reputation.
Dave Lieber's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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