Each year, the Falmouth Clergeymen’s Association hosts a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast in Falmouth. This year, they presented a special community leadership award to George Spivey. Spivey retired last June as principal of East Falmouth Elementary School, and is widely admired for his tireless community service.
George Spivey said he’s grateful for the recognition, although helping others is something he says he does by nature.
“So to be honored for something that we do every day – something that I’ve learned to do from my youth, from my upbringing in the church, and from my upbringing from my parents in the community – an award or acknowledgement is special, but I will continue to do my work without any honors or awards whatsoever,” he said.
Spivey grew up in a small town in rural New Jersey, where most people thought lives were limited to the town’s borders. He recalled how his high school principal helped him expand his own vision.
“He said, ‘Well, there’s a college called Dartmouth College.’ I had never heard of Dartmouth College, but he said, ‘Why don’t you apply?’ And I applied, and I was accepted. And it was always the giving back. So I’m trying to do for everyone else, especially young people, what the older people did for me back then – helping students to look beyond what they can see.”
In his long career, the 67-year old Spivey has been involved in a number of outreach programs, including the NAACP and No Place for Hate, a program launched by the Anti-Defamation League to dispel discrimination. He’s also heavily involved with the nationwide mentoring organization Concerned Black Men, which now has 30 chapters nationwide. David Harrison works with Spivey in the Cape Cod chapter.
“I mean, Mr. Spivey is the backbone – I’m just gonna be honest,” said Harrison. “He has a great relationship with the community, and that’s what we want – our boys to be involved in the community. And the way people look at Mr. Spivey, and respect Mr. Spivey, really helps this program to branch out in this community.”
Harrison jokingly said that now, his organization will get all of Spivey’s time.
“Now that he’s retired, all his time is ours now, you know, hopefully, because he’s been over to a couple of sessions that we’ve had, and he spoke to the boys. And they really enjoy hearing Mr. Spivey talk about the things that he’s done.”
Reverend Jonathan Drury is pastor at Falmouth First Congregational Church. Standing in the breakfast line, he said he admires the work Spievey has done to enrich the community.
“And his recognition that we still have work to do when it comes to diversity training, and ensuring that there’s no place for hate – not to abuse a phrase, but I think there’s some real truth in advertising in that,” Drury said.
Lionel Hall works on the Falmouth Affirmative Action Committee with Spivey.
“George is a fantastic gentleman,” Hall said. “He had my daughter in school. A great role model and a great supporter, and I think, one of the people that actually has made the programs in Falmouth what they are.”
Across the hall, music teacher Jeanine Kelly prepped her students for a special musical surprise. She said, “George Spivey doesn’t know it yet, but we’re dedicating “What a Wonderful World” to George.”
As the kids sang, Spivey beamed from the sidelines, clearly appreciative of the young singers’ effort. Later, the audience rose to its feet to join in singing the final song, “We shall overcome.”
Spivey said he takes inspiration from two of his heroes, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - and that on this day, Dr. King’s words of inspiration resonate with particular clarity.
“We are continuing on with his message,” said Spivey. “And it’s a message that we should repeat every day.”