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Former educator, leader Lazarus Bates dies at 92

Former educator, community leader and World War II veteran Lazarus Bates died Wednesday at his home in South Boston. He was 92.

Employed by the Halifax County school system for 38 years, Bates began his teaching career in 1940 at Hunting Creek Elementary School followed by a teaching assignment at the Halifax Training School where he was an English teacher and school counselor for 19 years.

With the move to consolidate smaller black elementary schools, Bates opened Sydnor Jennings Elementary School in 1961, Sinai Elementary in 1963 and South of Dan Elementary in 1965.

In the fall of 1967, he returned to Mary Bethune High School as principal and remained through the integration of the two high schools in January 1970.

Mary M. Bethune was renamed Halifax County Junior High School, and he remained as principal until his retirement in June 1978.

Bates was known as a compassionate, soft-spoken gentleman and a stern educator who believed in providing the highest quality of education for all students.

As a community leader, Bates served on various organizations such as the Business and Professional Men’s Council, Southside Planning District Commission, Halifax County School Board, Halifax Community Hospital Board, Retired Teachers Association, and he was one of the founders of the Meaville Community Center.

A faithful member of the Dan River Bethel Baptist Church, Bates served in many capacities over the years including service as a trustee, Sunday school teacher, deacon and chairman of the board of deacons.

Bates is survived by his wife, Helen J. Bates; two daughters, Tammy Buster and Tracy Coleman, one foster son, Romeo Johnson; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be conducted Monday at 1 p.m. at the Dan River Bethel Baptist Church in South Boston. Burial will follow in the Bates family cemetery.