Mar. 28, 2017

Rev. Tommy Shubrick

Rev. Tommy T. Shubrick Sr.
8/2/1943 – 10/11/2007


I once met an extraordinary man and his name was Tommy Shubrick. I had met him during the last three months of my high school years. He was my psychology teacher during my last year in high school.

Thanks to Jannie Greene, I was able to find Tommy’s widow, Fostina Shubrick. I explained who I was and what I was doing and then she invited me into her home. While we talked, Mrs. Shubrick took me around and showed me plaques and family pictures all the while sharing different stories about her husband.

I wonder how many of Tommy’s students remember that old record player he had in the corner with a stack of albums next to it. Sometimes he’d play the music for us while we took our tests. Mrs. Shubrick told me the story behind it.

“Rev (she called him Rev. I thought that was so cute) had an old record player in his classroom,” she started. “One day one of his students asked if he would play some music while they took their test. They didn’t want that old be-bopping music, they wanted something good, you know, classical music – the good kind. Anyway, he allowed them to listen to the classical music and the next thing you know, the students started bringing in records and albums that they could listen to in Rev’s classroom.”

I remember Mr. Shubrick’s tests. There was one test he had given, I had been so sick that whole week that I had not studied for it at all. I had not even cracked the first book for one class, let alone his psychology class. I turned the test in questions unanswered.

He brought the test back to me and said, “Michelle, I know you were sick and probably did not study, but just answer something. Take a guess and put something down. It’s always better to have something of a grade than nothing of a grade.”

I did as Mr. Shubrick asked and marked the paper with answers. I made a 95. The only question I had wrong was the single essay question where I had to give an explanation to my answer. I remember that lesson years later when I started home schooling my son: “answer something, don’t ever leave it blank.”

Tommy liked to write notes on his chalkboard, too. Lord love a duck! He was a note writing man! As Woodie Chavis and I agreed – he wrote notes on all three chalkboards and if that was not enough room, he’d wheel in the board projector and we had to copy those notes down, too.

Even so, he was one of the best teachers, if not the best, the school had ever had. He loved his students, all of them, and tried to do the best for them that he could. He was a very intelligent man and did his best to pass that intelligence off to his students through education.

I saw him years later after I had married and had a child. We had bumped into each other in the grocery store. When he saw my toddler, he sort of raised his eyebrow at me. I couldn’t suppress a laugh, especially knowing why he was giving me “the look.”

“I’m married,” I reassured him. “I have been for several years and she’s only two.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Michelle,” Tommy said with a sigh of relief. “You never can tell these days.”

I was surprised he had remembered my name. That meant that I had made quite an impression on him several years earlier and considering our time together was only three months that alone was amazing.

Even more amazing than that, he had left quite an impression on me as well. It wasn’t until then that I thought about it and realized what an extraordinary man he was to me and to so many others. Two things about Tommy Shubrick may be counted as facts and as undisputed truths. 
     1) Although Tommy Shubrick was heavily involved in helping Black-Americans better their lives, he knew no economic status, he knew no social status, and he knew no racial status. He treated everyone the same.
     2) He was a Christian man. I knew this about him, not because he told me or because he was a Reverend, but because of his actions: his behavior. He didn’t even become ordained until 1996. Even without that, if you knew him, you knew he was a man of Christ. He just had that air about him.

If you’ll notice, I’m speaking about him in the past tense. That’s because, sadly, Rev. Tommy T. Shubrick Sr. died in 2007. I asked his wife about it. “I’ve heard two different stories about how Tommy died,” I said. “I’ve heard he had a heart attack and then I heard he had a car accident. Can you please tell me which one is true?”

Mrs. Shubrick nodded her head. “Well, I’ll tell you what happened. The Rev and I had been retired from teaching for a while when he had been called back to work. They wanted him to come out to Carver’s Bay and teach Street Law so he went to Columbia for kind of like a seminar because he wanted to be informed about this class he was going to teach.

“Anyway, he was on his way home from Columbia and had a massive heart attack while driving. This young girl was coming from Charleston and she ran right into him. I don’t know how fast she was going but the Rev had a big car and after she hit him, the passenger side was folded up, like an ocean wave, on top of Tommy. The passenger side was on top of him now and he was sandwiched inside.”

“Oh no,” I exclaimed. “She hit him hard!”

With another nod, she continued, “The coroner said, whether she had hit him or not it didn’t matter because he was going to die anyway from the heart attack he had. He just wouldn’t have been as mangled as he was after she hit him. The coroner said when he got there he could barely feel a pulse and then … Tommy was gone.”

Mrs. Shubrick offered to show me the pictures but I declined. I don’t think I could have brought myself to look at them, at least, not without crying my eyes out.

That day, October 11th of 2007, God decided Tommy’s work here on earth was finished. He did a great job while here. He did touch the lives of every person he met. Tommy made the best of everything. I have missed him a lot. I voiced that to Mrs. Shubrick, as well, and told her, “I wish I had spent more time getting to know him better. Now, it’s too late.”

Although, we mourn the loss of a great teacher and humanitarian, I can’t help but laugh when I think about what his reaction would be if he knew his student grew up and wrote about him. I hope he would have been happy about it.

“He would have,” Mrs. Shubrick confirmed. “I can see him now with that big ole smile in his face. He would have loved it. Thank you, too, for doing this for my husband and remembering him in such a kind way.”

I have to say, it was an honor to have met his widow and talk with her. I found Fostina to be just as extraordinary a person as Rev Tommy T. Shubrick Sr. was in life.